The seventh episode of The Last of Us was another heartbreaker, and another heartbreaker centered around an LGBTQIA+ couple (which has sadly led to some homophobic backlash). It followed Bella Ramsey’s Ellie reflecting on a key moment from her pre-Joel (Pedro Pascal) life. She recalled a night she spent with her friend Riley (Storm Reid) inside an abandoned mall. There’s a carousel. There’s a video. Then there’s a tragic occurrence that would forever scar Ellie.
But before that, there’s that mall — a once-strong fixture of the American landscape that itself has fallen a bit by the wayside. But how did the Last of Us make that mall?
In a new interview with Variety, production designer John Paino said it was part real, part CGI. The show was shot in Calgary, Canada, so they sought to simply look around.
“We found an abandoned mall that was completely stripped and didn’t have a second floor,” Paino revealed. “We built the rooftops and the stores, but what they look from the balcony, it’s all CGI because our mall didn’t have a second floor.”
They wound up building between 20 and 25 storefronts inside the old mall, including Victoria’s Secret, Foot Locker, and Panda Express, all covered in dust and grim. The carousel was brought in from another location, taken apart and put back together on set. Others were real, too:
Paino says all the games in the arcade set actually worked because creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann wanted everything as real as possible. However, those retro game screens were made from cathode-ray tube (CRT), which meant when the cameras were rolling, the images were not clear. “We rebuilt them on LED screens,” Paino explains.