Bella Ramsey Proves The Ellie Casting Backlash Wrong

Warning! This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 1 and the original game.The casting of Bella Ramsey as Ellie for The Last of Us caused some backlash, yet the show’s premiere proved this backlash wrong almost instantaneously. Ramsey is best known for her role as Lady Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones seasons 7 and 8. After the success of making a new character so beloved at such a young age, Ramsey was cast as Ellie in The Last of Us, a role coveted by many due to the brilliance of the game character.

Alongside Bella Ramsey for The Last of Us in the show’s co-starring role is The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal as Joel. The Last of Us centers on Joel and Ellie, thrusting the two together in a post-apocalyptic America for a mission bigger than anything they have ever known. The Last of Us episode 1 introduces the main characters to both the audience and each other, with Bella Ramsey ultimately proving the doubters wrong through her performance as Ellie Williams.

The Last Of Us Ellie Casting Backlash Explained

Firstly, it is worth exploring the backlash and why sections of the fanbase are doubting both HBO and Bella Ramsey. Initially, the backlash came from something pretty simple that is often argued against most videogame adaptations: the lack of likeness to the character. With a game as revered as The Last of Us, the hardcore fanbase has been clamoring for other actors to play Ellie in live-action since 2013 and the game’s initial release, including HBO’s video game adaptation. Kaitlyn Dever and Elliot Page are some of the more popular choices due to their similar looks to Ellie’s game design.

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The fan castings for Dever and Page were majoritively due to their similarities to how Ellie looks in the game. In the original game, Ashley Johnson provided Ellie’s voice and motion capture. However, due to Johnson’s older age and Ellie’s in-universe age of 14, Johnson was rarely fancast for the live-action version of The Last of Us. Despite these many fancast theories, Bella Ramsey was announced as Ellie in February 2021, with many online voicing their disappointment due to Ramsey’s different look to Ellie’s game model.

While Ramsey does undoubtedly look different from Ellie’s game design, the backlash was blown completely out of proportion. Since then, however, some more unfavorable criticisms have surfaced among certain circles online. Some of the other Last of Us casting criticism has centered around Ramsey not being “attractive” enough to play Ellie, a complaint that is inappropriate in numerous ways. For one, judging an actress based purely on her physical appearance is demeaning, degrading, and utterly dismissive of Ramsey’s acting ability. Secondly, Ellie’s character in the game and HBO’s The Last of Us is 14 years old, meaning judging the character and any actor hired to play her based on attractiveness is more than problematic.

Bella Ramsey Is Great As Ellie

The Last of Us Episode 1 Ellie Reaction Joel Killing

Despite all of this backlash, problematic or otherwise, The Last of Us episode 1 proves that Bella Ramsey is fantastic as Ellie. This is evident from her first introduction, with the character tied to a radiator by the Fireflies. This scene centers on Ellie’s Firefly captors putting her through tests to see if the bite on her arm would cause her to become infected by the Cordyceps virus in the 2023 timeline of The Last of Us. Ellie is told to count from one to 10 slowly and clearly, which she completely rushes through in a way that is clear she is done with their endless tests, complete with flipping off the Firefly after the test is finished.

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This scene should put doubts to bed, with Ramsey perfectly capturing the rebellious, rash, foul-mouthed, and temperamental part of Ellie’s personality from the games. Given how Ellie was born and raised in the Boston quarantine zone, where any standards and values held in high regard in real-life society have deteriorated, this personality is expected. Again, Ramsey captures this completely, which is exhibited again in the next scene featuring Ellie. This involves Marlene returning Ellie’s belongings, with Ellie immediately clutching her switchblade, showing off the aforementioned temperamental nature of the character.

However, this scene with Marlene — a Last of Us game character — also showcases the other part of Ellie’s personality that makes her character so beloved: her innocence. This comes when Ellie tearfully asks why Marlene will not let her go home, with Ramsey beautifully evoking the right amount of childlike innocence to make Ellie sympathetic. Also, Ramsey makes it easily believable that both the younger, empathetic side of Ellie and the more mature, foul-mouthed attitude can coexist. This is only furthered by the sense of wonder Ramsey captures concerning the world beyond the QZ, proving that any backlash the actress received for being cast in The Last of Us is more than unwarranted.

New episodes of The Last of Us release every Sunday on HBO.

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