How The Last of Us Took Over an Entire Mall for Season 1’s Ellie Flashback Episode

Co-executive producer Jacqueline Lesko explains how The Last of Us managed to shoot on location at a mall for Season 1, Episode 7, “Left Behind.”

Ellie looks on at the illuminated mall in episode seven of HBO's The Last of US

The Last of Us co-executive producer Jacqueline Lesko recently revealed how the HBO video game adaptation took control of an entire mall during Season 1.

Lesko explained how The Last of Us managed to shoot on location at Calgary’s Northland Village Mall for Episode 7, “Left Behind,” in an interview with Variety. “We were on the hunt for a mall that we could kind of take over, which is impossible in a working mall because they’re open seven days a week,” she said. “[Northland] was going defunct. I think there was maybe a couple stores open, but they pretty much said, ‘We’re going to tear this down. You guys can do whatever you want to it.’ And we were like, ‘Really?’ The biggest problem with that was it was a one-story mall and we needed two stories, and that’s where visual effects stepped in.”

Aside from recreating the setting of the original Left Behind DLC, The Last of Us Episode 7’s abandoned mall setting provides a memorable backdrop for Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Riley’s (Storm Reid) final night together. The post-apocalyptic drama series also relies just as heavily on its production design in other emotionally-charged installments, most notably, in Episode 3, “Long, Long Time.” Director Peter Hoar touched on this in a recent interview, noting that the Last of Us crew made a concerted effort to convey a sense of “freshness” within the mini-Utopia created by lovers Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).

The Last of Us Director on the Bill and Frank Episode

In the same interview, Hoar also acknowledged the devastating impact of “Long, Long Time” on audiences, admitting that even the actors had difficulty keeping their emotions in check during filming. “I didn’t certainly set out to tell a story that would make the world cry uncontrollably, but I did,” he said. “There was one note that I gave Murray. I said, ‘Maybe this is the scene where we don’t cry.’ It was impossible because Bill was so passionate and in the moment saying to his love Frank, that he was his purpose. And Murray was like, ‘I can’t do it. Look at him, I can’t do it. He’s just so beautiful and human. I just can’t hold it in.’ So, that note was redundant!”

Fans will likely shed even more tears when The Last of Us Season 2 drops, with showrunner Craig Mazin recently hinting that some characters’ fates will differ from those of their video game counterparts. “People understood watching the show that this was a story where people aren’t safe… So anyone can die at any moment, as far as I’m concerned,” Mazin said.

All nine episodes of The Last of Us Season 1 are currently streaming on Max. Season 2 does not yet have a release date.

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