While in an interview for 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), J. J. Abrams confirmed that films based on the beloved video games Half-Life and Portal were both in the works. Both films are currently in development, and have writing teams working on translating the first-person games into stories for the big screen. Portal is set at the Aperture Science Test facility, where a woman named Chell awakes and is told by the disembodied computerized voice GLaDOS that they will be running some tests together. Chell completes the tests using a device called the “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device”, or “Portal Gun”,which allows her to create portals – she can place both a start and end portal and then walk from one to another, bending the established rules of physics. This gun becomes more than a handy gadget, however, as Chell slowly learns that GLaDOS is more nefarious – and deadly – than she would have Chell believe. Fighting for her life against a murderous A.I., Chell – and the player – needs to use all of her wits to stay alive.
A movie version of Portal creates a lot of questions – since the only characters in the first game are GLaDOS and Chell, it is possible that the story and additional supporting cast could be taken from the sequel game, Portal 2, which also stars Chell. It is unclear if Chell, as a silent character, would be modified to speak in the film. Even then, though, the film would have a very small cast, and Chell would be at the center of it. The actor who is chosen to play Chell would need to be able to carry the film, play an intensely physical role (presumably with a large amount of stunt and fight choreography), and entice audiences to come and see the film.
Note: Chell’s age and race have been debated by fans, and it is difficult to place either. The range of guesses for Chell’s age placed her anywhere from 18 to her mid-30’s, and the game does not offer an exact answer to how long Chell has been kept prisoner by GLaDOS. This means that a number of actresses, across ages, would be able to play Chell as long as they met the other credentials. The original model for the in-game character, Alésia Glidewell, is half-Japanese and half-Brazilian, which gave Chell a racially ambiguous appearance. While there are a number of actresses who would be capable of playing the role, this list focuses on actresses who are Asian, Hispanic, or both; this allows for a mindful approximation of Chell’s race from the original game, and also promotes actresses who are historically underrepresented in leading roles in Hollywood movies.
Here are 15 Actors Who Could Play Chell in the Portal Movie.
15. Alésia Glidewell
Alésia Glidewell is the original model for Chell’s body and face in both Portal and its sequel game, Portal 2. Glidewell has appeared in a number of other video games, including as the body, face, and voice of Zoey in Left 4 Dead, Alma Wade in the F.E.A.R. games, and Zero Suit Samus in the Super Smash Bros. games. She has also produced, directed, and acted in some online television projects and some independent movies as the founder and president of Snagbuddy Productions, LLC.
While Glidewell doesn’t have television or movie experience under her belt – or at least, nothing of this scale – but she does have the virtue of being Chell’s literal twin. Some fans believe that Glidewell deserves the chance to play the character that she originated in the Portal games. It’s true that the Portal movie would be the perfect break-out role for this potential movie star.
14. Sandrine Holt
Sandrine Holt’s success on television means that she seems to appear everywhere: as Gillian Cole in House of Cards (2013), Julie in the American reboot of The Returned (2015), Dr. Exner in Fear the Walking Dead (2015), Sandrine Renault in Hostages (2013), and most recently as Susan “Madam Executioner” Jacobs in season two of Mr. Robot (2016). She also just signed up to be a series regular on the upcoming Macgyver (2016) which is set to air on CBS this fall. The vast number of roles that she has played in the past few years illustrate her talents as an actress, showcasing a number of diverse characters.
While Holt is older than the assumed age range for Chell, her success on television points to her potential star power. Plus, Chell’s age is pure speculation, and there is no reason that it couldn’t be modified for the film in order to allow Holt to take the lead.
13. Elodie Yung
Elodie Yung was born in Paris, and began her film career in France. She later transitioned to starring in American movies, playing roles like Miriam Wu, Lisbeth Salander’s lover, in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Hathor, the Egyptian Goddess of Love, in Gods of Egypt (2016). She is perhaps best known for her recent portrayal of Elektra Natchios in the Netflix series Daredevil (2015). The sometimes friend sometimes foe of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen proved that she could hold her own – whether against Matthew Murdock or agents of the Hand. Yung, too, got to show off her impressive set of skills. For the role, Yung demonstrated her physical prowess – as a black belt of karate with over a decade of experience, Yung is more than capable of doing her own stunts. Elodie Yung is a star on the rise, and her ability to perform stunts and fight choreography make her an ideal choice for Chell.
