The Last of Us' Gabriel Luna on What Was Running Through His Head When He Was Hugging Pedro Pascal

The Last of Us' Gabriel Luna on What Was Running Through His Head When He Was Hugging Pedro Pascal

Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 6.

And you thought you had a lot of catching-up to do at your last family get-together.

The Last of Us Episode 6, which aired Sunday, marked the first time the Miller brothers shared screen time since the premiere. Joel and Ellie’s trip to the Fireflies’ lab was interrupted in Wyoming by an armed group on horseback; when they brought the pair to their compound, it turned out that Tommy had been living there — and very comfortably! — for some time. (Read a full recap.)

The hour was full of emotional upheaval for both men. Joel worried that he was losing his ability to keep Ellie safe. Tommy feared that his brother’s request that he take on the job of protecting Ellie would mean bad things for Tommy’s wife and baby on the way.

We chatted with Gabriel Luna, who plays Tommy, to get his take on the Miller men’s momentous meetup. Read on for his thoughts.

TVLINE | In Episode 4, we hear what Joel thinks of Tommy and his motivations. What do you think Tommy would think about Joel’s calling him a “joiner” who wants to save the world?
I think Joel thinks that by joining, I’m leaving him. I think that that’s the subtext of what he’s saying there. And I think he’s right in a lot of ways, in terms of me as Tommy, what I want and what I desire. I think it’s less so specifically being a hero but moreso being able to live with myself and to be able to close my eyes at night and not fear the night and not fear what change may come.

So, I think for me it was, it was seeing my brother, somebody who I love who’s my only family, be completely shrouded up by darkness, depression, violence. I say, in Episode 6, there are other ways we could have done this, we just weren’t good at it. And that’s Tommy being the empathetic person that he is and the person that grows and wants to build relationships, build love, build community, build a family. That’s his instinct, and he doesn’t want to settle for anything less. He is a believer, and he is someone who is a man who stands by his ideal.

So, yeah. My take is just one that, as much as I love him, if I stayed I would be in danger of falling in the same pit. And so, I set out on my own path.

TVLINE | Talk to me about the hug.
[Smiles] That’s a great moment. You know, I wanted to make that embrace mean what it means for everybody who plays the games, but also have it just full of all types of meaning. Just as much as it’s “I love him, I’m so happy to see your face”, when I ask him “What the f–k are you doing here?,” there’s equal amounts of joy and unease. Trepidation.

And the fact that [Joel] says, “I came to save you” kind of tickled Tommy a little bit… That’s a very powerful moment and one that we wanted to recreate in an accurate way and give the gamers their squees. [Making sure he was understood] That’s “squee,” plural. [Laughs]

TVLINE | So many squees! Obviously, from the series premiere onward, Tommy is top of mind for Joel. Where is Joel in the rundown of what Tommy thinks about, day to day?
… Both Tommy and Joel are good at violence, you know? It’s not something that Tommy really loves about himself but he’s certainly aware that he is, that he is good at violence.

And he’s certainly aware of that about his brother. So I don’t think that there’s a whole lot of — I mean, he thinks about it, but I don’t think he fears for him or worries for him, just because he knows how capable he is. Which is the reason why I’m so uncomfortable in the scene where we’re in the shoe shop and he’s repairing his shoes. To to see him, see the emotion flood out of him in that way — in my mind, what I’m experiencing at that moment is: It’s weird to see my older brother cry. It makes me very uncomfortable. And then it’s also: I know where he’s going with this plea, and he’s going to ask me to potentially abandon my family and leave them, leave my child fatherless, because I know what’s out there and they don’t quite yet know.

So, I think that there’s a bit of that in that moment. I didn’t fear for him before, but the reason why I acquiesced to his request is [that] he’s broken to the point that I don’t know if he can do it anymore. And if he’s asking this of me, and if what he says is true, it’s very important. But still, how dare he, you know? [Laughs] How dare he come here after so long and continue to do what he always does, which is wield his power over me and ask me to set out with Ellie and potentially allow my family to lose me?

So, I believe in his ability, but also when I see that he’s starting to break down it’s very… it shakes my world. It shakes the structure of my family and what I believe the paradigm is with my family.

TVLINE | How much did you and Pedro Pascal rehearse that scene in the shoe shop?
We rehearsed quite a bit for this episode, which was incredible. Jasmila [Zbanic, director]… has an incredible creative spirit. We started in that bar, Pedro, Bella [Ramsey], and I, and rehearsed without dialogue. We ended up doing a bunch of theater games, which I felt like I was back in Austin in my theatre days… We were just doing a bunch of, you know, just being bodies in space as our characters and responding to each other how we would without dialogue and getting the spatial relationships right, the kinesthetic response of what all this means.

At one point Bella, Pedro, and I were all sitting in individual chairs and I pulled up another chair, in my mind signifying Maria, signifying the growth of the family, and Pedro instinctually grabs it, throws the chair away. Throws it across the room. It’s moments like that that have nothing to do with the scene, so to speak, but it has everything to do with the relationships and what the story’s about.

So, we had that whole, that whole day to do that. He and I actually restructured the entire scene in the bar, never changing any of the words  — because, you know, Craig [Mazin, series co-creator] is a very talented guy — but just completely restructured the whole way the scene unfolds. It just clicked, and Pedro and I were able to find that together, and all of that is because we were allowed the opportunity to rehearse.

That second scene was pretty much him just talking and me just sitting and listening to my brother. So there was less focus placed on that in terms of rehearsal, and it all just kind of happened on the day — him breaking down, of course, and me having a lot of interwoven feelings about what his request in that moment. And you know, I hope people don’t see Tommy as a callous person, because I think it’s just hard to see your brother like that, you know? One of the strongest figures in your mind, strongest people, to see them nearly completely torn down. I think that that’s what’s at play.

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