The Halo TV series is moving forward. Years after plans for a live action Halo film fell apart, Master Chief is headed to Hollywood with a TV series on Showtime. Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television is producing, and after a period of silence we've gotten some fresh news about the show, including a new director.
There's not much we know for sure about the content of the show, but there are going to be Spartans, with Master Chief taking his proper place as a central character. And if we had to bet on it: There's probably going to be a Halo ring, too.
The nine episode TV series is early in production. The most recent casting news gave us some clues as to the characters we'll be seeing when the show arrives (likely in 2020).
Here’s everything we know about Showtime’s Halo TV series so far.
When does the Halo TV series air?
There's no air date yet. According to the latest news from The Hollywood Reporter, the Halo TV series begins filming in June 2019. That means a long period of casting and pre-production, and makes a 2020 debut likely. That idea is backed up by comments from President of Programming Gary Levine during a Television Critics Association press tour.
Will the launch of the TV series coincide with the release of Halo Infinite? With a 2020 date, it's plausible!
Is Master Chief in the Halo TV series?
Yes. Yes he is. He's been confirmed at every opportunity, and as of mid-April, we know who's playing him. Actor Pablo Schreiber has been cast as Master Chief. You may remember a younger Schreiber from his role as dockworker Nick Sobotka in season 2 of The Wire, or from some more recent shows and movies: American Gods, Skyscraper, Orange Is the New Black. According to IMDB, he's nearly 6'5" tall.
Also confirmed via a casting notice: Dr. Halsey, the scientist in charge of the Spartan program and the closest thing Master Chief has to a mom. Except the Spartans were taken from their real parents as young children and turned into supersoldiers. So it's a complicated relationship. Dr. Halsey's personality also serves as the basis of the AI Cortana.
Who else will we see in the series? The casting notice calls for "Jenny, listed as an Asian woman between the ages of 18-20." She's likely an original character created for the series.
How many episodes will there be?
Showtime’s initial order consisted of 10 hour-long episodes, a common season length for big-budget prestige TV series these days. That order has since been dropped to nine episodes. Showtime hopes Halo’s influential lineage will deliver the network’s "most ambitious series ever." No pressure.
“[Halo] is futuristic space-based science fiction," elaborated President David Nevins at the TCA conference. "It’s not fantasy. I think there's been one iconic franchise in my opinion in the history of television in that category and that's Star Trek. It was a long time to get the script where we felt we had something really interesting and felt like it belonged on Showtime in terms of its character depth. It’s going to be a big show.”
Who’s part of the production?
Apart from Showtime’s obvious involvement, Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment is one of the bigger studios handling production duties. It’s yet unknown if the acclaimed filmmaker will personally have a role, but it appears Showtime’s project is a continuation of a concept Spielberg was set to executive produce back in 2013. Considering Spielberg’s background and enduring interest in science-fiction—being no stranger to the nostalgic pull of games—there’s a fair chance of spotting his name in the credits roll.
Developer 343 Industries (and Microsoft, by extension) is also involved in some direct capacity. Hopefully that's good news, and not the first step down a path towards another Assassin's Creed or Tomb Raider. 343’s responsibilities could simply entail making sure the series feels authentically Halo, leaving the TV pros to do their work.
Who is writing and directing the Halo TV show?
Kyle Killen has been tapped as writer and showrunner. Killen’s most recent work, the largely panned Mind Games, failed to anchor an audience past its first and only season. His earlier and more fruitful endeavors included Fox’s Lone Star and NBC’s Awake, both sharing the same fate and lasting only one season. While Killen is relatively unblooded in the deep sci-fi genre, his recurring interest in theming a protagonist around facing plural realities could serve as an intriguing foundation for exploring the supernatural aspects of Halo’s far-reaching universe.
On a TCA tour, Levine explained Killen’s selection over more experienced writers was a deliberate one, saying, “We made a conscious decision to hire a writer not known for sci-fi and not known for big battle movies or anything. Because that's already baked into the Halo franchise and we will service that. But we also want to ensure that we get underneath the formidable armor of the Spartans."
Originally director Rupert Wyatt was going to be part of the project, but he exited the show in December. Now the series has a new lead director and executive producer in Otto Bathurst, who most recently directed the 2018 Robin Hood, and the first episode of Black Mirror (you know, the one with the pig).
Any confirmed actors?
None yet, but we’ll update this section as names appear on the show’s roster. With casting in swing, it's likely we'll have some names well before the series begins shooting.
What kind of story will the Halo TV series tell?
Story details are locked down, but Levine affirmed it as a new story “incredibly respectful of the canon” utilizing the franchise’s framework of the war with the Covenant and the eponymous Halo space stations. That’s further reinforced by this official post by 343 head of transmedia Kiki Wolfkill, who explained that the series will try to strike a balance between fan expectations and presenting something new.
“As we think about what it means to bring videogame franchises to movie or TV—the biggest challenge can often be finding the right balance between moments fans have already experienced and moments that have yet to be experienced through a different medium, perspective, or creative lens,” Wolfkill wrote. “We are excited to navigate these creative waters to bring you something that is both respectful of what you already know and love, but also new and surprising and enthralling.”
When in the Halo timeline might it take place? The war with the Covenant boasts several points of interest for a TV series. A possible strong angle could cover Chief’s origins, his conscription into the Spartan program (which would include an appearance of the titular planet from 2010’s Halo: Reach), and his eventual first contact with the Covenant, all of which would comprise a useful backdrop for plenty on-camera opportunities to show off John-117’s face in various stages of grizzled determination. An adaptation of Halo novel Fall of Reach would make sense—but if you're trying to bring in the Halo rings and tell a new story, that seems unlikely.