For streaming networks, the impulse is clear: Go big and go fantasy.
It’s “Star Wars” on Disney+, “Star Trek” on Paramount+, the DC crowd on HBO Max and more, There’s Marvel on Disney+, “Game of Thrones” on HBO Max … and now “Halo” (shown here) on Paramount+.
Yes, the “Halo” videogame is a weekly series, starting Thursday (March 24). “It’s a daunting task,” producer Kiki Wolfkill said in a Television Critics Association virtual press conference.
And one that took forever. “You have such massive scale and scope,” said producer Justin Falvey. “It takes some time to get it right.”
It also takes piles of money. The first season averages $10 million for each of its nine episodes, according to Variety, the trade paper; a second season has already been ordered.
At the core is a videogame that has been around for two decades, grossing $6 billlion, Variety said. For much of that time, a scripted version had been planned.
In 2005, it was going to be a movie, produced by “Game of Thrones” director Peter Jackson. Then it went to Steven Spielberg’s company, Amblin; it was going to debut in 2013, 2015, 2019 and 2020.
Along the way, it switched networks (from Showtime to its corporate partner, Paramount+), switched locations (from Ontario to Budapest) and switched showrunners.
Kyle Killen (“Lone Star,” “Awake”) dropped out when the job required moving to Hungary. Steven Kane (“The Closer,” “The Last Ship”) took over, but only for the first season.
Neither is rooted in science fiction, which seems to be deliberate. The Amblin people will make sure this has an epic, sci-fi look; within that, the showrunners build personal stories unrelated to the game.
Still, the focus remains Master Chief. He’s “one of the most heroic characters of all time,” said Pablo Schreiber, who plays him.
Also key are Halsey – the scientist who created this super-soldier project – and Cartana, the artificial intelligence created from Halsey’s brain. In the videogame, Jen Taylor voices both; for the series, Natascha McElhone is Halsey and Taylor continues as Cartana.
These characters have been known for decades by some people – but not by the actors. “I grew up without television or video games,” Schreiber said. “In terms of game play, I’m terrible.”
His co-stars have also had an iffy relationship to the game. “I get motion sickness playing it,” said Yerin Ha (who plays Quan Ha). Bokeem Woodbine (Soren-066) recalls when “all my friends were Halo Heads.” Charlie Murphy (Makee) watched her brother play it a lot, but “I’m brutal at playing it.”
And McElhone? “My first experience of it was finding my husband with my son (then 1) on his lap playing Halo, when he should have been cooking or helping in the house somehow. So it was a distraction, and a beloved one, in our household.”