Hot off the heels of the controversial announcement that the series’ protagonist will be unmasked for his upcoming Paramount Plus debut, the Halo TV series has revealed that not only will their version of Master Chief be a near-completely different version of the iconic character, but that heavily advertised teenage female lead Quan Ah will be a focus of the series as she provides a “human perspective” on the story.
These upcoming details regarding the upcoming live-action adaptation of the Bungie-created sci-fi FPS franchise were touched upon by 343 Industries’ head of Halo transmedia Kiki Wolfkill, who also serves as an executive producer on the series, showrunner Steven Kane, and Master Chief actor Pablo Schreiber during a recent interview given to Den of Geek’s Megan Crouse.
At the onset of the interview, Wolfkill explained to Crouse that the team had decided to set Halo in a new “Silver” timeline – similar in concept to the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film series’ Kelvin timeline – in order to allow them the opportunity to make changes to the franchise’s original continuity and lore.
“From the very beginning, it was clear that in order to let the story evolve and grow the way it needed to, in order to really go deeply into these character arcs, we would need to make some changes,” explained Wolfkill.
She continued, “Sometimes it was even just a perspective change. Sometimes it was something you just didn’t get a view into from the game or even the books. We knew we needed to let the story breathe on its own.”
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to being able to make moment-to-moment decisions,” she added.
Wolfkill elaborated, “Every day there were decisions to be made about: do we do something exactly as it was done in the game or are there good reasons to do it differently? And, if so, how do we keep it true to the spirit of Halo but at the same time keep the voice of all these incredible creators coming through?”
According to Crouse, one such example of a major change made to the series’ lore is the historic Fall of Reach, the Covenant attack that wiped out most of humanity’s Spartan soldiers (at least until 343 Industries got to work on the series) and left the Master Chief as one of the last, if not only surviving result of Earth’s super-soldier ambitions.
In the games, this event happens prior to humanity’s discovery of the first Halo ring. However, in the series, the Fall of Reach has not yet occurred – most likely as a way to allow the production to feature more Spartans.
“You don’t want to just tell the game in television form,” Kane said of the ‘Silver timeline’ approach. “You want to have a conversation with the material.”
“The game has been around for so long, the canon is not only deep but wide,” he asserted. “There are opportunities to dig into the canon and find characters that were only hinted at and stories only half mentioned, and dig in and invent new stuff.”
The discussion then turned to the topic of the series’ principal cast – but more specifically, it turned to Yerin Ha’s Quan Ah, an original series character whose juxtaposition of her hatred of the Spartans against the necessity of fighting alongside the Master Chief will serve as one of Halo’s main narrative focuses.
“She has an animosity against the Spartans,” Kane told Crouse. “She begins as our eyes on the Spartans, what we expect them to be. As she learns more about them, her ideas will change. But she stands on her own as a character on the outer planets who feels she’s meant for something else.”
Following a massive tragedy, Kane further noted, “she’s off on her own, and has to discover what her true purpose in the galaxy is.”
“The other thing we get from her is a very human perspective on the Spartans and these events and all these large-scale elements,” Wolfkill added. “Quan is a grounded human perspective on that, which I think is definitely unique.”
She then explained that, though the show’s creative team was fully intent on deviating from established series canon, 343 Industries still held a writer’s ‘boot camp’ to both familiarize them with its concepts and events as well as explore how to connect viewers with Halo on a personal level.
“For me, the boot camp really had two levels to it” she recalled. “What does Halo mean and what’s the emotional resonance of Halo, and what are the core values and deeply seeded aspects of Halo.
“[These] are at the very heart of anything we do,” she continued. “Regardless of lore or making sure weapons are named correctly or look the right way, there’s a very basic understanding of what Halo is about and why it means certain things to certain people. Why, after 20 years, do we have the fans and audience we do?”
As for the Master Chief himself, Kane asserted that his back story would be one of the elements to be changed in the series’ jump from video games to television, changing the Master Chief from a highly-indoctrinated super-soldier brutally trained from childhood to fight on behalf of the United Nations Space Command to a mindless automaton whose memory has been erased and has his emotions actively suppressed.
The Hollywood Reporter claimed on March 11th, “Rather than viewing Master Chief’s opaqueness as a hurdle, Halo makes the character ignorant of his past (his memory has been erased and emotions chemically suppressed). So the question ‘Who is the Master Chief?’ becomes a journey for Schreiber’s character as well as the audience across the debut season’s nine episodes as he finds himself defying orders to protect a young girl (Kwan Ha Boo).”
“The key is that Master Chief is a bit of a cipher,” Kane told Den of Geek. “In the game you are Master Chief. If you don’t read the books, you don’t know the backstory, but in general he stands in for all of us as we play the game. So this is a chance to get in under the hood, so to speak.”
He elaborated, “The first season explores John’s character by approaching John discovering himself. He is a man dedicated to honor, integrity, courage, and serving humanity. But he isn’t fully formed out, at least in our description of him. He’s not fully aware of himself as a human being.”
“If you know the canon, you know the history of how he became a Spartan, and it’s not a pretty history,” Kane continued. “That’s what I think actually makes the world of the game so interesting. He’s not just a clean cut superhero type. His past is sort of dark. He’s both a victim and a hero at the same time.”
Schreiber added, “Without giving too much away, what [Master Chief] wants is going to be a constantly shifting tapestry based on the new information he’s being faced with and how it challenges his sense of self and his sense of duty and honor.”
He also noted, “We know the UNSC kidnapped and essentially conscripted child warriors, who they then modified into super soldiers. While we know the end result—they ended up Spartan-IIs, which have been our best weapon against the alien invasion—it also opened up a host of moral dilemmas and question marks as to whether it was a moral decision.”
Ultimately, in conclusion to his and Wolfkill’s time with Crouse, Kane summarized to the reporter, “We want people to see that John is the most lethal weapon a human can be, but in trade for that he paid the price of his humanity.”
“That’s the story of everyone in this season,” he declared. “Everyone is discovering the limits of their own humanity or what was lost of their humanity because they’re all in this giant existential war.”
Halo is set to premiere exclusively on Paramount Plus on March 24th.
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