Melanie Lynskey Unpacks Her ‘Vicious’ ‘The Last of Us’ Character: ‘She Doesn’t Have a Ton of Humanity’ Most Popular Must Read Sign Up for Variety Newsletters More From Our Brands

Spoiler alert: This interview includes spoilers for episode 4 of “The Last of Us,” streaming now on HBO Max.

When “The Last of You” co-creator Craig Mazin cast Melanie Lynskey in a role on the series, she started with a bang: “He called me and said, ‘I’ve got a role for you as a war criminal. Would love to pay,'” Lynskey recalls

When the audience first meets Lynskey’s rebel faction leader Kathleen in Episode 4, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) are passing through Kansas City on their cross-country road trip — and already there, their followers. Have fought together.

He is in the midst of an intense investigation with his family doctor (John Getz), desperately seeking the location of his target, Henry, who played a role in his brother’s death. “It’s such a well-written scene. The whole show is so well-written! It’s just right. There’s nothing that you see, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I feel like I should ask that.’ Can I make a difference,'” Lynskey said. Variety.

While the conversation between Kathleen and the doctor begins calmly, she quickly becomes frustrated and holds a gun to the doctor’s head. He stops briefly to examine the bodies of some fallen allies, who viewers know were taken down by Joel and Ellie – but Kathleen believes were more of Henry’s victims. She returns to the holding cell and wordlessly pulls the trigger.

“John Getz is an amazing actor, and was so beautiful and broken in prison cells,” Lynskey recalls. “That was the hardest part: not completely falling apart and just trying to maintain the shred of toughness that would allow her to do that. And I think at the end of the day, she always looked at the big picture. Lives: ‘What does this mean? What will it tell people about who I am?’ And he’s pretty vicious.”

This scene reflects what Mazen described in his original pitch. “He basically said, ‘Imagine if you were the sister of Jesus. Your brother was the greatest man, who was so wonderful to everyone, whom you loved and respected. , and then he’s brutally murdered. And you’re just this normal guy who knows that he’s not that great, who then has to step into that role and gets into the adventure. ”

Lynskey doesn’t believe that tough exterior was always part of Kathleen. “If the world was the way it was, she’d probably be a high school teacher who complains about kids all the time … but she’s forced into a position where she’s good enough for the worst reasons.”

The role is a new creation for the series, which presented Lynskey with a unique challenge. “I know how determined the fandom is. People can be like, ‘He doesn’t look like the person I imagined!’ So I was thankful that it wasn’t. I guess there’s a different level of scrutiny where people are like, ‘We don’t need that character. We made the game without that character. Why is he here?’ ‘ But also, none of this is my responsibility. I’m there because I trust Craig. And Neil [Druckmann] He’s also very brilliant, and was the creator of the game, and he’s on the board and signs off on every decision.

Kathleen may not have the immediate look it takes to start a rebellion, but that’s where Lynskey hopes to subvert expectations — both for the audience and for Kathleen herself. “He finds out that he doesn’t have a ton of humanity. He’s capable of doing things that are pretty brutal without really batting an eyelid. And I think that’s a pretty scary thing for him to realize about himself, But there is also an interesting thing.

“It’s interesting when there’s this huge group of people that mobilize to overthrow the government, and it’s a violent uprising… and then you see who’s in charge,” says Lynskey. “And she’s just like, ‘Oh, hey’. I wanted her to be kind of fragile. I wanted it to be surprising.”

This isn’t Lynskey’s first time portraying someone forced into extreme situations. In “Yellow Jackets,” for which she received an Emmy nomination last year, her Shawna must survive when her football team’s plane crashes in the woods. So which character is tougher? “It’s so hard to weigh which is worse: being stranded in the wilderness or going through this horrible thing. Probably Kathleen. I mean, the world’s over. There’s a lot to deal with.”

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