I will be the first to admit that The Last of Us character, Ellie bared a striking resemblance to the actress Ellen Page- especially before her redesign, but even after as well. I’ll go on to admit that up until about three days ago, I still thought it was Ellen Page doing the voice. And to be honest, I genuinely feel bad about that.
Why? I was giving Ellen Page miraculous props for her voice acting abilities. Saying things like, “With The Last of Us and then Beyond Two Souls, I think Ellen Page has found her niche in video game voice acting.” But the person I was so impressed with was not Ellen Page, it was Ashley Johnson… and now this whole time I’ve looked like a fool! I can’t help but feel that Ashley Johnson is getting the short end of the media exposure stick after Page’s Reddit AMA. So I’m grabbing a new stick and it’s called the “let’s talk about Ashley Johnson and how talented she is!” stick. It’s a working stick title, okay?
If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing The Last of Us either by playing it yourself or watching streams/ gameplay, I encourage you to do at least one of those things. The voice acting alone is phenomenal. And that is where Ashley Johnson (and my stick) come in.
There are scenes where Ellie and the other protagonist, Joel exchange some very emotional dialogue and it’s made more heart wrenching due to Johnson’s ability to capture that intense emotion so perfectly. Her talent doesn’t just stop at heart wrenching moments, Ashley does an equally impressive job at capturing the innocence of a 14-year-old girl who has only known the world as it is in The Last of Us. Subtle yet perfect mannerisms, child-like goofy laughs, and high pitch voice breaks in times of panic are just examples of how well Ashley Johnson plays that character.
It goes on! Johnson lends her talents to Ellie beyond just voice acting- she was also involved in every aspect of motion capture for the character. She even helped Naughty Dog mold Ellie’s character into the badass ruffian super-teen we come to love in the game; full of angst, naivety, and the vocabulary of a sailor. Ashley Johnson helped develop this strong character mostly due to the fact that she herself is a gamer and wanted Ellie to hold her own in the game. Neil Druckman, Creative Director for The Last of Us told Eurogamer that Ashley “really made Ellie a lot more capable than we initially envisioned.” Ashley later went on to say:
“I’ve played games where you’re like, ‘If I didn’t have you in the game, I could go through this mission so much quicker… I didn’t want Ellie to be that.”
Through her thorough understanding of her character and strong involvement with her development, Ashley helped to make Ellie both a strong companion and a strong character.
She has made Ellie very much her own. And what concerns me the most is that Ellie will seemingly always be compared to Ellen Page and I think that does more of a disservice to Ashley Johnson than to Ellen Page and her work on Beyond Two Souls.