Everything We Know

Everything We Know About the Halo TV Series

Showtime's series, based on Microsoft’s epic, space-based Xbox franchise, will head into production this fall.

by | August 2, 2019 | Comments

Halo tv series logo (Showtime)
(Photo by Showtime)

Video game adaptations are tough. For years, feature film takes on beloved games like Super Mario Bros. and FarCry have been the butt of jokes thanks to producers who take the title and little else from the source material. Even more recent, high-gloss, and faithful efforts seem to lose something in the translation. (See our guide to “47 Video Game Movies Ranked Worst to Best.”)

But Showtime hopes to buck that tragic big-budget trend with a high-end series based on Microsoft’s epic game franchise Halo. As network co-president Gary Levine put it at the 2019 Television Critics Association summer press tour, “Our challenge on this series was to take a video game and make it into a character drama that belongs on Showtime.”

Navigating the landscape from game mechanics to filmed entertainment is often as difficult as any mission series main character Master Chief confronts, but here are the details we know so far about Showtime’s Halo series.


1. It Is Based Upon a Huge Game Universe

Pablo Schreiber at arrivals for 67th Primetime Emmy Awards 2015 - Arrivals 1, The Microsoft Theater (formerly Nokia Theatre L.A. Live), Los Angeles, CA September 20, 2015. Photo By: Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)

Beginning with 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved, the Halo series charts the ongoing conflict between a spacefaring humanity in the 26th century and an alien theocracy known as the Covenant. In that first game, Master Chief John-117, a genetically enhanced Spartan supersoldier encased in advanced armor, faces off against the Covenant for control of a Halo — a ring-shaped space station/super weapon created by an ancient and extinct race the Covenant worship as gods. The game changed the perception of first-person shooters on home consoles and gave Microsoft its first huge win in that market when the game was released as a launch title for the original XBox.

Sequels followed — five so far in the main series with a sixth, Halo Infinite, due out in 2020 — and a surprising number of spin-offs. New characters appeared to play off against the stoic Master Chief and the spin-offs further developed the Halo universe by featuring more story-driven first-person shooters or switching to other game mechanics like Real Time Strategy. Books, comics, and animated series further deepened the breadth of the franchise’s universe and history.

The television series will attempt to “weave deeply drawn personal stories” with action and adventure set within that “richly imagined vision of the future.” Anchoring those stories will be Master Chief, played by American GodsPablo Schreiber (pictured), who was cast back in April.

In a recent interview, Levine told Rotten Tomatoes and a small group of reporters that Schreiber has “the physicality to be a Spartan, to be Master Chief. But he is [also] a great dramatic actor.” A mention of Schreiber’s comedic chops and the “twinkle in his eye” suggests Master Chief may be seen without his helmet or armor; a first for Halo should it happen. Although Levine added, “we’re not violating anything big,” so Master Chief may remain within his armor throughout the series.


2. Steven Spielberg Is Involved (Sort Of)

THE BFG, director Steven Spielberg, on set, 2016. ph: Doane Gregory /© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Since 2013, Spielberg’s Amblin Television has been involved in developing the current iteration of the Halo TV project. At that time, he was said to be on board as an executive producer, but it seems he will not take on any direct creative duties. Nonetheless, there is always the potential he will take an interest in the series, particularly as it focuses on two of his favorite topics: war and aliens.

Microsoft’s 343 Industries — an entity it established to manage the Halo brand following the departure of original developer Bungie — will also produce the series, suggesting a level of direct developer control seen only with Ubisoft producing 2016’s Assassin’s Creed. That film, however, proved developer input may not lead to a great adaptation as that film only garnered a 19% on the Tomatometer and an audience score of 43%.


3. Its Cast Reflects Halo’s Past And Future

Natascha McElhone at arrivals for Disney ABC Television Group Hosts TCA Summer Press Tour, The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA August 4, 2016. Photo By: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection
(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)

Joining Master Chief on this television journey will be Yerin Ha as Quan Ah, a new character devised specifically for the series. First announced in April alongside Schreiber, the character is described as a “shrewd, audacious 16-year-old from the Outer Colonies who meets Master Chief at a fateful time for them both.” The series will also feature Californication’s Natascha McElhone (pictured), Fargo’s Bokeem Woodbine, Shabana Azmi, Bentley Kalu, Natasha Culzac, and Kate Kennedy.

