Emmys: ‘The Last of Us’ Star Keivonn Montreal Woodard Is Youngest Actor Ever Nominated in Category
10-year-old Woodard played Sam in the fifth episode of ‘The Last of Us.’
With every round of Emmy nominations inevitably comes a great story of an actor finally getting their long-awaited recognition, a television star making history, or a relative newcomer giving a surprising performance that upends everything. The announcement of the nominees for the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards brought with it one such story with Keivonn Montreal Woodard. Woodard is up for the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role in The Last of Us, making him the youngest actor to ever earn a nomination in the category at only ten years old. This was also his acting debut.
Woodard, who is also deaf, gave a heartbreaking performance as the young deaf survivor Sam whom Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) first meet at the end of Episode 4 of the HBO series. In a departure from the game, Sam and his older brother Henry, also played wonderfully by fellow nominee Lamar Johnson, are given more depth thanks to their connections to the Hunters and through touching scenes depicting their close relationship as they try to escape the grasp of Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey). They team up with Joel and Ellie to try and find a way out of the city, bonding along the way as they navigate the buildings and sewers. After a fateful clash with the Hunters and the infected in the streets, as they near their escape, Sam and Henry exit the series in a gut-wrenching fashion, making for one of the most poignant moments in a series that’s no stranger to tragedy.
The brilliance of Woodard’s performance wasn’t lost on series showrunner and co-creator Craig Mazin. On an episode of HBO’s The Last of Us podcast, he and Neil Druckmann sang the young actor’s praises and Mazin specifically expressed hope that his role as Sam will lead to a fruitful career in Hollywood:
“He was astonishing. I have never been in a circumstance where a kid, who has never really acted on film before, shows up and is so naturally good at it. He was a joy to have around, and a total dream. He’s incredible and I cannot wait to see more from him. I hope that when people watch this episode, here in Hollywood and in our business, that they don’t just stop at the end of it and go, ‘Boy, that kid was really good playing the character of Sam’. I hope that they go, ‘That kid ought to be in a lot of things.'”
Woodard Was One of The Last of Us‘s Many Deserving Nominees
Woodard’s friend, co-star, and fellow nominee Ramsey also congratulated the young actor when reacting to their nomination for lead actress in a drama:
“I’m so happy for the entire team and immensely proud of this show and everyone involved. I’m especially proud of my friend Keivonn Woodard (his first job and first nomination), my brain soul mate Craig Mazin, and my rock and the best sidekick ever… Pedro Pascal. It was the best year of my life shooting The Last of Us so to be given this recognition alongside other phenomenal performers makes my little heart feel very big, thank you.”
In total, The Last of Us was, as expected, one of the most nominated series ahead of this year’s Emmy Awards with a staggering 24 nominations behind only Succession‘s 28 for its final season. Woodard, Pascal, Ramsey, and Johnson are joined by their fellow acting nominees Lynskey, Murray Bartlett, Nick Offerman, Storm Reid, and Anna Torv in representing the series at the Emmys on the acting side. The series is also part of a record-breaking year for HBO/Max which led the field in nominations once again and has four series up for Outstanding Drama Series with Mazin and Druckmann’s game adaptation joining House of the Dragon, The White Lotus, and the aforementioned Succession.
The 75th Primetime Emmy Awards will take place on September 18. Check out the announcement video of nominees below or check out our full list.