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

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