Merle Dandridge said she hoped for the opportunity to recreate the character she helped define 10 years ago in The Last of Us video game because she was confident that her experiences over the past decade would be hers would significantly influence the new portrayal of Marlene.
“I feel like I’ve been given an opportunity to mature as an artist, to mature into the role and to really get to know her on a deeper, more inherent level,” Dandridge said during the roundtable session. “But when I first got the call to audition for the game, I went in and auditioned for Troy Baker, who played Joel, and [creator] Neil [Druckmann] was the other person in the room and immediately felt like they had found my tribe. I was like, ‘Oh, these are my people. First, they get me. This material is fantastic. I feel like there’s so much to chew on.’ And I was right.”
Now, 10 years after she first played Marlene, Dandridge said she was so grateful that Druckmann called her to reprise the role, even though he could have gone with another actor. Although she was excited when the first news broke that HBO was developing a series based on the game, she kept her expectations low. “So when I got the call from Neil and he said, ‘I’d like to offer you the role of Marlene again, it was an absolutely amazing pleasure.’
The Last of Us premieres Sunday, January 15 on HBO, with new episodes premiering every Sunday through March 12.