The Last of Us Part 2 draws more detailed, and a few of its secrets have actually started to unwind. Perhaps the most significant discovery of this week’s brand-new trailer was the return of the original’s lead Joel – a character lots of had actually presumed would be exterminated and set Ellie on the course of vengeance she’s understood to be taking in the follow up. Of course, not whatever is as it appears in Naughty Dog’s trailer, and it’s difficult to reason when seeing bits provided out of context – however the ramification that Ellie’s like interest Dina would be the inspiration for vengeance marked a sour note for some.

At the sneak peek occasion in Hollywood, I had a chat with author Halley Gross – formerly an author on tv’s Westworld, and now operating in tandem with Neil Druckmann on The Last of Us Part 2 – to discuss how Naughty Dog is following up among the most precious video games of the previous years.

A great deal of individuals are amazed that Joel exists.

Halley Gross: We like to keep individuals on their toes!

So he’s quite alive then?

Halley Gross: The video game is quite about Joel and Ellie’s relationship, and the development of their relationship.

Some individuals are still persuading themselves that he’s a hallucination. We’ve seen how Ellie’s altered considering that the last video game – how has Joel altered?

Halley Gross: That happened 4 years prior to this one, and they have actually actually settled into this neighborhood, he’s gotten closer to his sibling Tommy – who you see Ellie is trying to find in the demonstration. It’s quite about what it is to have a relationship. In the very first video game, Ellie’s 14, he ends up being a daddy, he’s quite in control of the scenario, he understands what’s right and what’s finest for her. A great deal of the story is what it is to have a relationship with a kid who’s maturing, who’s ending up being independent, who wishes to make her own options and makes those options whether you like it or not. He’s likewise maturing, and likewise developing.

And how do you set about attending to the ending of the last video game? It was such a reliable complete stop, and it left many concerns unanswered – which belonged to its appeal. Now Joel is back, I think you’re going to need to respond to those concerns.

Halley Gross: I’d like to enter into that, however I can just actually discuss what we saw today. I will state their relationship is strained, and will grow and alter as the game progresses.

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We’ve seen another relationship which is very important to Ellie with Dina. Some of the only negative feedback from this week’s trailer was some concern Dina is being fridged – I think some people assumed that Ellie would be avenging Joel’s death, whereas it’s heavily implied it’s Dina’s.

Halley Gross: We’re not talking about major story points, but what I will say… One of the tropes of fridging is that a character is created in order to further the main character’s storyline. We’ve spent an enormous amount of time on Ellie and Dina, making them incredibly multi-faceted characters and really delving into their relationship. So the scene you saw where they smooched – we shot that twice. Because games are a living breathing thing, we spend a lot of time building this whole arc for Ellie and Dina – and when we shot that scene, we realised the one we’d originally written, it wasn’t being as truthful to those characters that we wanted it to be. So we came back and reshot.

I’m really excited about Ellie and Dina’s relationship, and I’m really excited for people to see Ellie and Dina’s relationship.

Did you pre-empt the reaction there’d be to this trailer? It’s clearly something you’ve thought about.

Halley Gross: What we hope is that people have faith in us as a company to create dimensional characters and honour all those characters. We’ve always been a studio that focuses on diversity, the game is focussed on a female gay character. We hope that people will have the trust in us to honour our characters, no matter their sexual orientation, that we’ll treat them all with respect.

That’s all good, and I think you’ve earned that trust. Having come from television it’s your first time working on a game – how’s that process been for you?

Halley Gross: Oh man, it’s such a learning curve. In Hollywood, most of the time you’re working in a medium where you write everything by yourself, sometimes with other writers, but you figure out what it is and then you give it to these other departments. With Naughty Dog – I can’t talk to other studios – Neil and I created an outline. Then we stress-tested it against the studio, and then you start working on it out of order, you start working with layout designers, with animators – everyone’s so smart, and as much as we have a diverse cast we have a diverse team – and everyone comes at it with their own great ideas and then the story evolves and changes.

It’s like a living organism. The ending that Neil and I had at the beginning of the game, it’s completely different to the end that we have now – and that didn’t alter until maybe a year ago. What I love about the process is it’s constantly evolving.

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What was the brief when you started? What did you want to convey?

Halley Gross: When I started Neil had a tentpole pitch of what he wanted it to be. We sat down at lunch and he was like this is where it starts, something happens in the middle and this is where it ends. What I brought to the table – obviously I have a female perspective, but more than that it’s talking about trauma, about people picking themselves back up, and digging into these female characters, and these male characters, and do as honest a service as I can to the story that Neil had.

Neil said in his opening comments about how the video game’s exploring issues of anger, and of rage. We live in quite angry times at the moment – is the story a reflection of that?

Halley Gross: I believe where we start is focussing on character, and how are we honest to Ellie and Joel and where they were after the first game. That being said, I think this is a time when we want to hear stories about resilience. It’s wonderful that we’re seeing more female protagonists, and I think it’s great, but what we want to see isn’t these impervious strong woman who are powerful. That’s impossible to relate to. We want to see individuals who get knocked down, however they get knocked down and find their way back and keep pushing. So much of the narrative we’re focussing on is how you figure out how to pick yourself up however just how much has the world altered – and why do you do it. Is it worth it?

This post is based upon a press journey in Los Angeles. Sony covered travel and lodging expenses.