McElhone will play Dr. Catherine Halsey, inventor of the Spartan super-soldiers, as well as Cortana, the advance AI who is the key to humanity’s survival and a constant element in Master Chief’s adventures. Cortana is also the name of Microsoft’s AI assistant on its platforms; the name was, in fact, derived from Halo. McElhone will lend her voice to the television version of Cortana, replacing Jen Taylor of the video game series.

Woodbine will take on the role of Soren-066, another established Halo character. He is an old friend of Master Chief’s and a privateer in conflict with the military — which means he may come into direct conflict with Azmi’s character, Admiral Margaret Parangosky, the head of Naval Intelligence and another character from the games who seemingly places the Halo TV series in a specific part of the franchise’s history. But, as Levine said, “you’re going to get new information in our series, but we are not going to violate any of the things in the canon.”

Kalu, Culzac, and Kennedy all play new characters to the Halo universe with familiar affiliations. Kalu is Spartan Vannak-134, Master Chief’s de facto deputy. Culzac is Spartan Riz-028, a “cybernetically enhanced killing machine,” and Kennedy is Spartan Kai-125, another Spartan super-soldier tasked to the mission.


4. It Has Great Talent in the Writers’ Room

Exploring the “richly imagined universe” will be executive producer and showrunner Kyle Killen, creator of critically acclaimed Lone Star (83% on the Tomatometer) and the fan-favorite NBC series Awake (89% Audience Score). Both series featured protagonist who faced dual realities — literally in the case of Awake’s Micheal Britten (Jason Isaacs). Both shows also faced tough competition on broadcast television and did not last beyond their initial episode orders; nonetheless, a 10-episode cable series may turn out to be the best format for Killen as a writer and producer. And should Halo‘s protagonist find themselves caught between two worlds — say humanity versus the culture of The Covenant — Killen will be a great fit for the material.

The Last Ship’s Steven Kane will also serve as showrunner alongside Killen. His TNT series has an 83% on the Tomatometer and proved to be success on that network over the course of five seasons. Kane will reportedly oversee production in Budapest while Killen supervises writing and other stateside production efforts.

Also, the initial episodes will be directed by Robin Hood’s Otto Bathurst, who replaced Rupert Wyatt due to scheduling conflicts.

“[He] is a marvelous director,” Levine said of Bathurst. “Unbelievably passionate about the project, and he has been leading our team beautifully.”


5. This Is Not the First Attempt Adapt Halo

Halo: Forward Unto Dawn (Vanguard Cinema)
(Photo by Vanguard Cinema)

Halo nearly became a feature film in the early part of the 21st century. In 2005, 20th Century Fox and Universal picked up the project thanks in part to a script written by Annhilation’s Alex Garland. According to Garland, the story was a fairly faithful adaptation of the two Halo games available at the time. Peter Jackson was poised to produce with both Guillermo del Toro and Neill Blomkamp eyeing the director’s chair. Sadly, tough negotiations between the studios, Jackson, and producer Peter Schlessel led to the project’s collapse.

After to the project’s implosion, Blomkamp said he would have used Master Chief as “the most important supporting cast member” with other characters doing “most of the emotional heavy lifting.”

Since the time of the failed feature attempt, Microsoft produced two live-action webseries which were later released as films: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and Halo: Nightfall. The latter was produced by Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free and featured Luke Cage’s Mike Colter as Agent Jameson Locke, a playable character in Halo 5: Guardians.


6. Halo Is Not Necessarily Its Final Name

While the project is currently known as Halo, Showtime has reserved the right to give it a subtitle, which only seems fitting as nearly every game in the series has one; although there is something to be said for letting the program encompass the whole Halo universe with the current working title. As of August 2019, Showtime is still referring to the series as Halo, which suggests this will be its finalized title.


7. What’s the Status?

Halo is expected to go into production this fall in Budapest. It is slated to premiere in early 2021.

