Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Season 1 of The Last of Us.Our neighbors to the north in Canada are known for several things. Most of them are very good, like maple syrup, Canadian Bacon, hockey, generally hospitable people, and some of the best filming locations of our favorite shows. Well-known hit shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Boys, Orphan Black, and Schitt’s Creek have all used locations in Canada. And the most popular show in the world right now, HBO’s The Last of Us, is the most recent entry on this list. The Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey-led drama based on the hugely successful video game created by Naughty Dog about the trials and travels of Joel and Ellie as they try to make their way across the United States to deliver Ellie’s blood immunity and to find Joel’s brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) is actually shot in the tax break-friendly province of Alberta. And all the urban scenes are shot in the cities of Calgary, Edmonton, and the smaller suburbs of Fort MacLeod, Canmore, Bragg Creek, and Waterton Park.
What is it About Alberta?
For a post-apocalyptic show like The Last of Us, it is critical to have access to both inner city locations where the remnants of civilization are trying to make a go of it, and more rural settings that show the vast emptiness what has been left after the fungal brain infection has devastated mankind. Alberta has that with the big cities of Calgary and Edmonton while also having a vast and snowy wilderness that can double for most parts of the Midwestern section of the United States. The first several episodes of the show happen within what is supposed to be the Boston QZ and the Kansas City QZ. The last several episodes have been filmed in more bucolic settings as Joel and Ellie make their way farther west on their journey to Wyoming to seek out the fireflies.
A Very Texan City was Recreated North of the Border
According to The Calgary Herald, in the pilot episode when we see Joel, Tommy, and Sarah (Nico Parker) going about their daily lives in the capital city of Austin, Texas, just before the outbreak of the Cordyceps infection, the set designers were able to take the small towns of Fort Macleod, a few hours drive south of Calgary and nearby High River and make them believable locations for one of the southernmost cities in all of America. The opening scenes that capture the three main characters as they are casually interacting with their neighbors before they are suddenly scrambling for their lives and weaving in and out of traffic looking for an escape route are all shot in the quaint little burgs of Fort MacLeod and High River. It’s pretty remarkable that the scenes play as believably as they do considering how very far away the two locations are from one another. Making two western Canadian towns double for the Hill Country deep in the Heart of Texas is a pretty impressive accomplishment. The production crew altered several of the town’s storefronts to better represent the feel of Austin. The sterling Episode 3 entitled, “Long, Long Time” which tells the story of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) was shot on a lot at the Beachwood Estates in High River where the crew could build everything according to their specifications.
The Boston and Kansas City QZs Were Shot in Calgary and Edmonton
The location managers and set designers do a tremendous job of making these various Canadian towns and cities look like the American cities where they are supposed to take place. For the Boston QZ, the crew constructed a large set in the Inglewood neighborhood which is very close to Stampede Park in Calgary. According to the Calgary Herald, the dilapidated and ramshackle buildings of the Massachusetts hub and its Quarantined Zone were actually shot in modified areas of the inner city of the southwestern Alberta city. In the scene where Joel, Tess (Anna Torv), and Ellie are trying to escape the outskirts of the Boston Quarantined Zone, an area called Rice Howard Way in downtown Edmonton was used as Joel attacks and kills the FEDRA agent who had bought drugs from him earlier in the first episode before the three scurry through the fencing finally escaping. Edmonton was also used as the backdrop for the Kansas City QZ while a massive lot was used for the free for all maelstrom of the infected and the giant Bloater that emerges from the enormous, fiery crater.
Jackson, Wyoming is Actually Canmore, Alberta
In Episode 6 entitled, “Kin” Joel and Ellie finally reach Tommy in Jackson, Wyoming after a three-month time jump. We see them crossing “The River of Death”. These shots were captured in the small town of Canmore which is located in Kananaskis, a beautiful valley of the Canadian Rockies, just a few hours west of Calgary and at the edge of Banff National Park. The bridge that Joel and Ellie cross is the beautiful Canmore Engine Bridge. When Joel is finally reunited with his brother, the small town where they live is also shot in Canmore. Marlon (Graham Green) and Florence’s (Elaine Miles) small cabin featured in the opening of Episode 6 is set right on the banks of Bragg Creek, a small town just a few miles southwest of Calgary. And as the duo continues west after leaving Jackson, they come upon the University of East Colorado just before Joel is accosted and stabbed by one of David’s cult members, location managers used two separate Canadian campuses including Mount Royal University and SAIT, both of which are located in Calgary. The standalone backstory of Ellie and Riley (Storm Reid) in Episode 7 called “Left Behind” was primarily shot in Calgary’s Northland Village Mall.
Episode 8 “When We Are In Need”
In the penultimate episode of the first season when Joel and Ellie have the misfortune of running into David (Scott Shepherd) and his band of cannibalistic hunters and followers, the shoot ended up in the cozy lakeside town of Waterton, Alberta in the middle of Waterton Lakes National Park. The scenes of David’s cult, the snowy forests, and the Silver Lake dwelling, including the dramatic and fiery final scenes of the episode were shot at a place called Bayshore Inn. Travelers from all over flock to Waterton and Bayshore to do some hiking and snowshoeing. During the summer months, it is a popular lodging spot for vacationers looking to enjoy the beautiful and serene areas of the small resort town. If you are interested in finding out more about the locations used for the HBO show, the Travel Alberta website is a very useful guide to finding your favorite filming locations. It also offers up facts about The Last of Us, including how it is the largest project ever filmed there.