Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Love Letter To "The Last Of Us"




Wow.  Okay, so I know it's been a while since I've posted.  I've been meaning to for a while, but I just haven't had the chance.

Now that "The Last Of Us" and "Left Behind" have come out, I felt like it was time to make a post dedicated to the game.


The BAFTAs were today and I watched the live stream from home.  It was so exciting to watch the boys get up in their tuxes and accept the awards.  When they announced that I won, I cried, happy tears of course.  I was also so happy Brian was with me to share in the excitement.  The speech that Troy gave was just perfect and Brian and I both laughed and agreed that he gave a much better speech than I would have.  Hahaha.


I'll be honest, I have a bit of a public speaking fear.  Not only that, I'm not the biggest fan of large crowds.  More specifically, large crowds that have their attention solely focused on me.  I know it sounds crazy, given the profession that I've chosen, but it's different when you're playing a character and have a script.  You get to be somebody else.  I'm an intensely private person and when I'm just being "me", I get a little nervous.  When I'm nervous, I feel I can't fully express myself or communicate my feelings and I just want to crawl in a hole and never come out.  Truth bomb.


So, why do I have a blog?  Well, I have an easier time expressing myself through writing.  And it's an open space to give thanks or share things that I want to share.  And today I want to share my gratitude for one of the greatest games of all time (at least to me), The Last Of Us.



Working on this game has changed my life.  I remember from the moment Rebecca Dodd (my then agent, who now works at Naughty Dog in casting, because she's awesome), sent me the material for a "Naughty Dog Project" back in October of 2010. I read the scenes and saw the first picture I would ever see of Ellie.  I was hooked.  I wanted to be a part of the project and most of all, I wanted to be Ellie.

Thankfully, I got the job.  :)

I worked on the game for over 3 years and it was one of the most creatively satisfying and fun things I've ever been able to work on.  I don't think any of us realized the impact it would have, we only hoped.  The response has been extraordinary.  I feel so lucky that I got to play Ellie.  To play a female character in a game that for once isn't sexualized and is a real 14 year old girl.  A 14 year old girl that has insecurities and emotional ups and downs but can also hold her own in a fight if she needs to.  Ellie is a complete badass to me and I'm proud of who and what she represents as a woman.



There's a few people that I would like to properly thank.  Because whenever I try, I turn into a bumbling idiot and don't end up saying what I really want to say, so here it goes:


I'm going to start with Naughty Dog.  I adore those Dogs and who they stand for as a company.  They're legends in my book and are changing the way video games are made.  Yes, I know I may be biased, but to be honest, I don't really give a shit. The volume of artistic genius at that studio astounds me.  Every single person working there is a revolutionary in their own way.  Christophe Balestra and Evan Wells run a company that straight up kicks ass.  Thank you for inviting me to be in the Dog family, if only for a little while.


The animation team in both cinematics and in-game.  Now, I'm going to give it to you all straight.  The impact Ellie (or the game for that matter), wouldn't have been possible without them.  They're the unsung heroes that most of the time remain nameless.  They made Ellie.  Of course it was a joint effort but without them, there would be nothing.  The subtleties they put together just in the behavior of Ellie alone, were astounding.  I want to thank every single one of you.  Some of you I've met and some of you I haven't, but I know you guys probably know my face better than I know it myself, being that you had to look at my stupid mug for over two years.  For that alone you should win an award.  ;)


A huge, ginormous, gigantic thank you to everyone on Stage 2. Bill Beemer, I've always said that WHEN the zombie apocalypse happens, I want Bill Beemer on my team. That man can build anything and he's pretty much just the coolest ever. Walt, Alexa, Scott Pocket, Matt, Vince and Kola, Aimee...  Guys, you make the day better and none of it would've been as amazing if it weren't for you.  You ran the show and pretty much made it happen.

Rebecca Dodd.  Firstly, I adore you.  Secondly, I adore you.  Thirdly, thank you.  I've told you this before, but I'll say it again and again, you brought me one of my favorite jobs I've ever had.  You're amazing.  I love you.


