Warning: spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode 5.
From the beginning of The Last of Us, the video game-inspired TV show has been full of moments that have reduced viewers across the globe to tears.
Amid the heartache and terror that’s been rampant in the post-apocalyptic series so far, one of the most horrifyingly tragic scenes comes at the end of episode 5, when Henry (Lamar Johnson) shoots his own brother Sam (Keivonn Woodard) dead, after realising that his younger sibling has become infected, before turning the gun on himself.
During a recent conversation with Metro.co.uk, Lamar opened up about what it was like to film the devastating end to their characters’ journeys, recalling how ‘emotionally draining’ it was behind the scenes.
Henry and Sam’s deaths felt even more gut-wrenching considering everything that they’d previously been through – Henry becoming a collaborator with FEDRA so that he could find a cure for his brother’s leukaemia, making enemies with a revolutionary movement in the process, surviving a swarm of infected and teaming up with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in the hope of escaping Kansas City.
‘It was a very emotionally draining day. We shot that scene for most of the day, so we worked on that scene for hours. So imagine having to be in that emotional space for an extended period of time – it was tough,’ he shared.
‘But again, I think as actors, it’s our job to try and emulate the truth as much as we possibly can. So in that moment, I just tried to be as truthful as I could.’
The 28-year-old explained that before filming Henry and Sam’s deaths, he and Jeremy Webb – who directed episodes four and five – were left ‘crying’ while watching Keivonn and Bella act out the moment when Sam reveals to Ellie that he’s been bitten, and she tries unsuccessfully to heal him with her blood.
‘We were watching on the monitor the Ellie and Sam scene, when Sam shows her that he was bit. That scene is so very touching, we were both crying at the monitor,’ he recounted.
‘They shot that scene the day before I had to do my scene. So we’re watching that scene, we’re crying, and in the back of my mind I’m like, this scene is going to be intense. Because I’m already crying just watching this. This is going to be very intense.’
When it’s revealed that Sam transformed after being infected, the young boy attacks Ellie, who bursts into Joel and Henry’s room while trying to fight him off.
At first, Henry is at a loss of what to do as he warns Joel to leave Sam alone, before he shoots his infected brother dead in a split-second decision.
He then utters the beyond heart-shattering line: ‘What did I do?’
‘That scene, Henry is just in shock. He’s just in complete shock. I don’t think there’s one emotion that I can pinpoint except for just shock,’ Lamar said.
‘There’s so much that washes over him in that moment, especially because of all that they just went through, what Henry has gone through to protect him. He’s gone through so much to keep him safe, for it to end the way that it ended by my hand. It’s a tough thing to stomach.’
Lamar acknowledged how Henry’s motivation to carry on in their bleak world in order to protect his brother drew parallels with the story of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) in episode three, when Bill tells Frank after spending 16 years together: ‘You were my purpose.’
‘Sam was his purpose to live,’ the actor stated. ‘I think with [Bill and Frank’s] episode, there was one line that was really beautiful to me, when he said, “I wasn’t afraid until you showed up.”
‘That line hits home because it’s like, if you didn’t show up, I would not have anything to care for, except for myself. You’ve given me fulfilment, you’ve given me this sense of purpose, that I’m supposed to protect you. Now I have a job to do, as opposed to just living in this world aimlessly.
‘So when Sam is gone, his purpose is gone. His will to live is gone. I don’t think he could stomach living in a world, especially as brutal as this one, without Sam.’
Recollecting how he ‘cried’ when piecing that moment together on set, Lamar speculated what Henry’s life could have been like if he had chosen to carry on without Sam.
‘I don’t think he could have existed in this world without him. I think he just would have been miserable, jaded. He would have thought about Sam every day, every waking moment,’ he theorised.
‘He might have become super careless, maybe got bitten. His will to remain safe and escape would have dwindled a little bit.’
Summarising Henry’s actions in his final moments, The Hate U Give and The Next Step star added: ‘It was out of love. He made that decision. It wasn’t by someone else’s hand or by an infected or getting bitten or anything. It was his choice. He made that choice in that moment to join his brother.’
The Last of Us is available to watch on Sky and NOW, with new episodes released on Mondays.
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