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Interview: ‘The Last of Us’ Editors Talk Using Silence To Connect With Characters

If episode three of The Last of Us was the most emotional of the show, then episode five of the series, titled “Endure and Survive,” is its most harrowing. Balancing out huge amounts of human drama with the biggest action setpiece of the show by far seems like a daunting task, and, as editor Timothy Good explains to Awards Radar on Zoom, “we leaned heavily on the emotion between the brothers. We wanted to build their characters similarly to what I built out of Sarah [Nico Parker] in the pilot. You wanted to know them so deeply and intimately that, unfortunately, when they die at the end of the episode, you’ll feel bad because you’ve experienced what it’s like to be very close to them.”

According to Good, a way to invest the audiences into the story is “to include silences. In this episode, it was easier because we had ASL as the language. Most of the episode was silent, allowing the audience to connect even more deeply to these characters because you’re emotionally connected when you don’t have to process dialogue simultaneously. You can see the humanity in their eyes. Keivonn Woodard was such an unbelievable find. Every take that he did was golden. He and Lamar [Johnson] were the perfect match for that.”

Editor Emily Mendez added to what Good explained about supporting the characters through their emotional journey: “Editorially, we’re always making choices to try just to support the script and the characters. We want to connect to them more and help them come to life. That’s always a big goal of ours. This episode is so beautiful because it was written so beautifully, and it has these moments that are extremely genuine, like when Sam [Woodard] and Henry [Johnson] are together, and Henry paints the mask on Sam.

We could sit with them and see these little moments of humanity. Every single scene like that builds to this connection that we can have. I remember when Tim and I were watching the dailies and falling in love with these characters. We know they’ll die at the end of this episode, and we would talk about the footage coming in and how hard it would be once we got to the end. It is a really special journey.”

During our audio conversation, seen below, we also discussed their collaboration with director Jeremy Webb, the challenges of balancing character-driven drama and massive action setpieces, the approach to editing the cul-de-sac battle, and finding a way to keep both gamers and non-gamers engaged in the story.

You can listen to the full conversation below and stream all The Last of Us episodes on Max.

[Some of the quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity]


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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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