How Paramount+’s ‘Halo’ TV Series Changes Franchise History
- The “Halo” TV series, based on the video game franchise, debuts on Paramount+ on March 24.
- “Halo” producer Kiki Wolfkill said the pandemic-related production delay was good for the show.
- She explained why the show’s new timeline, separate from the video games, allows for flexibility.
After two decades, a dozen games, a slew of book and comic book spinoffs, and a failed attempt at a movie, the “Halo” video game franchise has finally been adapted for the small screen.
The “Halo” TV series will premiere on Paramount+ on March 24 after weathering the coronavirus pandemic and a change of networks.
The series halted filming in Budapest for eight months during the pandemic before resuming production in November 2020. Kiki Wolfkill, executive producer and director of game developer 343 Industries, told Insider that the delay was somehow beneficial for series. She said she viewed the early stages of production as making four feature films at the same time.
“The COVID break allowed us to step back and look at what we were doing, and helped us realize that we were on an unsustainable path in terms of everything we were trying to do at the same time,” said Wolfkill at Insider.
Originally installed on Paramount’s premium cable network, Showtime, the series moved to the company’s streaming service last year, with Showtime still producing with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin TV and games creator, 343. Steven Kane was showrunner for the first season.
“Halo” is just one of the few high-profile video games to get TV treatment, from HBO’s “The Last of Us” to Netflix’s “Assassin’s Creed,” as media companies exploit the lucrative gaming industry for a new IP to boost their
“Moving to a streaming platform has been really good for us,” Wolfkill said. “A large portion of our audience is already streaming rather than watching traditional TV or premium cable.”
The ‘Halo’ TV series follows a different timeline than the games
The “Halo” TV series, like the games, follows the Master Chief, also known as John-117, the leader of a group of physically-enhanced super soldiers called Spartans, as they take on an alliance of species aliens known as the Covenant.
Bumps in the road never changed the direction of the series, Wolfkill said.
“The vision for this was always to tell a character story set in this massive ‘Halo’ sci-fi universe as a backdrop,” Wolfkill said. “We wanted to explore the Master Chief, but more importantly express the ‘Halo’ themes of hope and heroism through the lens of John exploring his own humanity. That has always been a North Star for the show.”
Part of this exploration of John’s humanity is to show his face, which the “Halo” games never did, instead presenting the leader as an avatar for the player. Actor Pablo Schreiber, who plays the chef, spends a lot of screen time.
“There was a healthy conversation about the magnitude of the decision,” Wolfkill said. “But to tell John’s story, it was important to see him come out of the armor. And it’s supposed to be a different experience playing the games. We wanted to give ‘Halo’ fans a different experience and new fans a different way to enter the universe.”
The series will follow a different timeline than the games, which 343 dubbed the “silver timeline”, allowing it to tell its own story while drawing inspiration from the games’ “core canon”.
Wolfkill said there was “flexibility to do other things” in the new schedule.
“Now that we’ve established the show, it has its own rules,” she said. “That’s not to say there can’t be a crossover with the main canon, but we wanted to give this branch the freedom to grow as it wishes. If we decided to tell a different story [in the future]there would be a decision on whether it would be in the silver timeline or in the base game canon, depending on the medium and what the story needs.”