Murray Bartlett on the love story with Nick Offerman in The Last of Us: ‘There was chemistry’
Queer TV might just have changed forever as HBO’s The Last of Us aired one of the most beautiful gay love stories in recent screen history.
The third episode of the post-apocalyptic drama, entitled “Long Long Time”, steers away from central characters Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), instead focusing on Bill (Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman) and Frank (Welcome to Chippendales star Murray Bartlett) as they meet, fall in love, and ultimately fight for survival.
The storyline is also a major diversion from the much-loved video game franchise, in which Bill and Frank’s relationship is merely alluded to.
The entire episode is dedicated to the pair’s lives across the two decades between the outbreak of the Cordyceps brain infection in 2003 and present day. The result is a tear-jerking exploration of eternal commitment and sacrifice.
Bartlett told PinkNews what it was like to film the extraordinary 80-minute episode alongside Offerman, who he had never met, and how the “chemistry” between the two of them enabled the characters and their romance to come alive.
“I love Nick. It turned out he loved me, which was great. And there was chemistry there, which was sort of charged with what we knew we were about to do,” Bartlett said.
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“I think there was magic in the script and we all sort of carried that with us.”
The White Lotus and Looking star explained how, while he had taken on similar roles before, Offerman felt the role was unlike anything he had ever done.
“[Offerman] is so perfectly cast because he’s such a tough shell of a guy in a way, and just also so incredibly sensitive and like a small child, as a person and as an actor,” Bartlett said.
“I always kind of look for the child in people I guess, and that child was staring right back. There was just this chemistry between us that happened very quickly.”
The episode’s cinematographer, Eben Bolter, said that there was a “meta” moment while the pair filmed at Bill’s piano, where Frank was guiding Bill, but Bartlett was also guiding Offerman.
“I felt there was a fragility to Nick as an actor and he was doing something new,” Bolter explained. “I seem to remember seeing his hand shaking between takes on that piano seat. And I remember [thinking] ‘he’s so in it’, and that was the character, and that was him.”
Viewers are likely to find the scene highly emotional – the cast and crew certainly were.
“We came to set the first day and everyone was on the verge of tears, and we hadn’t shot anything yet,” Bartlett said.
“It is such a beautiful script. We were all completely floored by it. I think the entire crew, every department, was treating this episode with such reverence because everyone loved it so much and everyone came at it with such emotion.”
It’s A Sin director Peter Hoar, who was at the helm The Last of Us episode, added that everyone around him on set was in tears.
“We all read that script. We all thought, this is special, let’s not f**k it,” he said. “I was reminded of so many times on set where I’d be looking to my left and to my right, and it’d be just tears streaming down.”
The episode has, without doubt, already secured a spot in the hall of queer TV fame.
For anyone who is yet to watch it, be warned: tissues are essential.
The Last of Us airs on Sundays on HBO in the US, and Mondays on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK.
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