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THE LAST OF US Built Giant Sets Because Calgary Looked Too Clean To Play Post-Apocalyptic Boston

Pedro Pascal as Joel, Anna Torv as Tess and Bella Ramsey as Ellie filming The Last of Us with a shiny downtown Calgary in the background.

You can spot Calgary streets and overpasses playing post-apocalyptic Boston in the first two episodes of HBO’s new blockbuster series The Last of Us, but production designer John Paino told Vanity Fair that they generally found the streets too clean to play grimy neighbourhoods and lamented the city’s lack of old factory areas, old shipping yards and even an abandoned gas station to shoot in.

It’s a very clean country. . .No American, uh, grit.  — production designer John Paino.

Austin, Texas:

Finding Western-style towns was actually not that hard because there’s a really interesting similarity between Canadian and what I’ll call frontier architecture, where they have cattle runs and stuff. You can find towns like that. — production designer John Paino told Vanity Fair.

Post-apocalyptic Boston’s Quarantine Zone:

The Last of Us had to build its Boston Quarantine Zone on some back lots in Calgary. It took about two months and the set deck with its “millions of wires” ran across the street and was up to 20 feet high with a concrete wall for people to walk on, production designer John Paino told Vanity Fair.

Calgary streets as post-apocalyptic Boston:

The Last of Us screencap.

The real challenge was downtown Boston. Brick-lined streets that were built during the Revolutionary War—that kind of look, and we looked very far and high and low for that, we couldn’t find it. So everywhere they walk, and pretty much everything around them for a good amount up to 20 feet, we dressed, we built, we dressed, we sculpted. We would make blisters that we added to the streets. – production designer John Paino told Vanity Fair.

Local photos:

Actors on set.

CBC News video:

Pedro Pascal.

Lack of deciduous trees.

Let me tell you what kind of trees they have in Canada. And the crew made fun of me mercilessly. They have fir trees, Christmas trees. They don’t have any other trees. The greens were the hardest part because, not only did we have to have everything overgrown—deciduous trees are not common. Everything is pines and Douglas firs and things like that, and it’s gorgeous. But when we were doing Boston and we’re doing outside of Boston, that was one of the biggest challenges—just bringing in the proper greens. — production designer John Paino told Vanity Fair.

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