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Why the Fallout TV series cast kept the games (and Todd Howard) at arm’s length

Following the mainstream success of HBO’s Last of Us TV series, Amazon is looking to land a hit video game adaptation of its own with Fallout. Releasing next year on Amazon Prime Video, the original series will bring Bethesda’s postapocalyptic vision to life with a star-studded cast that includes Ella Purnell, Aaron Moten, and Walton Goggins. The show isn’t a direct adaptation of any one game, but rather an original story set in the universe that’s looking to capture the series’ darkly satirical tone.

Fallout - Teaser Trailer | Prime Video

Purnell, Moten, and Goggins were on hand at this year’s Game Awards to show off a new clip of the series and crack a joke about Todd Howard, who has led the development of the Fallout series at Bethesda Games. Ahead of the ceremony, the cast sat down for a roundtable interview with press where they spoke about bringing a massive game series to life. While the cast members teased a faithful tonal adaptation, each stressed that they didn’t want to get too close to the source material. That included keeping a little distance from Howard himself.

Adapting Fallout

Fallout is an intimidating beast if you’re an actor. It’s a deep RPG series with multiple entries. Even if you had time to play all of its mainline games, there’s an absurd amount of storytelling and worldbuilding to dive into. Rather than trying to cram it all in for research, most of the primary cast opted to watch playthroughs and YouTube lore videos instead. While that may ruffle purists, Moten explains that his decision to keep the source material at a bit of arm’s length was an active choice made so he could have a better focus on his original character.

“I have not played Fallout, but I’ve watched Twitch streams,” Moten said in response to a question by Famitsu. “I’ve watched others play it. But it’s partly that I forbid myself from playing it at this point. It’s our job to bring a sense of humanity to these three characters and [not] bring the experience of dying to the same monster nine times and chucking the controller into the wall. It’s just different!”

Aaron Moten stands next to someone wearing power armor in Fallout.
Aaron Moten plays Maximus in Amazon’s Fallout series. Amazon

Though the cast may not have spent hundreds of hours digging through sidequests, they had access to plenty of experts who did. The cast notes that the creative team behind the project includes a host of mega-fans who worked closely with Howard to get a better sense of the world. Howard was even on set during some shoots, but Purnell notes that he wasn’t hands-on with the cast outside of a few conversations, which helped give Purnell more freedom to shape her Vault-dwelling character without having to stick to established lore.

“[Howard] was on set a lot, but I barely saw him because we were like passing ships in the night,” Purnell tells Digital Trends. “I wanted to do a lot of research on Fallout the game and the tone and the world, but this is a unique character. When I want to get into the psychology behind what happens when you’ve lived underground your entire life and then you come out to the surface, it’s a different kind of mind. I guess I wanted to come up with that on my own a little bit.”

Some people have said ‘Is it Fallout 5?’ That’s way above my pay grade!

Throughout the conversation, the cast members emphasize that the show is an original take on Fallout rather than an adaptation of any specific game. It plays in the same postapocalyptic sandbox, but tells an entirely new story about Purnell’s character emerging from a vault she’s lived in her whole life and seeing the real world for the first time. Goggins, who plays the noseless Ghoul in the series, explains why that premise feels so ripe for a compelling TV saga.

“This isn’t Fallout 1, 2, or 3. It is its own thing. It’s original content in the Fallout world. And some people have said ‘Is it Fallout 5?’ That’s way above my pay grade!” Goggins says in response to a question from Game Informer. “You follow good storytelling no matter where it is, and games that are being adapted into movies and TV shows right now are that way for a reason. That’s where the great stories are. And Fallout is a great story. And built into that story is the possibility of the future. That’s how it starts, man. It’s in the 1950s and that’s Pax Americana and all the rest of it. And then — excuse my language — the fucking world ends as we know it!”

The Ghoul sneers off screen in Amazon's Fallout.
Walton Goggins plays The Ghoul in Amazon’s Fallout. Amazon

It’s an interesting thing; even the things we’ve gone through as a global community with COVID, and how things drastically changed for all of us, but our own human, subversive sides are still there,” adds Moten when discussing Fallout’s increased relevance in 2023. “And we’ve found a way to continue to connect with each other. Something that’s akin to Fallout is factions. That’s humanity trying to restart itself.”

Even with an original approach to story, the cast assures fans that the adaptation is a faithful one. Purnell teases an especially eclectic tone that matches the games, explaining how she was able to use a wide, established world of lore to create mood boards while preparing her character. “Nothing is too ridiculous!” she tells Digital Trends.

A vault dweller looks out at the outside world in Fallout.
Ella Purnell plays Lucy in Amazon’s Fallout. Amazon

The cast is in agreement there. When asked by Game Informer what makes Fallout stand out next to other apocalyptic media, like The Last of Us, Goggins underlines the show’s comedic tone. If it wasn’t already apparent that the show is aiming to match that from its first trailer (which jokes that the show comes from the studio behind The Boys and free two-day shipping), Goggins assures fans that the playful heart of the Fallout games is very much the beating heart of the show.

“For me, it’s the comedy. It’s the satire, isn’t it? The subversive humor,” Goggins says. “It’s as visually funny as the things that come out of our mouths and we had to get that right or else it wouldn’t be Fallout.”

Fallout premieres on April 12, 2024, on Amazon Prime Video.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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