Everything We Know

Everything We Know About the Halo TV Series

The sci-fi action series based on the Xbox video game franchise will premiere on the rebranded Paramount+ streaming service.

by | December 10, 2021 | Comments

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 Paramount+ hopes to buck that tragic big-budget trend with a high-end series based on Microsoft’s epic game franchise Halo. As Showtime Networks 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.” Two years later, Showtime’s corporate parent, ViacomCBS, announced the series would instead be one that belongs on its rebranded Paramount+ streaming service.

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 the Paramount+ Halo series.


1. It Is Based Upon a Huge Game Universe

Halo 5

(Photo by Microsoft Studios)

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 super-soldier 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 — six so far with the latest, Halo Infinite, finally going live this past week — 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.


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)

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). On November 15, 2021, fans finally got their first glimpse of Schreiber as Master Chief in a short teaser for the series. The preview was part of a celebration honoring 20 years of XBox, which Microsoft also used as an opportunity to recommit to Halo as a media brand.

In a 2019 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.

A trailer for the series released during the 2021 Game Awards (top of page) indicates Levine was true to his word as it offers the first glimpses of various characters (more on them below), yet still kept Master Chief in his armor. It also featured the first looks at Halo locations like Halo 2’s High Charity – or a new structure very much like it – and The Rubble.


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 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 and 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. At one point, McElhone was set to voice Cortana, but scheduling issues led to the character’s original voice, Jen Taylor, stepping in and creating one bit of continuity with the games.

 

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. Actors Charlie Murphy, Olive Gray, and Danny Sapani are also part of the series in unspecified roles.

A handful of the characters — notably Soren and Dr. Halsey — appear in tight close-ups as the December 2021 trailer unfolds. It is unclear if we’re meant to be in Master Chief’s POV in these moments, but it would be interesting if the series figures out some way to honor the Halo video game series’ first-person perspective.



4. It Has Great Talent in the Writers’ Room

Kyle Killen was tapped to explore the “richly imagined universe” as executive producer and showrunner. Killen is the 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 streaming series may turn out to be the best format, and should Halo‘s protagonists find themselves caught between two worlds — say humanity versus the culture of The Covenant — Killen should prove to be a great writer for the material.

Unfortunately, Killen left the project just before production began with The Last Ship’s Steven Kane taking his place — although it was reported at the time that the two were splitting writing and production duties. Kane’s TNT series proved to be success on that network over the course of five seasons. Reportedly, Kane already plans to depart should the series come back for a second season.

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.” Other directors include Jonathan Liebesman, Roel Reiné, and Jessica Lowrey.


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. The Switch to Paramount+

Although intended to be a Showtime original series, David Nevins, CBS Chief Creative Officer and Showtime Networks Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, surprised reporters during a February 2021 Investor Day presentation by adding the program to the Paramount+ roster. The move was part of an effort to rebrand the service, then known as CBS All Access, as an all-encompassing destination for ViacomCBS programs. According to Nevins, Halo fits right in with the sort of content the streaming service intends to highlight. “From all the early glimpses we’ve seen, it’s crystal clear that Halo is a visually stunning thrill-ride, anchored in riveting, character-driven storytelling,” he said. “With such tremendous appeal to every audience, we realized Halo had the potential to become a defining show for what will become the broadest streaming platform at ViacomCBS – the new Paramount+.” Showtime will still be involved as a producer alongside 343 Industries and Amblin.


7. What’s the Status?

Halo series logo

(Photo by Paramount+)

Production began in Budapest during the fall of 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to a long delay. It resumed production in late 2020 and, as reconfirmed by the November 2021 teaser, it is now set for a 2022 debut.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

