WARNING: Spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 5 below.
After some table-setting in Episode 4 that stranded Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in Kansas City, The Last of Us once again delivered an absolute gut punch of an episode. In “Endure and Survive,” game characters Sam and Henry, played by Keivon Woodard and Lamar Johnson respectively, take center stage as they help Joel and Ellie escape from Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and her hunters that have overthrown FEDRA forces. Kathleen is also aggressively hunting for Henry, who caused the death of her brother by ratting him out to FEDRA to get medicine for Sam.
As fans of the game know, Sam and Henry’s tale has a tragically dark ending, and the HBO series did not shy away from those final moments. It was some heavy stuff, but thankfully Woodard and Johnson quickly formed a brotherly bond as soon as they met, which helped with the grueling shoot.
“Day One, the first day that we met, we were in the production offices running around and playing tag. We connect a lot over video games, things like that,” Johnson told IndieWire. “So it really was not hard. He’s such an enthusiastic kid and energetic and just very talented. It was really easy to build that relationship with him.”
That bond helped when it came time to shoot the episode’s bleak ending:
As Henry and Joel have their deep conversations about what families owe to each other and the importance of protecting another person, there’s Sam and Ellie taking their precious chances to goof around and be kids. Woodard and Ramsey were essentially getting to do the same thing.
“We’d be working all day and all night, and I would make jokes and talk with people. I really enjoyed my experience and I think there was a good balance there,” Woodard said.
Despite having his character die off after committing a horrifying act, Johnson has no problem revisiting the episode. He’s extremely proud of the work he and Woodard put in.
“You get everything. You get the emotions, but you also get the action and the character building,” he said.