The latest episode of HBO’s The Last of Us introduces audiences to a version of Jackson, Wyoming from the game’s sequel, The Last of Us: Part II. For director Jasmila Žbanić, this included drawing on her own real-life experiences.
Speaking to Variety, Žbanić — who directed Season 1, Episode 6, entitled “Kin” — said that she actually hadn’t known anything about the game when she got the job. However, she did buy it and play through some, before ultimately looking up videos of the game’s depictions of Jackson, Wyoming in order to study the environment.
“When I got the job, I didn’t know anything about the game, so I had to really educate myself with what it is,” said Žbanić. “I bought the game and I tried to play it, and then I watched a lot of YouTube videos of people playing it. I was watching the part that concerns my episode a million times. I was talking a lot with Neil about all the atmosphere of the city and what he had in mind, and what is also not there. There are some elements that Craig added to the whole piece. I was also talking to a lot of gamers. I always ask, “What do they want to see? What do you expect from the game?” They would be saying to keep these emotions and atmosphere. These two things were like a checklist for me. I would check with each scene that they’re there.”
Žbanić, who grew up in Sarajevo, Bosnia, went on to note that she actually drew from her real-life experiences of surviving the war in Sarajevo in the ’90s to help build a city like Jackson, which is dealing with an ongoing struggle but still remains a place of humanity.
“I didn’t really talk about it, because for me it was very natural,” said Žbanić. “What we talked a lot about was that I survived the war in Sarajevo in the ’90s. I think for Craig and Neil, it was interesting that I was kind of living in a place which was like Jackson in a way, because we were surrounded by the Serbian army, we were constantly bombarded. We had to be on alert, we had to survive, we had to learn how to live without anything, without civilization. There was no electricity, no food, nothing. But we managed to survive because of solidarity, and the way the city was restructured. You have to start from zero. That experience for me was something that I felt very close about Jackson. It’s a community that functions, and I find it really beautiful and hopeful because I really believe even in the worst catastrophes, like war, I survived. People are able to keep the society. They are not always the enemy to each other. So I was really happy to direct this episode that really said something that I deeply believe in.”
The latest episode of The Last of Us not only introduced audiences to Jackson, but also to Dina, a character who plays a huge role in The Last of Us: Part II, and will be a big character when The Last of Us Season 2 eventually debuts.