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The Untold Story Behind Leo’s Voice in ‘The Last of Us Part II’

Before you meet Lev in The Last of Us, Part II, you see his arrow pierce the cheek of a man about to hammer Levi’s sister Yara. There is nothing subtle in Lev’s introduction. He is quick and calculating, flying in a tree in the dark like a ghost, or maybe even a small wild animal, to stay hidden and save his sister from the religious cult from which they were so desperately trying to escape.

Abby – an anti-hero and parting focus in the final half of the game – is strung around her neck and within seconds she lost her life when she first heard Leo. His voice is sharp, fast, high, and full of concern as he calls out his sister’s name, jumping over a stone barricade with the ease of a 13-year-old boy, a drawn bow, an arrow with nails. Abby thinks she’s saved.

Lev looked at his sister, then up at Abby — shaved head, wrinkled forehead, open mouth — unsure if he should cut off Abby, because her men had long been at war with his people, in a post-apocalyptic fight against Seattle a world ravaged by infection .

So when Yara tells Lev to cut her, Lev pushes away with his voice. “She’s one of them,” he says. But Yara is persistent. He has to save her. All life is, you see, precious. Lev does what he is told, albeit a little reluctantly, and when Abby is released, the three of them begin their arduous journey into the night.

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I: There are two sides to every story

The lion is a supporting character in The Last of Us, Part II, most likely the most talked about game most talked about in the last generation since edition a year ago. Players get into Abby’s shoes in the last half of the game as she moves through the redemption. But the story of Lev, a 13-year-old transgender teenager who is forced into exile when his own community rejects him, is even more compelling.

Lev runs away from the Seraphim, an authoritarian religious cult whose members adhere to strictly predetermined roles. He defied the assigned role of the wife of Elder Seraphim and shaved his head, a decision reserved for men. By restoring his identity in this way, he puts himself and his family at risk.

“One of the things we wanted to explore was this fictional religion and how religion, especially organized religion, can accommodate those wonderful and horrible things when it comes to spirituality, but also xenophobia and the exclusion of certain identities,” says Neil Druckmann, creative director and co-president. Naughty Dog, game developer. “Whenever you do something like that, you want to make sure it’s not tokenism, but that it fits the story.”

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The left story is full of complexity. In a world full of violence and unbearable sadness, a world where it is easier to take care of the enemy than to take care of others, Leo simply wants to be left alone to live his truth in peace. He is full of hope and security – he knows without a shadow of a doubt who he is and what kind of person he wants to become – and does not ask for anything in return, but to be allowed there are. The left story resonates with many in the LGBTQ community, as it is a well-known tale of belonging and survival.

But during the game Lev evolves from a quiet, restrained boy struggling to find his place in the world to perhaps the most interesting character and the only voice of reason. In fact, the other half The Last of Us, Part II hangs on Lev’s every word, every action, and every opportunity to reveal his voice.

II: Scars of past lives

In Lev’s story, actor Ian Alexander saw many parallels with his own life: his religious upbringing, the rejection he suffered from his parents, how he shaved his head as an act of rebellion.

Photo: Tracy Nguyen

The authenticity of the presentation was a key factor in reviving Leo. It is also a challenging role for the actor. As a secondary character, Lev’s development is driven by AI, in response to what a player, like Abby, is doing. Hundreds of lines were recorded to take into account any variables or potential outcome in the game.

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