Who Does Ashley Johnson Play in ‘The Last of Us’? Meet Ellie’s Mother

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One of the mysteries in the video game version of The Last of Us was Ellie’s past, as we hardly knew anything about her and why she was immune to the Cordyceps Brain Infection (CBI). The good news is that the season 1 finale of HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation allowed us to see what happened in Ellie’s past and why she wasn’t affected by the CBI. This involved the character portrayed by Ashley Johnson. So, who is Ashley Johnson playing in The Last of Us?

Ashley Johnson plays the role of Ellie’s mother, Anna, who got infected while she was pregnant with Ellie. Anna died soon after giving birth to her daughter. Fans of the video game would be familiar with Ashley Johnson as the voice actress that played Ellie in the video game version of The Last of Us.

Arguably one of the best things about the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us is that the actors that gave life to the video game characters were given roles in the live-action adaptation even though they weren’t given the same roles they had in the video game. Ashley Johnson is one of those characters, but she was the one that was given one of the most important roles out of the actors that returned from the video game version (other than Marlene’s Merle Dandridge).

Who Is Ellie’s Mother?

Throughout the entire storyline of The Last of Us, one of the things that fans were wondering about was Ellie’s past, as we knew almost nothing about her life before the events of the time that she and Riley went to the mall. The video game version of the storyline didn’t expand on why she was immune to the Cordyceps Brain Infection (CBI) and how it happened.

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The good news was that this was given attention in the HBO live-action adaptation of The Last of Us. Of course, because this story was co-created by Neil Druckmann, the same person who created the video game version, we can say that the story of Ellie’s past in the HBO version is more or less canon.

Episode 9 of season 1 opened up with a scene involving a pregnant woman running from a horde of Runners. While she may have gotten infected while fending off the Runners, she successfully killed them. However, the stress of the situation forced her to give birth to her baby. And the problem was that she was already infected while the umbilical cord was still connected to her child.


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As the story progressed, the woman was revealed to be Anna, who Marlene encountered and was quite familiar with. As Anna hinted, they’d known each other for a long time, so Anna was entrusting her daughter to Marlene.

Anna gave her daughter to Marlene and named her Ellie, which is why Marlene knew who Ellie was. The fact that Anna was already infected when she gave birth to Ellie allowed the baby to develop immunity to the CBI. And before Marlene and the other Fireflies left, she had to kill Anna to end her suffering before becoming a Runner.

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However, Anna told Marlene a different story, telling her she had cut the cord before getting bit. This meant that Marlene never knew Ellie was immune before they met again 14 years later when the Fireflies found Ellie after the mall incident with Riley.

In the scene wherein Marlene was talking to Joel after he woke up from the attack of the Fireflies, she explained that the nature of Ellie’s immunity was linked to the fact that she had Cordyceps inside her the entire time and that it grew up with her since the time that she was still just a baby. As such, whenever she gets infected, the Cordyceps inside her tell the infection that she is already infected. And that is the reason why Ellie is immune to the CBI.


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Ellie’s immunity was all due to her mother getting infected when she was still connected to Ellie through her umbilical cord. And while the Cordyceps that infected Ellie through Anna wasn’t enough to turn her into a Runner, it was enough to give her the immunity she needed to make it through this post-apocalyptic world. 

Who Plays Ellie’s Mother in The Last of Us?

Fans of the video game version of The Last of Us would be more than familiar with Anna’s name and voice. That’s because she was the voice actress who gave Ellie life in the video game. Yes, Ellie’s voice actress in the video game versions of The Last of Us is the one portraying Ellie’s mother in the live-action series. That means that Ashley Johnson, the actress portraying Anna, has gone full circle with Ellie because she voiced her in the video game and played her mother’s role in the live-action version.

Johnson’s involvement in the live-action version of The Last of Us is similar to how the other prominent actors in the video games were given their roles in the live-action version. For example, the voice actors of both Joel and Tommy returned to play different roles as James and Perry, respectively. Meanwhile, we all know that Merle Dandridge, the voice actress of Marlene in the game, is the only actor to reprise her original role, as she is also portraying Marlene in the live-action series.