The Last of Us creators explain why Sam is deaf in the show but not the game

13 February 2023, 16:23

The Last of Us creators explains why they made Sam deaf in the show

Sam  Prance

By Sam Prance

Kevionn Woodard, who plays Sam in The Last of Us, is deaf in real life and the cast learned ASL before filming the episode.

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The Last of Us creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have opened up about why they made Sam deaf in the HBO series.

In The Last of Us episode 5, Joel and Ellie encounter brothers Henry and Sam. Just like in the game, Henry is something of a father figure to Sam and is willing to protect him at all costs. The duo are at first weary of Joel and Ellie and even hold them at gunpoint. Nevertheless, they eventually agree to help Joel and Ellie leave the city and in the process, they become friends.

However, there is one key change between the game and the show. Sam isn't deaf in the original version of The Last of Us.

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The Last of Us creators explain why Sam is deaf in the show but not the game
The Last of Us creators explain why Sam is deaf in the show but not the game. Picture: HBO

Neil Druckmann, who co-created The Last of Us video game, discussed Sam and Henry and his choice to make Sam deaf in HBO's latest Inside of the Episode. Neil explained: "The narrative function of Henry and Sam was to show a mirror image of Joel and Ellie. This brother that's almost like a father to Sam. A person that's willing to do anything to protect his brother."

He said: "I love that so often when we were working on this, when we had a deviation, Craig would always call me. He's like 'Okay, I've been thinking about Sam and just hear me out, I know it's a big change but what if he were deaf? And it's a way that Sam has to rely on Henry even more.' And I said, 'That's so good, it makes me upset that I didn't think about it.'"

Craig Mazin, who wrote episode 5, divulged further by adding: "Sam and Henry are another example of this duality that we encounter, who are bonded together not just because they're the only family they have left, but because they also speak a language that very few people speak."

The Last of Us cast learned ASL for episode 5

Kevionn Woodard, who plays Sam in the series is deaf in real life. Discussing his role in Inside of the Episode, he said: "Sam is deaf and I am deaf. We both sign. And seeing how deaf people are and how they navigate the world, and that they can, I think is important."

Meanwhile, Lamar Johnson, who plays Henry, and Bella Ramsay, who plays Ellie, revealed that the cast and crew learned ASL while filming. They had an ASL coach, CJ Jones, on set at all times so that everyone could easily communicate with Kevionn.

Bella said: "The interpreters, CJ and Kevionn and his mum, they were so willing to help everyone. In the end, all the crew were signing because everyone wanted to communicate and let them know how great they were."

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