Bruce Straley.  I could listen to this man talk for hours.  His creative vision is insane and being around him pretty much makes you excited to be alive.  Yes, I know that sounds dramatic, but it's kind of true.  The amount of care and passion he put into every little detail of this game is incredible to me.  He's also one of the most positive people I've ever met. No matter how stressful a situation, he makes you feel like everything is going to be okay. He masterfully steered the ship and turned this game into something awesome.  You're amazing to me, Straley.  (Also, he's an amazing painter just FYI).


Troy Baker.  I love this man.  He's a beast on the stage and it was an absolute honor to work with him.  He alone has changed my life in so many ways and I can confidently say, my performance wouldn't have been the same without him. The two of us needed to have chemistry to make these characters work and that chemistry was there from day one.  Not only that, he's an incredible actor.  He pours himself into a role with every fiber of his being and that is an amazing thing to watch. One of my favorite scenes in the game is when Joel is asking David's minions where Ellie is.  You know the one, where Joel stabs the guy in the knee?  Well, I remember I was on set, watching from the side and in that moment, was completely blown away by Troy.  He was Joel.  He is Joel.

There's a saying that goes like this, "You're only as good as your other actors."  If that's the case, then I'm doing just fine with Troy by my side.
He was my mentor in the beginning, my teacher and now, at the end of all this, I get to call him my friend.  One of my best friends.  We've been on so many adventures together AND, he also introduced me to one of the greatest loves of my life.  :) I love you, brother.

Neil Druckmann.  Good God, where do I even start.  When we started shooting this game, Neil wasn't directing.  He called me one day, fairly early on, and told me he needed to talk to me about something important.  I thought I was getting fired. Then he proceeded to tell me that he was going to take over as director.  I was so excited in that moment.  At the time, I'd always looked to him anyway whenever I had a question.  This was his baby, after all.  This story came out of his brain.

I know he was a little nervous.  I know he had his reservations about whether or not he'd be able to do it.  To take on the insane task of directing crazy actors.  But let me tell you, he nailed it.  Neil is brilliant and I know he'll get all "awww shucks" if he ever reads this, but it's the truth.  I feel so lucky that I got to be one of the first people he directed because I certainly won't be the last.  I can't wait to see where he's going to go and what he's going to do with his career, but I know it will be magnificent.  And I will be first in line for whatever it is.  You've changed my life Druckmann and for that, there aren't enough words of thanks, in any language, to show my gratitude.

I would also like to thank my family for being so unbelievably supportive.  I love my family so much and they are just as proud of this game as I am.  And I'm sorry Mom that you had to watch the "Ellie Swearing Montage".  But you remained supportive through and through.


And last, but certainly not least, to the fans of the game.  Thank you for playing the game.  Thank you for loving the game. Thank you for your positive words and all the love and support you've shown all of us.  And thank you for loving Ellie. Also, to all the girls/women who have cosplayed as Ellie, basically I want to tell you that you kick ass.


There are so many more people to thank, but maybe that's a start.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for for being awesome.  Cause I know you are.


And remember:


"Endure and Survive"


XOXO,

Ashley

38 comments:

  1. I think I speak for everyone on the internet and the world over who has played this game when I say, "Thank you for bringing Ellie to life." I can't help but pity the actress who is going to have to step into your shoes to bring Ellie to the big screen in the upcoming movie. She has mighty big shoes to fill!

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  2. I can't overstate my thanks to you and everyone else involved with TLOU's production, because it really was a life-changing game -- no hyperbole. ellie was and is such a lovely and revolutionary and inspiring character for me (and so many people I know). having an authentic adolescent voice, especially one who's treated with respect and not reduced to one half of the warrior-damsel dichotomy, is enormous in the world of video games. she's the kind of character I wish I'd had around as a teenager, and as an adult, she's still a personal heroine.

    just...so many kudos to everyone in front of and behind the cameras and computers here. thank you so, so, so much for the love and thought and complexity and subtlety put into this game. even from the perspective of a fan, I'm honored and grateful to have been part of this world.

    best of luck to you and the entire ND staff in your future projects, all of which I can guarantee I'll support, haha.

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  3. This was great to read and from all the time and effort everyone put in at Naughty Dog this game did turn out amazing, people love Ellie as a character because you breath the life into her and you did such a spectacular job playing this character. The Last Of Us is solid and the best game i have played, thank you Ashley Johnson because you do truly deserve all the praise you are getting.