Tag Cloud

Fantasy Turner Biopics criterion Classic Film biography Lionsgate Binge Guide what to watch Music Mystery historical drama news Certified Fresh Starz dogs spinoff Trivia Discovery Channel cartoon FXX Black Mirror dramedy Tumblr Vudu TNT game of thrones Creative Arts Emmys Amazon romantic comedy Star Wars Toys hist Fox News zero dark thirty YouTube Premium Fall TV singing competition spain Crackle TV justice league A&E Apple TV+ game show comiccon First Look Paramount American Society of Cinematographers supernatural The Arrangement breaking bad Shudder elevated horror thriller Mary poppins VH1 true crime Marvel Studios CMT Action unscripted Spectrum Originals 20th Century Fox Summer reboot Comedy crossover name the review streaming Bravo Anna Paquin Chernobyl Warner Bros. cops comedies WGN aliens MSNBC The Witch Netflix Women's History Month Amazon Prime A24 Nat Geo golden globes documentary TIFF Food Network DirecTV New York Comic Con ESPN Peacock Watching Series GLAAD chucky RT History Western composers GIFs halloween binge PlayStation Marathons video on demand universal monsters Infographic BBC America YouTube Schedule Elton John FX miniseries Disney+ Disney Plus Superheroes Film BAFTA mockumentary canceled adventure serial killer Teen politics Television Academy children's TV independent Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt dragons CNN versus series festivals a nightmare on elm street satire Film Festival Awards vampires Superheroe Paramount Network Comedy Central Pixar Heroines CBS Avengers Emmy Nominations Academy Awards The Walking Dead Emmys YA Lucasfilm award winner Logo canceled TV shows Musicals HBO Max Amazon Studios tv talk Pirates 4/20 spanish language TruTV SXSW movies DC Universe 24 frames witnail television Country Set visit nature Freeform talk show YouTube Red Comics on TV Photos christmas movies RT21 documentaries Grammys renewed TV shows Mudbound directors Rocky strong female leads WarnerMedia Rom-Com Spring TV crime thriller cooking 2020 indie Pride Month Chilling Adventures of Sabrina best Animation Countdown Kids & Family DGA psycho 45 Reality comics Horror stoner 21st Century Fox MTV cancelled TV shows Ghostbusters Election Marvel dceu Mindy Kaling Columbia Pictures die hard Quiz dc ABC Family screen actors guild San Diego Comic-Con Holidays The Purge mutant twilight CW Seed movie OWN rotten movies we love scary movies Walt Disney Pictures Travel Channel Lifetime Christmas movies Pop theme song Apple TV Plus Universal AMC Awards Tour cinemax TCA Showtime DC Comics Drama Tubi LGBTQ Box Office Stephen King toy story concert TBS Spike 2015 TCA Winter 2020 Nominations Crunchyroll Masterpiece space ghosts joker Hallmark Writers Guild of America CBS All Access child's play National Geographic Tomatazos all-time El Rey Cannes ABC E3 Interview TLC Extras PaleyFest APB cancelled television Syfy social media Ovation OneApp werewolf FX on Hulu Epix Acorn TV boxoffice films Sundance Now Holiday MCU Family Character Guide science fiction Comic Book Endgame ITV Polls and Games jamie lee curtis zombie Mary Poppins Returns Christmas harry potter hispanic Disney streaming service TCA 2017 See It Skip It finale BET Sundance TV screenings 2017 Year in Review Marvel Television richard e. Grant sag awards Red Carpet Ellie Kemper PBS NBC NYCC Hulu ratings disaster Sony Pictures police drama USA Network FOX free movies parents dark casting Disney Plus reviews Martial Arts cats HBO indiana jones period drama HBO Go Baby Yoda Trophy Talk Video Games 007 BET Awards TV Land Super Bowl comic book revenge Hear Us Out south america IFC 2019 cancelled docudrama diversity Rocketman spy thriller romance 71st Emmy Awards Thanksgiving asian-american natural history cancelled TV series Funimation based on movie sitcom Premiere Dates anime Star Trek quibi Esquire Rock robots Tarantino USA green book political drama critics cults Netflix Christmas movies Sneak Peek Nickelodeon Britbox Sundance zombies Dark Horse Comics psychological thriller video Calendar Pop TV latino Cosplay Winners LGBT The CW doctor who Oscars VICE foreign anthology sequel Disney Channel blockbuster stand-up comedy President animated franchise mission: impossible Best and Worst BBC travel cars Winter TV Trailer Hallmark Christmas movies Opinion Valentine's Day Song of Ice and Fire Turner Classic Movies facebook Disney Arrowverse First Reviews SundanceTV GoT Amazon Prime Video History SDCC blaxploitation Reality Competition crime drama sports TCM Musical Pet Sematary 2018 Adult Swim spider-man TV renewals slashers E! Apple Podcast IFC Films Mary Tyler Moore kids medical drama crime Captain marvel transformers adaptation Brie Larson Lifetime discovery Cartoon Network teaser batman BBC One X-Men DC streaming service Black History Month VOD war Sci-Fi 2016 Shondaland technology