die hard live action Baby Yoda Elton John PaleyFest YouTube Premium SundanceTV emmy awards Film Holidays HBO feel good discovery USA Network Star Wars Showtime GLAAD Apple TV+ reboot police drama book adaptation suspense FX on Hulu screen actors guild hispanic TBS james bond legend Instagram Live Stephen King new zealand Opinion Writers Guild of America biography 20th Century Fox obituary Amazon Prime Music Comedy Central Awards 24 frames chucky Disney Plus YA 2015 true crime satire Britbox A24 football Television Critics Association Cannes DGA nature Martial Arts art house 21st Century Fox comic book movie hidden camera richard e. Grant Travel Channel Comics on TV Wes Anderson Box Office Hulu period drama The Academy science fiction dark black children's TV mutant fresh crime drama worst movies sopranos 2017 dc 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Endgame kong 4/20 video on demand New York Comic Con Winter TV Drama child's play Animation Pride Month AMC comic book movies biopic Sundance History Cosplay Starz Paramount Network Turner Classic Movies laika foreign posters genre NBC Chilling Adventures of Sabrina WGN Schedule cancelled television Summer archives a nightmare on elm street Election ratings Holiday south america Sci-Fi Academy Awards Emmys debate Marathons leaderboard strong female leads asian-american Best and Worst Syfy Rock Mary Poppins Returns name the review Marvel Television award winner IFC stand-up comedy Super Bowl french golden globe awards Emmy Nominations historical drama Watching Series BET Awards Amazon Studios sequels japanese binge best scary crossover halloween tv australia HFPA BBC America independent Shondaland batman TV movies Oscars Logo CNN dogs Fox News First Reviews Paramount Plus Food Network concert Arrowverse sports The Walking Dead Apple movie Fantasy Paramount E3 Hear Us Out 2016 Pet Sematary Dark Horse Comics kaiju blaxploitation Spring TV venice hollywood PlayStation 2018 dceu streaming Trailer psychological thriller Hallmark news mob Hollywood Foreign Press Association MTV Marvel Studios renewed TV shows FOX President Disney streaming service psycho travel Rocketman unscripted cats game show Shudder Sony Pictures young adult mcc Comic-Con@Home 2021 prank international dramedy franchise NYCC jurassic park romance ABC criterion Television Academy The Purge Podcast elevated horror Rom-Com Universal comic TCA 2017 basketball Premiere Dates Amazon CMT HBO Max worst Mudbound Fargo Winners spider-verse what to watch A&E adaptation ID Bravo justice league movies Disney TIFF OneApp FXX supernatural Disney+ Disney Plus quibi Nickelodeon Freeform popular anthology king kong thriller DC Universe Funimation Discovery Channel Reality Competition rom-coms king arthur blockbuster adenture Kids & Family based on movie Ellie Kemper rotten movies we love WarnerMedia Lionsgate GoT kids new york AMC Plus TNT See It Skip It directors Grammys Alien DC streaming service zombie adventure razzies godzilla cancelled TV shows Family RT21 olympics TV Ovation CBS Reality cooking Certified Fresh television political drama Film Festival Horror Comic Book LGBT aapi IFC Films versus Teen Lifetime BBC One Pirates spanish toronto 2021 documentary ABC Family Exclusive Video Lifetime Christmas movies 71st Emmy Awards docudrama GIFs Sneak Peek dragons Masterpiece American Society of Cinematographers technology Mindy Kaling Columbia Pictures Hallmark Christmas movies facebook Chernobyl Fall TV pirates of the caribbean Cartoon Network VICE Toys 90s Netflix FX christmas movies Turner cars blockbusters Amazon Prime Video 45 Pop X-Men cinemax festival scorecard sag awards SXSW Apple TV Plus Broadway Sundance TV dexter breaking bad harry potter miniseries book singing competition festivals boxoffice Trivia stoner classics Western anime theme song toy story game of thrones social media MCU monster movies TruTV CW Seed comiccon Heroines marvel cinematic universe 1990s teaser Brie Larson disaster heist movie zero dark thirty IMDb TV Interview superhero MSNBC Red Carpet dreamworks Spike parents latino halloween Lucasfilm Country LGBTQ cancelled superman talk show animated Tags: Comedy First Look OWN Infographic TCA Winter 2020 Image Comics Marvel rotten Legendary natural history NBA universal monsters Neflix 73rd Emmy Awards Binge Guide San Diego Comic-Con serial killer Sundance Now Esquire nfl boxing vampires golden globes TCA Captain marvel 2019 Crunchyroll 2020 Pop TV spy thriller Adult Swim TV renewals zombies marvel comics rt archives medical drama TLC Star Trek high school E! Set visit BAFTA stop motion TV Land lord of the rings war witnail VOD werewolf indiana jones streaming movies crime thriller Anna Paquin wonder woman Prime Video indie vs. saw Musical black comedy Calendar Quiz Pixar Superheroes Nominations Valentine's Day documentaries doctor who spider-man APB Acorn TV Biopics green book aliens Black History Month Mystery ghosts Countdown YouTube critic resources transformers tv talk HBO Go twilight finale Crackle TV One all-time Tomatazos politics spinoff TCM Women's History Month scene in color Vudu Nat Geo free movies Mary Tyler Moore spanish language live event royal family reviews VH1 Awards Tour Christmas sequel target comedies Song of Ice and Fire Photos diversity critics Rocky slasher USA Avengers video ABC Signature Pacific Islander Thanksgiving sitcom Epix Tubi cops The Arrangement women Spectrum Originals docuseries Warner Bros. ITV trophy casting japan telelvision Peacock spain composers Year in Review space scary movies films Tumblr ESPN BET National Geographic Tokyo Olympics Disney Channel mission: impossible remakes canceled TV shows 72 Emmy Awards The CW canceled series comics robots italian mockumentary TCA Awards rt labs rt labs critics edition deadpool hispanic heritage month jamie lee curtis El Rey Fox Searchlight SDCC Musicals DirecTV CBS All Access joker DC Comics Polls and Games screenings fast and furious Mary poppins know your critic Character Guide Netflix Christmas movies Black Mirror Tarantino Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comic books Video Games 93rd Oscars RT History 99% slashers Universal Pictures BBC YouTube Red revenge romantic comedy 79th Golden Globes Awards The Walt Disney Company Trophy Talk cancelled TV series hist gangster Creative Arts Emmys crime ViacomCBS The Witch Action Extras Comedy cartoon Walt Disney Pictures Classic Film PBS nbcuniversal trailers action-comedy 007 cults new star wars movies Superheroe Ghostbusters