Murray Bartlett shares real-life inspiration behind The Last of Us’ iconic gay love story


Murray Bartlett has opened up about the real-life “deep love” with his partner that inspired his emotional role as Frank in The Last of Us.

Since scooping an Emmy for his role as chaotic hotel manager Armond in The White Lotus, Murray Bartlett has cemented his status as a real tour-de-force in the acting world.

This year alone, he’s got fans hot under the collar in Disney+‘s hit series Welcome to the Chippendales and delivered a heart-wrenching LGBTQ+ storyline in HBO’s post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us, which has already been hailed as some of the most powerful television of the year.

The hit nine-episode series, which follows the story of Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) as they make their way across a devastated America, struck a chord with viewers after its third episode, “Long, Long Time” depicted a romance between hardened survivalist Bill (Nick Offerman) and endearing but mysterious stranger Frank (Bartlett).

In a new interview with Deadline, Bartlett opened up about the real-life connection with his long-time partner Matt that inspired the poignant love story.

“Our relationship was a bit of a reference point for what [Nick Offerman] and I were doing in the episode,” Bartlett began. “Because I was saying this to Nick, that we are both lucky to be in relationships where we found a partner that we have an incredible bond with, and we feel this deep love.

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Murray Bartlett shares real-life inspiration behind The Last of Us character. (Getty)
Murray Bartlett says the ‘deep love’ for his partner inspired his The Last of Us character. (Getty)

“So, we were familiar with that, and we could bring that experience to what we were doing in episode three.”

Bartlett, who lives with Matt in Massachusetts, also revealed his partner’s reaction to the episode, explaining that although they didn’t exchange many words, there was an unspoken understanding about the tender onscreen relationship.

“There was this sort of understanding of like, ‘You know where I get that from, right?’ and ‘Would you do that for me? Because …’ Which was lovely,” Bartlett continued.

Despite the hard hitting themes in the episode, Bartlett, who has previously opened up about his “chemistry” with his Offerman, went on to say that he had “a lot of fun” filming with his co-star.

“Nick is such a good person,” he added, “and such a gentleman through and through and just an old-school guy that cares about all the things you want someone to care about.

“It was a joy working with Nick, and he was very funny between takes – not like he was doing a stand-up routine – but just that twinkle in the eye and a very dry sense of humour, which was a lovely contrast to some of the scenes we were doing.”

It’s not the first time Bartlett has spoken about his partner’s reaction to the episode.

Earlier in February, the actor shared that Matt had been “really affected” by the make-up that was used to portray Frank in his old age.

Screenshot from The Last of Us showing characters Bill and Frank together
Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) in The Last of Us. (HBO)

“I will say, my partner who I watched the episode with was really affected by it… He turned to me at the end and was like, ‘I don’t want you to get sick’,” he told The Independent. “So he really internalised it and obviously had trouble separating with the fact that he was watching me in a TV show, which I think is a good sign.

“Not a good sign about me possibly getting sick as an old man but the integrity of the work was powerful for him.”

Although we won’t be seeing Frank and Bill return to our screens, there are still many LGBTQ+ storylines to look forward to in the next season of The Last of Us.

After Ramsey’s poignant coming-of-age romance in the first season, her character Ellie will explore her sexuality more and meet her girlfriend Dina in the second season, which also looks set to introduce a trans character.

The Last of Us season one is available to watch now on HBO Max in the US, and Sky and NOW in the UK.