The Last of Us director recalls the moment he knew he had to cast Nick Offerman in gay love story

Nick Offerman (L) and The Last of Us director Peter Hoar (R). (Getty)

The Last of Us director Peter Hoar has shared how the “risk” of casting Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman in episode three’s seminal gay love story paid off perfectly.

It’s only been half-a-year since HBO’s post-apocalyptic series The Last of Us broke viewers’ hearts with their standout third episode “Long, Long Time” which saw Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett portray a beautiful and devastating love story between hardcore survivalist Bill and kind-hearted Frank who charms Bill after getting caught in one of his traps.

The episode was showered with praise for bringing much-needed tender queer love to our screens, but director Hoar revealed that it could have looked rather different after initial reservations around casting Offerman as Bill.

In an exclusive interview for Deadline’s AwardsLine cover story, Hoar explained the striking moment he met the 52-year-old actor which landed him the coveted role.

“Murray was already cast when I came aboard,” he said. “But when Nick’s name came up for Bill, I thought it was a bit of a risk. Of course we knew he had the the survivalist edge for Bill, no question.

The Last of Us
Nick Offerman as Bill and Murray Bartlett as Frank in The Last Of Us. (HBO)

“But when we met him I was struck by how gentle he is, and how little ego there was. He saw immediately that he had this brilliant script and he didn’t want to f**k it up.”

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Offerman was only one half of the dynamic on-screen duo, starring opposite The White Lotus’ Murray Bartlett – who is an openly gay actor. According to Hoar, Bartlett helped his co-star navigate the more intimate queer scenes with a seasoned and reassuring hand.

Hoar, also known for It’s A Sin and The Umbrella Academy, continued: “In a very meta way, he just helped that performance out, I think. They are both brilliant but I know that for Nick and Murray, the perfection was putting the two of them together.”

The risk ultimately paid off, with not only hugely positive critical reception but overwhelming love from queer fans everywhere. And it was a similarly transcendent experience for Offerman, who told The Guardian in a recent interview that he “knew it was going to be trouble” as soon as he read the episode script.

“There was nothing to do but to ask Megan [Mullally, his wife] to read it,” he said. “Because my options were either to say: ‘Honey, I just read a very good script that’s going to screw up the calendar for a month’, or say, ‘Will you please read this and let me know what you think?’ She read it and said: ‘Sorry buddy, you’re going to Calgary to shoot this show.'”

Comparing the filming process to “making a Sundance movie”, he added: “It was treated by the entire production [crew] like the exquisite hit that it became.”

And he was “quite taken aback at the Game of Thrones-level tsunami of approbation.” He joked: “Megan said she was going to start calling me ‘Episode Three Offerman’.”

Bill and Frank
Nick Offerman as Bill and Murray Bartlett as Frank in The Last Of Us. (HBO)

According to Bartlett, the chemistry between himself and Offerman that managed to capture a 20-year-love story in 80-minutes of world-class television, came completely naturally to the pair.

“I love Nick. It turned out he loved me, which was great,” Bartlett told PinkNews at the time. “And there was chemistry there, which was sort of charged with what we knew we were about to do. I think there was magic in the script and we all sort of carried that with us.

“[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.

“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 Last of Us season one is streaming on Max now.

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