Anyone who was on the internet around the release of The Last of Us Part II knows it was a bad time. But while we, as fans and writers, saw the vitriolic backlash unfold in real-time, it was far worse for the creative team who was directly targeted by it. Laura Bailey, who played the secret second protagonist Abby, has opened up about her experience with harassment during the game’s release cycle, and how some disgruntled fans threatened her son, who was two years old at the time, because they didn’t like her character.
If you haven’t played The Last of Us Part II, Abby kills Joel, the protagonist of the first game, as part of a years-long revenge plot for the death of her father. A subset of fans famously lashed out about this, viewing it as a “betrayal” of sorts by developer Naughty Dog. This backlash extended to the cast of the game, including Bailey. In the documentary Grounded II: The Making of The Last of Us Part II that premiered on February 2, Bailey tearfully spoke about death threats that she received.
Some of these messages were passed along to proper channels to ensure that Bailey wasn’t in any immediate danger, and among them were threats directed at her son, who was born during Part II’s development. In a segment of the documentary focused on the backlash surrounding leaked cutscenes ahead of launch, Bailey says this taught her to “keep a distance” from the public.
Bailey talked publicly about the online abuse she received around the launch of The Last of Us Part II back in 2020, and even posted screenshots of some of what was sent her way. This included one message that was directed at her son and parents. This level of harassment has become so commonplace in the video game industry, and public-facing women in the space are most often the target. Just earlier this year, Spider-Man 2 face model Stephanie Tyler Jones had to speak out against people stalking her by leaving voicemails at her day job and making her feel “unsafe.”
Seeing how people treated Bailey for playing a character she didn’t write naturally makes me worry about how The Last of Us fans will react to Kaitlyn Dever, who will play Abby in the HBO Max live-action adaptation, once the golf club comes down. A lot of people have jokingly said she needs to get off social media now, but looking at how awful the response was to Bailey, maybe it’s worthwhile advice.
The Grounded II documentary presents a behind-the-scenes look at The Last of Us Part II’s development and includes a soft confirmation that Naughty Dog has a concept in mind for a third game.