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

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