Another week, another millions of hearts ripped apart by The Last of Us. While most of us are still recovering from the end of Bill and Frank’s love story, Episode Five of The Last of Us said: Hold my bottle of Beaujolais Villages wine!
This Friday night, we caught up with the motley crew of Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam as they try to escape Kansas City—and the band of hunters, led by Kathleen, who are out to get them. After traversing the town’s sewer system for much longer than we were comfortable with, the gang ends up in a standoff with the hunters and roughly 50 to 70 fungus monsters. (Including one big-boy fungus monster!) They actually do manage to escape, but at a price. Sam, Henry’s little brother, was infected in the skirmish. He turns overnight. In the morning, little Sam—driven mad by cordyceps—attacks Ellie. One of the most devastating moments in The Last of Us video game follows: Henry shoots Sam to save Ellie, then kills himself, racked with guilt.
At the heart of Episode Five is actor Lamar Johnson, who imbues Henry with uncertainty, moral ambiguity, and, ultimately, love. Here, Johnson breaks down Henry’s heartbreaking final moments.
That final moment, I knew that it was the big moment because that’s what everybody talks about when it comes to Henry and Sam’s story. So I understood the pressure and the importance of that moment, but also I didn’t want to do a carbon copy. I didn’t want to completely just emulate everything the actor did in the game. I wanted to interpret it the way that I felt I would—and my processes and how I would get there. I have this environment in front of me. I see Sam on the floor. I see him trying to eat Ellie. I’m there in that space. Ultimately it was just about trying to be as present and honest to that moment as possible. And it’s shocking for him. I think if there’s one word that I can describe that entire moment, it’s just shock.
On Learning ASL (!) For the Role
I didn’t know that I would have to learn ASL for the role up until I got the role. Once I learned that I got the role—and I read the scripts—I saw that there was ASL in there. I was like, Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m so grateful to HBO and The Last of Us. They provided me a support team. I had a director of ASL. We had interpreters. I had everything that I needed in order for me to show up and do it to the best of my ability. Keep in mind, I’m representing a whole community. So I wanted to make sure that I was doing my absolute best because this was important—and representation is important. I understand that. If I wasn’t on set, I was at home doing homework. That was very important to me.
Is Henry the Good Guy, Or the Bad Guy?
That scene [in the playroom], I revealed to Joel who I am in that moment. Through me revealing that to Joel, he gained a new level of respect for me, because he would’ve done the same thing. If he had to make that decision to save Sarah, he would’ve made it, you know? He’s like, “If these guys are after you because you’re protecting your brother, I can understand that.” And then I revealed to him, “I wasn’t being completely truthful, because it’s not that simple. I actually gave him up—and he ultimately got killed for me to save my brother. So it was a life for a life, and am I the bad guy? Maybe.” But that’s the thing. Especially with the world that is The Last of Us, it’s very brutal and it’s very harsh. What decisions would you make if you literally had to fend for your life every single day?
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He’s a lot more resourceful and strong-willed than Henry gives him credit for, right? He obviously can fend for himself. I mean, even the first time that we meet Sam and Henry, look at Sam. Sam is on top of Joel with a gun. I mean, Joel?! So he obviously still has that forward kind of energy that a kid born in this world would naturally have. Even Ellie has that. But because I am the protector and because he is a kid to me, I just want him to stay a kid. Don’t worry about any of these things. I will worry about it. You know what I’m saying? There’s a lot of things that we go through, that we endure, that he has no idea or even is aware of. I wait until last minute to tell him that we’re out of food—just protecting his youth, his joy. I think it was the most important thing for Henry to do.
Any Chance We’ll See Henry Again?
That would be a lot of fun, you know? Even just to think about even what life was like prior to all of that. What was Henry into? What was his relationship with Kathleen and her brother? Where was the connection there? Did he work with him? Did he work? What was the life with Henry and his family—mom and dad, you know? Obviously, he touches on it, but I think it could be interesting to get that backstory and be able to experience that.