Troy Baker, who served as the original voice and motion-capture actor for Joel in both The Last of Us Part I and II, received not just a cameo in the HBO adaptation but a supporting role as David’s right-hand man, James. The role is a small one in the game but was expanded significantly for episode 8, where Ellie herself gets the chance to swing an axe at Baker’s head.
As Baker told Vulture after the episode aired, “I never was promised a role. I was happy, on this one, to be in the stands rather than on the field. But out of the kindness of their hearts, both Neil and Craig were like, ‘Hey, we think we have a role for Troy that would be meaty,’ pardon the pun. Neil asked, ‘How do you feel about playing James?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, dude, thank you. Who’s James?’ That’s what I love about this story. We have the opportunity to explore characters who may have been looked over in the game—characters who perform their function well but don’t necessarily do anything to move the story forward.”