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  4. Yes, thank you indeed; for saving Joel's ass a bunch of times, for repeatedly stabbing David *cough Nolan North *cough, for fighting back against every obstacle thrown at you be it zombies, humans, or even worse - Bill, for that epic "rooOOAAAR," for choosing option two and waiting it out, and most of all - for being the badass that we all know and love Ellie to be. Like you said, sometimes there aren't enough words of thanks to show our gratitude.

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  5. Aww, thank you for being your awesome, kick-ass self...I could not be more proud of you, happy for you, or inspired by your beautiful performance. I adore and love you right back!

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  6. First, congratulations on winning the Best Performer at the BAFTA; I sure that was one of the easiest decision for them because no one deserved it more then you. Thank you for daring to bring Ellie to life, I'm convince any other actress could have done Ellie but no one else could have made us LOVE Ellie like you made us love Ellie. I can't wait too see your future projects. Good evening and Good Life :)

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  7. I´m Happy for you Ashley, Ellie is the best Videogame Character i ever see and The Last of Us is the best Game ever.

    Hope we see you again in The Last of Us 2 (i Hope so, for you / me & other Gamers / Sony & PlayStation).

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  8. Awesome. Just plain awesome. You made me shed tears. Happy tears.
    Because this game has changed my life too. And that is not even over exaggerating when I say that. I just can't IMAGINE my life without TLoU anymore. Your text is just.. So beautiful. Oh mannnn.

    I have finished the game nine times now, and I am still excited every time I start it all over again. I still cry through the game. No game has had this effect on me before.

    I'm so proud to be a TLoU-fan. Because of people like you. And Troy. And Neil. Thank you for everyone in the studio, who have been part of this amazing experience. You have all worked so hard. Thank you all for making this game. These characters. That world. You guys deserve all the prizes there is.

    I am so happy that someone like you are behind the voice (and motion capture - of course) of my favorite video character of all times.
    Thank you Ashley, for being such a inspirational person, and for making Ellie the way she is.

    I can't describe in words the feelings of mine but there was something.
    (Sorry if there are any silly mistakes in my text, English is not my native language eep)

    Cheers, I love you.

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  9. Thank you for bringing Ellie to life<3 Your performance was incredible and all the recognition you're getting is well deserved. Congrats on the BAFTA win.

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  10. You did an amazing job bring Ellie to life, probably one of the most unique characters I've played in my years of gaming. Thank you so much. Seriously, your just perfect. :)

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  11. Wow. Just wow. I am so happy for you getting the award - you deserve it!!

    When I first saw Ellie, I saw a character with potential to be something big. What was great with Ellie was that she wasn't the usual girl depicted in games - Being a girl gamer myself, I have always thought why the most "big protagonists" are men, and why women are often put on the side, or depicted in very simmilar ways, but Ellie was far more different. She, and that means You, showed me the little bits of being human.

    She was no perfect lady, she was a teenage girl like I've been before. To see her character growth and to play as both her and Joel, gave me an experience for life. They weren't just some game characters - they felt like real people. That feeling is what made this game -on the side of great story, incredible music and gameplay - what it was. It made you feel like you got to know these people, their situation, and I swear to God I have never had so much emotions show during a playthrough. So far, I've completed it 3 times and same goes for Left Behind.

    Speaking of which, Ashley, you did an incredible job on that DLC as well. I loved Ellie from day one, but when that DLC came out...I sat the entire night and laughed, wept tears and just had so much fun when getting to see our baby girl's other, carefree side. It was amazing in so many ways, that I don't have much good words to describe it myself.

    I want to thank you, for bringing my absolute favorite game character to life. She's become the little (badass) sister I never had. And she became that character thanks to none less but You. Same goes for Joel and Troy. The two of you have worked so hard, but done so so well! I admire you two for what you and the Dog's achieved - it is worth every single award there is.

    Thank you, and Troy, for the amazing work on these two characters. The game is one of a kind, and it will forever remain my favorite. Whatever happens, I will always see the two of you when hearing the names of Ellie and Joel. I hope to see you back if ND goes for a sequel, because Ellie is by far the best character and I will never get enough of her.

    Congrats once again! Well, well deserved!!