12. Chloe Bennet
Chloe Bennet is a Chinese-American actress best known for her roles as Hailey in Nashville (2012) and Daisy “Skye” Johnson in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013). Bennet was chosen to star in the show from over 600 actresses who auditioned for the role of Daisy Johnson. Her character, who also goes by “Quake”, is at the heart of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She has grown and changed with the show. Initially a hacker known as Skye, she is revealed to be an Inhuman with the ability to generate vibrations, even to the point of earthquakes.
Chloe Bennet’s portrayal of Daisy Johnson is surprising and multi-dimensional; she has both stunt and fight scenes alongside impressively emotional scenes alongside Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson. She has developed a fanbase among viewers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe show, and has demonstrated that she could be an excellent choice for Chell in the upcoming Portal film.
11. Zoe Saldana
Having previously worked with J. J. Abrams when she played Uhura in the Star Trek (2009) reboot and its sequels, Zoe Saldana has helped to solidify herself as a leading lady in science fiction movies. Abrams does like to support actors who he has worked with and developed relationships with before, and Saldana could benefit from her previous professional relationship with him. Saldana, who has also starred in Avatar (2009) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), has the credentials and the connections to make her a frontrunner for the role of Chell – despite the fact that she doesn’t bear too much resemblance to the character. Saldana is of Haitian, Puerto Rican, and Dominican descent.
Saldana’s talents are specifically showcased in Guardians of the Galaxy, where she is involved not only in action scenes, but also in comedic moments; Portal is a funny game, and Saldana’s action movie experience along with her comic timing are a special blend of skills that could be showcased in a film version of Portal.
10. Ziyi Zhang
Ziyi Zhang has starred in a number of impressive martial arts films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hero (2002), and The House of Flying Daggers (2004). These films, and others, gained her international acclaim, especially in Asia. She has also transitioned to making Hollywood films, including dramas like Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and comedies like Rush Hour 2 (2001), and has continued to make movies in both China and the United States. She is set to appear in the upcoming God Particle (2017) opposite John Krasinski and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
If J. J. Abrams wants to appeal to markets outside of the United States, especially Chinese audiences, then Ziyi Zhang would be an excellent choice for the Portal movie. Her global appeal as a star could help to fuel the movie’s success. And, of course, Zhang’s incredible physical control and technique would make her a welcome addition to the film.
9. Keisha Castle-Hughes
Keisha Castle-Hughes is perhaps best known for playing Pai Apirana in Whale Rider (2002), which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress at the age of thirteen. She was the youngest person to receive that nomination – a title she held for a decade until nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis was nominated for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). More recently, Castle-Hughes has played Obara Sand in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011) and Donna in Showtime’s Roadies (2016).
A Polynesian actress, Castle-Hughes has shown great dynamic dramatic ability, and is able to convey complex emotion wordlessly. There’s a reason why she was nominated for an Oscar at the age of thirteen – she is capable of commanding the screen, with other actors, or by herself. While she has continued to have a successful acting career, Portal would be an opportunity for her to return to the big screen as a bona fide star.
8. Alice Braga
Alice Braga has starred in I am Legend (2007) opposite Will Smith, Predators (2010) opposite Adrian Brody, and Elysium (2013) opposite Matt Damon. She began her career in her native Brazil, and has starred in a number of Portuguese-speaking films, including City of God (2002) and Lower City (2005); she has also been nominated for a number of awards in Brazil. She is currently starring as Teresa Mendoza in Queen of the South (2016) on USA. Braga’s portrayal of Mendoza is focused on survival, and the nuanced emotions that she brings to the role are powerful. Braga also showed her full range as the Woman with the Dark Glasses in Blindness (2008), a woman who is struck blind by a mysterious illness. Braga would be able to bring a multi-dimensional and complex portrayal of Chell to the upcoming Portal movie, and it would be the chance for her to headline a movie.
