The Last of Us is among the most popular video games ever made, yet people rarely discuss that, technically, it’s also a Texan one. The tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a pandemic-ravaged United States unfolds, at least initially, in the suburban outskirts of Austin, which The Last of Us depicts as a cosmopolitan city boasting several hotels and bars, and a police station “big enough to house at least six police cars.” It’s this kind of attention to detail that will make any Austinite feel eerily at home while playing it, particularly in the scenes in which it’s impossible to get on the interstate.
We’re not sure yet whether HBO’s upcoming series adaptation of The Last of Us will retain that Austin setting, but at least we know its protagonists will be portrayed by actual Texans. Variety reports that Austin native Gabriel Luna has signed on to play Tommy, the idealistic younger brother of Pedro Pascal’s jaded smuggler, Joel, who’s tasked with escorting a teenage girl to safety across an America swarming with infected zombies. Luna’s been a rising star for a while now, having landed major roles in series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Terminator: Dark Fate that have taken him far beyond Austin’s humble, six-police-car confines. Costarring in an HBO show that’s based on such a beloved title—and with such an uncanny, timely premise—promises to make him even more of a household name. Plus, if The Last of Us does return to Austin, Luna and the San Antonio–bred Pascal can probably give the producers some pointers on the finer things—like the fact that 183 is actually a state highway, or that any mutant fungus invading Austin would probably be hailed as a “disrupter” before being offered tax incentives.
Hilary Duff to Star in How I Met Your Father
Houston’s Hilary Duff may have missed her shot to bring Lizzie McGuire into the twenty-first century, and as of right now, her chances of starring in a “female Entourage”–style spin-off of Younger remain an oddly specific pipe dream. But she finally seems to have found the right intellectual property to reboot: Deadline reports that Duff will take the lead in How I Met Your Father, a revisionist take on the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother that will see Duff’s character embarking on her own roundabout journey to finding her true love, right before the show kills him off so she can hook up with her hot friend. The idea for How I Met Your Father has been kicking around nearly since the original show’s controversial finale, with Greta Gerwig even filming an unaired pilot for it back in 2014. Duff’s version, created by This Is Us executive producers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, has already landed a ten-episode series order at Hulu, which is surely excited to air a show where Hilary Duff can play a sexually active woman without everyone picturing her as an overalls-clad preteen.
Owen Wilson to Play a Bob Ross–Style Painter
With his soothing voice, generous positivity, and easily impressed demeanor, you could easily buy Owen Wilson as a Bob Ross type, making his happy little clouds and gently uplifting viewers through their own happy accidents. Director Brit McAdams seems to agree: he’s cast the Dallas native in the upcoming Paint, an indie comedy that finds Wilson playing “Carl Nargle, who has hosted Vermont’s #1 painting show for the past 27 years with his signature whisper,” only to find his blissful life upended by a younger, more talented artist. Paint is already in production, with a solid supporting tier of comedic character actors that includes Michaela Watkins, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and the always-welcome Stephen Root (an honorary Texan, thanks to Office Space and King of the Hill). And with Wilson having portrayed myriad surfers, stoners, male models, acid-wrecked cult leaders, and, now, a soft-spoken public TV personality, we’ve nearly checked off all the archetypes he was born to play. Only “easy-listening DJ” and “shy yet affable llama” left to go.
Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch Is Headed to Cannes (Again)
Owen Wilson is also doing what comes naturally by starring in Wes Anderson’s new The French Dispatch—a movie that, thanks to its many COVID-induced delays, feels like it already premiered long ago, garnered several Oscar noms, and inspired countless Tumblr posts, before slipping right onto a Criterion edition Blu-ray. But then, can a Wes Anderson movie that didn’t premiere at Cannes really even exist? After the 2020 festival was canceled, the Houston director’s latest was put on ice for over a year, only to be scheduled, once again, to debut during Cannes’s return in July—which is still on the books, despite the nation’s ongoing lockdowns. A worldwide release for the rest of us will presumably follow soon thereafter. You can refresh your excitement with the trailer for a film that looks like the true magnum opus of Andersonia, from its all-star cast of Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, and Edward Norton to its copious use of berets and sixties pop.
Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia Network Has a New Launch Date (Again)
The launch of Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia Network feels like it’s been similarly imminent for ages now, with the Waco despots first announcing their new TV empire way back in 2018, before letting the whole idea go to a very farmhouse-chic rust. But after several false starts, Magnolia is now set to debut on cable sometime in January 2022, after a digital launch this summer on Discovery+ and a new app. That will be preceded by yet another preview special, Magnolia Network: A Look Ahead Vol. 2., set to air on Discovery+ this Friday, April 23, and again Saturday on the DIY Network—which is the very same cable channel the Gaineses are set to take over. This new special will feature even more scenes from the Magnolia slate, including previews of four additional, just-announced shows: a painting series from watercolor artist Helen Dealtry; a cooking show with baker Bryan Ford; a reality show based around interior designer Jean Stoffer; and the fixer-upper series Making Modern with Brooke and Brice, which follows a husband and wife who specialize in home renovations, and who are presumably being kept on a short leash by the Gaineses.
Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk Is Designing a Children’s Variety Show
Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk—Texas’s other famous, slightly less imperious home decor expert—is ready to impart his signature nonjudgmental wisdom to kids. Deadline reports that the Houston-born Berk will produce Nina’s Treehouse, a new children’s variety show written and created by RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Nina West, which is described as “part Mrs. Doubtfire, part Sesame Street with a bit of Pee-wee’s Playhouse mixed in.” The series will find West encouraging children to explore their own creativity while learning to embrace themselves, all with the relentless positivity and cheer that have made West such a fan favorite. This is the first producing credit for Berk, and it’s clearly a personal one, given that he’s often talked about the difficulties he had growing up gay in small, rural towns in Texas and Missouri. “It’s our hope that every child feels welcome and safe to express the joy of being who they are when watching this show,” Berk said in a statement—unless who they are is someone who leaves remotes and coasters strewn haphazardly all over the coffee table. Haven’t you kids ever heard of a decorative tray?
Megan Thee Stallion Earns a Webby Nomination
After racking up so many awards, sales and streaming records, and FCC complaints, anything else Megan Thee Stallion might achieve this year seems almost redundant. Still, there’s something novel about the Houston rapper also being up for a Webby, the annual slate of awards recognizing the most notable content the internet has to offer. That’s something Megan has definitely contributed to, whether it was her absolute dominance of TikTok, or that time she baited conservative commentator Ben Shapiro into dunking on himself. But while all of those things were award worthy, Megan was specifically nominated for her 2020 New York Times op-ed, “Why I Speak Up for Black Women,” in which she powerfully addressed the systemic neglect and mistreatment that Black women regularly face. Megan’s competition in her category includes Vogue’s celebrity-filled paean to New York and a music video for an old Rolling Stones song—so, as always, the odds seem to be in her favor.
Post Malone Is the Youngest Artist to Earn Three Diamond Singles
Post Malone has had his own eventful year filled with accomplishments and accolades, but—as with face tattoos—what’s one more? This week, Grapevine’s pop-rap omnipresence became the youngest artist ever to earn three diamond plaques from the Recording Industry Association of America, certifying sales of more than 10 million copies each of his singles “Congratulations,” “Sunflower,” and “Rockstar.” In addition to making music history, the 25-year-old joins a rarefied company of musicians who have earned three diamonds, a group that includes pop heavyweights like Bruno Mars, Eminem, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, and Justin Bieber. Malone’s huge sales achievement is made all the more impressive considering that it’s 2021, and you can hear all of his songs for free literally anywhere, whether you want to or not.
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
The whispers of Matthew McConaughey making a run for governor went from the amusing highs of talk-show filler to the sobering hangover of “true consideration” in record time, though it’s through no real fault of his own. After all, while the Austin actor has largely maintained a blasé, “it’s just an honor to be considered” attitude, it’s the pundits and the polls that keep talking about him as a viable candidate. For example, there’s the poll released earlier this week by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, which found that McConaughey enjoys a comfortable twelve-point lead over Greg Abbott in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. That’s an impressive 45 percent of the 1,124 Texas voters surveyed who said they would vote for McConaughey, compared to Abbott’s 33 percent. And while 56 percent of Republican voters said they would stick with the incumbent, the fact that McConaughey—Hollyweird actor and sentient bong—managed to lock up 30 percent of Texas conservatives should be enough to give Abbott brief pause as he cruises blithely to reelection.
Of course, as Politico pointed out in a recent, mellow-harshing editorial, McConaughey is perhaps less the face of a genuine political movement than an “empty vessel” into which Texans hankering for change can pour all their vaguely defined hopes and desires. McConaughey has yet to align himself with any real platform besides “values”; his strong showing is based largely on name recognition and general voter dissatisfaction. (A separate 22 percent of respondents said they’d simply vote for “someone else” over Abbott, meaning Democrats could probably do just as well backing a DVD of Dazed and Confused.) And as we’ve said before, if McConaughey were to run for real, he’d have to give up being the embodiment of laid-back l-i-v-i-n and actually, y’know, take some stands on things. Like one former Texas governor, George W. Bush, said of the job this week, “I’ll just tell you this, it’s tough business”—and it’s a lot more fun to talk about than seriously pursue.
So it’s no wonder that McConaughey has more or less avoided political talk lately, preferring to focus on getting his Austin FC endeavor off the ground, while choosing easier, lower-stakes rivalries to stoke—like the one with his fellow celebrity owner Will Ferrell. McConaughey called out Ferrell twice ahead of Austin’s inaugural matchup against Los Angeles FC on April 17, talking all sorts of smack before a bout that ended in a 2–0 loss for his team, making for an inauspicious start to their friendly tug of war. It was a reminder that no amount of McConaughey bluster can replace having a real game plan against a more experienced competitor. At least for now, our entire state didn’t hang in the balance.