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  12. I'm so grateful to have been able to experience this game and all the work you and everyone else put into it. I always find myself in awe when I play it, and I think Ellie has become a role model for me as well. Seeing both genders come together to make a work of art like this has really inspired me to pursue a spot in the game industry, and I really want to thank you for that. I am so glad that such a strong female character exists and that you were able to bring her to life. You rock, and best of luck on your future projects!

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  13. You did an outstanding job. Ellie is an amazing character in an amazing game. TLOU is one of my favourite games ever, and Ellie sure is one of my favourite characters, thanks to you.

    You have my sincerest gratitude, and you deserve that award so, so much. :)

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  14. Congrats, much deserved win at the BAFTAS! Was there and was rooting for you :) Thank you for everything from your work on the game to your involvement with the industry/community post release.
    Saw you a little under a year ago at a TLOU event in London - where you came over completely confident and comfortable even in front of a crowd with their attention on you :D
    I'm not comparing it to last night! Just a thought I had when reading your post.
    Thankyou again for being a substantial part of what I consider one of the best games ever made :)
    Great admiration - Keep up the good work!

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  15. Words cannot describe just how incredible The Last of Us is and certainly, like you said, there aren't enough words in any language that are able to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude to all those who worked on the game (you included, Ashley ;) ).

    I remember getting it on day release and playing through it in about two and a half days since I was going to go on holiday and really wanted to finish it. The memories of it stuck with me throughout my whole time on holiday, so much so that I actually wrote my own review of the game.

    But it was after I came back and watched the Grounded documentary that I saw just how much time and effort went into making the game. For that I want to thank each and every person who helped to develop and bring the game to life. You guys are truly awesome and are the reason I love video games, with The Last of Us being the reason to own a PS3.

    The emotional depth of the relationship between Joel and Ellie is, in my opinion, what sets this game apart from everything else. For that I'd like to thank you and Troy for making these characters so real and compelling, Ellie is by far one of my favourite video game characters.

    Just want to end by saying congratulations to you on your BAFTA award and congratulations to Neil Druckmann, Bruce Straley and everyone at Naughty Dog for their awards, you all truly and rightly deserve them. :)

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  16. Check Soundcloud, baby.

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  17. Thank you for being AWESOME!!! And you truly deserve everything that's happening ... really you do. Like you have a huge fan from Bahrain ( if you know where that is (most people don't)) my point is that you've reached out to people all over the world by bringing Ellie to life and you still thank us?! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! Btw have I mentioned you're awesome?!! (Plus please make a sequel xD)

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  18. Ashley,

    This is a lovely letter, and I'm sure that all of us fans and others named in the letter are touched by your gratitude.

    But I want to thank YOU for being the character, for giving that performance it needed and doing it perfectly. I could go on for days about how badass Ellie is and how my love for the character grew throughout the game. But it wasn't until after seeing the documentary of the making of the game when I truly saw how much of it was based off your performance - and in some ways, Troy's - and I realized just how fantastic of a job everyone did to bring Ellie to life. The scene where Ellie and Joel first run into Bill will stand out in my memories forever.

    Again, I could talk for days, but the point is that after playing the game multiple times, Ellie has become my favorite all-time character in video games. It's not even a question. Naughty Dog made her strong and resilient, yet fragile and frightened... all without the cheap tactics of a shoehorned-in romance or blatant sexuality. I hope that many more games in the future use this as a reference on how to do female characters correctly.

    Congrats on the BAFTA and any other accolades you've received from your work on The Last of Us. It is truly well-earned.

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  19. Thank you for bringing Ellie to life, words cant describe how awesome of a character she is. You, Troy and the whole Naughty Dog team have created one hell of an unforgettable story/journey/game that I will never ever forget in my life. From the first unveiled of the trailer and up until now, I am still hooked on it like a drug (i know its a bad example :p). Every aspect of the game are just believable and pure enjoyment. Personal favourite moment of the game is where Joel carried Ellie through the hospital, the perfect blend of the music , environment, dialogue between joel and the firefly on that scene gave me goosbumps everytime and I almost cried.

    Thank you again to you, Troy and Naughty Dog countless hours of working in bringing this game into our lives. It is truly an unforgettable experience. :)

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  20. My god...I think I'm in love with you Ashley :P

    That was beautiful, I can't even begin to imagine how much of an experience these past few years have been for you.
    I'd kill to be in your shoes, you had such an impact on me with your performance as Ellie, to the point where I was actually wallowing for a few days after finishing the game.....then proceeding to play it a million times again.

