The second-in-command at the cannibalistic resort has a long ‘The Last of Us’ history.
Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for Episode 8 of The Last of Us.As HBO’s The Last of Us approaches the end of its first season, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) are forced to face the brutality of their ways and the coldness of the post-apocalyptic world. In Episode 8, “When We Are in Need,” we are even introduced to a cannibal community led by the holy man David (Scott Shepherd). And while David makes a terrifying villain, his right-hand man James is also a threat Ellie must take down to regain her freedom.
While James was already part of The Last of Us – Part I game, he looks and sounds completely different in HBO’s series adaptation. That’s because, while the character is voiced by Reuben Langdon in the game, the series chose Troy Baker to play the villain. And Baker is one of the stars that helped make Naughty Dog’s games so popular in the first place thanks to his role as Joel in the series.
Troy Baker’s Voice Acting History Before He Became Joel
For the past two decades, Baker has been acting as a successful voice actor, lending his talents to English anime dubs, animated series, and most important of all, videogames. Baker’s impressive filmography includes voice works in some of the most successful animes of all time, such as Bleach, One Piece, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. He also has a foot in the superhero game, voicing multiple Marvel and DC characters in TV shows and animated movies such as Young Justice, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. With such an incredible range as an actor, it’s not surprising that Baker got involved with so many AAA games.
From Darksiders to Barman: Arkham, Baker already had dozens of voice acting credits in the video game industry when he was hired to play the part of Joel in the first The Last of Us game. The cinematic nature of Naughty Dog’s beloved game helped Baker become more recognizable outside the usual gaming audience and began a prolific partnership with the video game studio that also extended towards the Uncharted franchise. For The Last of Us, Baker voiced Joel and motion-captured the character, literally bringing the protagonist to life. So, even though Pascal was chosen to play Joel in the series adaptation, HBO gave a nod to Baker’s stellar performance by casting him in the role of James, which he does brilliantly.
Who Is James in The Last of Us?
In the original The Last of Us game, James is the second in command in David’s cannibal community. Impulsive and eager to get things done, James is shown chopping up humans to pieces with no remorse. While HBO’s series adaptation sticks close to the game when adapting Ellie’s nightmarish stay at the cannibal resort, Baker brings a new energy to James. From the beginning of the episode, we can tell James only follows David because he wants to ensure the community’s survival, not because he believes the preacher’s words. The series’ version of James also has a unique sadness, as if he was well aware that his horrible actions have taken a toll on his soul. So, while the story remains pretty much the same, Baker’s version of James shows new shades of the character’s psyche.
It’s marvelous to see Baker flex his live-acting muscles in The Last of Us, and it is curious that HBO decided to give him a villain part. Baker helped The Last of Us become a phenomenon by playing Joel, who, despite all its flaws, is still one of the game’s two heroes. By stepping into a villain’s shoes, the actor can see the same world with different eyes, exploring the moral nuances of The Last of Us post-apocalyptic universe.
James’ appearance in the series was short-lived, as the character meets the same bloody fate as he does in the game. However, Baker’s interpretation of James is so memorable that we hope HBO brings the voice actor back to play a different role in Season 2 of The Last of Us.
New episodes of The Last of Us come to HBO and HBO Max every Sunday.