Bella Ramsey Will Return for ‘The Last of Us’ Season 2

“The only way we would ever consider recasting Bella is if she said, ‘I don’t want to work with you guys anymore,'” Neil Druckmann said

Bella Ramsey as Ellie in "The Last of Us" episode 9

“The Last of Us” co-creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have confirmed that Bella Ramsey will return for Season 2 of HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama series despite criticism on social media that she’s too young to play Ellie during the events of the video game’s sequel.

One of the things about the casting process that’s tough is that we invite people to join us on this process and we know everything [about the secrets of the production] and nobody else knows anything except what they know, which is the game,” Mazin told reporters on Tuesday. “We know what we’re gonna do in terms of costume and makeup and hair but more importantly, we also know the spirit and soul of the actor. It’s tough as a kind of a parent of an actor because you become kind of a surrogate father on set, especially to someone who joined us when she was 17. She’s only 19 now, which by the way, is the age of Ellie in the ‘Last of Us: Part II.’”

Mazin added that the second season will continue the trend of having aspects that are “different” from its source material.

“Sometimes it will be different radically and sometimes it will be barely different at all, but it’s going to be different and it will be its own thing,” he said. “It won’t be exactly like the game. It will be the show that Neil and I want to make. We are making it with Bella.”

Druckmann said that finding Ramsey was “lightning in a bottle” — much like when he found Ashley Johnson for the video game.

“We are extremely lucky to have Bella…and the only way we would ever consider recasting Bella is if she said, ‘I don’t want to work with you guys anymore,’” Druckmann added. “And even then we’re not sure we would grant her that. We might force her to come back this season.”

Ramsey has been no stranger to criticism from trolls and toxic fans since being cast as Ellie.

“People were like, ‘She doesn’t look like the character’ and I’m like ‘It doesn’t matter, just watch what happens, just watch’ and now they know,” Mazin said. “And I think there is still this anxiety, like there’s this constant drumbeat of anxiety, and all I can say to people is I have so much anxiety myself about doing a good job on this. Just know I am also very anxious. If you’re anxious about something, I’m probably anxious about it, which means we’re talking about it and thinking about it.”

Ramsey told Elle in January that she would like to play Ellie “forever.”

“There are no limits for me,” Ramsey said at the time. “They can do as many games as they like, as many series as they like, and I’ll be here, flying back out to Canada.”

Based on Naughty Dog’s critically acclaimed video game, “The Last of Us,” takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle a 14-year-old girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

The Last of Us was renewed for its second season in January following strong viewership in its first two episodes. The series premiere marked HBO’s second-largest debut – only behind “House of the Dragon” – since “Boardwalk Empire” premiered on the network in 2010. According to Nielsen and first party data, “The Last of Us” season 1 finale hit a series high of 8.2 million viewers,  a 74.5% increase from the premiere.

In addition to Druckmann and Mazin, the first season of “The Last of Us” is executive produced by Carolyn Strauss, Evan Wells, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan and Rose Lam and co-produced by Sony Pictures Television.

The Last of Us Season 1 is available to stream now on HBO Max