    Anyway, I really hope that this is the first in a long line of successes for you. You seem like such a lovely person and it would be such a waste of your amazingness if people weren't to cast you.

    Thanks for making me shed a tear on multiple occasions :')

    - Joel

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  21. I'm going to turn 40 this year, and I can honestly say The Last of Us gave me an experience that was completely unique in all my life consuming entertainment. In Pittsburgh, Joel (and by extension, you the player) falls down an elevator shaft with no way up. For the first time since you met, you're separated from Ellie. At that point, I had a reaction I've never had to a character before. I missed Ellie. Acutely. I genuinely felt the lack of her presence as a loss.

    It's a testament to your performance, to Troy and the rest of the cast, to the developers, artists, and everyone who worked on The Last of Us, because I've never identified with a set of characters so deeply in anything, books, movies, TV, theatre, any of it. What happened to these people mattered to me, and I wanted them to be able to find happiness in that ruined world.

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  22. So open and honest. Endure and survive indeed. This is my love letter to "The Last of Us" as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAkSypuQxLU

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  23. Thank you for making Ellie so badass, funny and sweet. I stand in awe of everyone involved in making this game. :*

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  24. What an amazing speech. I'm very proud to have this game way before it was released, and also very proud that I beat it 5 times, and also platinumed it. Easily the greatest game of all time I have ever played. You know, Ashley, this game wouldn't be this game without you, you clearly outshined everything in every category, you are the greatest actress I've ever saw. Your work was outstanding, I appreciate your amazing work on this polarizing game, you're easily a great figure from now on. I'm ashamed that I did not know you before The Last of Us. Just be a good girl, and stay way from evil, greetings to your family.

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  25. Ashley, thank you for Allie...

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  26. Dear Ashley Suzanne:

    From one Ashley to another... This love letter is beautiful. Your work (The Last of Us for starters...but your other stuff too) is beautiful. We'd love to interview you.
    We'll be at MomoCon as Press in May & would love to arrange for something. Please feel free to message us via our Contact Us page (here: http://nerdymindsmagazine.com/contact-nerdy-minds/) or even via Twitter (here: http://twitter.com/nerdymindsmag). We hope to hear from you so we can set something up!

    Ashley Marie
    Nerdy Minds Magazine

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  27. Kennethdevlin1972June 4, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    Hello Ashley! How are you, doing? Great work with bring Ellie to life in both (TLOU and TLOULB). If Naughty Dogs does a sequel which includes Ellie in it...Would you, consider reprising your role as her again? :)
    What is your take on Ellie's feeling about Joel...Do you, think she loves him or hates him at the end of the game? Just wondering since you, brought her to life doing the Mo-Cap and VO acting.

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  28. Ashley,

    Congratulations for your work on The Last of Us

    I played the game in French and in English and I clearly been seduced by your voice ! Moreover, I will make The Last of Us Remastered directly in VO. Then I congratulate you for this wonderful letter you shared the last few months on your blog, we understand that it is a fantastic experience for you and I feel good playing TLOU.

    Besides, I am a French journalist and I'd like to do an email interview with you. You would agree? Do not hesitate to contact me and add me on Google Plus if you like. I'd really like to discuss your experience with you :)

    Have a nice day,

    And I hope to talk to you soon!

    J.

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  29. And last but not least, thank YOU Ashley! One thing, apart from your acting, that makes you so captivating is how extremely humble and down to earth you are. You're absolutely right that Troy IS Joel..but you ARE Ellie as well, and to the actress embarking on the future task of playing Ellie in the film, I say good luck, cause nothing can one up your performance..or even match it. Personally I'm hoping for Maisie Williams, because I think she too would do a good job!
    But when it comes down to it, we all have to admit there's only one Ellie!

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  30. Awesome letter, thank you for share this information :)

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  31. This is a terrific Blog Ashley.....I've been a fan of yours since Growing Pains.... It's been great seeing you still involved with acting.... I'm not usually a fan of horror type things But when I read that you were voicing Ellie...I knoew I just had to have and play it...I love you and Ellie so much...

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