7. Karen Fukuhara
Karen Fukuhara doesn’t have many credits to her name – but what she has makes her a frontrunner. Before this year, Fukuhara only had credits on Japan’s Disney Channel. However, Fukuhara will play Tatsu Yamashiro, or Katana, in Suicide Squad (2016) which will come to theaters on August 5. As one of the villains-turned-heroes, Katana is set to be among the biggest characters of the summer. Fukuhara did all of her own swordplay in the film, and a majority of her own stunts, which include running on top of a car. Fukuhara, like her character, is trained in martial arts; her ability to do her own stunts definitely makes her a strong choice for Chell.
Perhaps in part because Katana’s face is covered by a mask, Fukuhara would be a fresh face for Chell. As an up-and-coming actress, she could fully embody the character for audiences without having previous roles color their view – but, as Suicide Squad proves, she has the chops to be in a leading role.
6. Michelle Rodriguez
Michelle Rodriguez is, of course, best known for the The Fast and the Furious film franchise, but she also starred in J. J. Abrams’ Lost (2004) as Ana Lucia Cortez. Rodriguez combines two important spheres of influence; she knows Abrams, which could help her land an audition for the pivotal role of Chell, and she also has big screen exposure with one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. She recently starred in the film Tomboy, A Revenge Story (2016) opposite Sigourney Weaver. Michelle Rodriguez has the star power that she would be able to headline the Portal movie – but an opportunity like that would go a long way for her.
Rodriguez is known for playing tough women, a “type” that she solidified in her first movie, Girlfight (2000), in which she played a boxer. Chell, too, is a resilient and resourceful woman, and would easily fit within the sorts of roles that Rodriguez has chosen for herself.
5. Grace Park
Grace Park is no stranger to science fiction; she starred as Sharon “Boomer” Valerii and Sharon “Athena” Agathon in the critically-acclaimed and fan-favorite Battlestar Galactica (2003). Playing multiple roles in the series showcased her immense talents as an actor; she could be a hero, victim, and villain all in a single episode. The Canadian-American actress, who is of Korean descent, also currently has a starring role as Kono Kalakaua on Hawaii Five-0 (2010). Both shows were reboots of previous franchises (Battlestar Galactica originally aired in 1978; Hawaii Five-0 in 1968), and in both shows, Park reimagined characters that were originally male. Park is able to play powerful characters with rich emotional lives, and she would be able to bring her action-adventure television work to the world of Portal. She has consistently been employed with television since 2000, but the Portal movie could help her make the leap from television to film.
4. Dichen Lachman
After beginning her career on the Australian soap opera Neighbors (1985; Lachman, however, starred from 2005-2007), Dichen Lachman transitioned over to the United States with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse (2009), starring as the doll Sierra. Lachman was one of the highlights of the show, and her role as a “doll” meant that she had the opportunity to present many different characters to the audience each week. She has since worked in television, with reoccurring roles including Suren, the vampire villain in the American Being Human (2011), Last Resort (2012), with Andre Braugher, Anya in The 100 (2014), Jiaying the ageless Inhuman in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013), Angela in Shameless (2011), and Jesse in the upcoming season of The Last Ship (2014).
Dichen Lachman is a fantastic actress who has been able to play many different characters, but this is in part because she is being reoccurring roles on television repeatedly. Chell would be an amazing chance for her to be the star of a movie, despite her limited film experience.
3. Olivia Munn
Olivia Munn cohosted Attack of the Show! (2005) and was a correspondent on The Daily Show (1999). She has also starred in movies including Magic Mike (2012) and most recently X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) as Psylocke. X-Men, which was action sequence heavy, helped to illustrate that Munn would be able to hold her own in a physically demanding role such as Chell.
Equally important, Munn is truly a movie star; if producers are looking for someone who could carry a movie by themselves, then Munn would be a great choice – she’s far from an unknown, and both her face and name have a great deal of recognition, especially after X-Men. Plus, as a self-proclaimed “geek”, the Portal movie seems to be right up her alley. The best choice to play Chell, after all, should be someone who’s a legitimate fan of the game.
2. Morena Baccarin
Morena Baccarin is a Brazilian-American actress who broke out as Inara in Joss Whedon’s Firefly (2002). Since Firefly, Baccarin has lent her talents to a number of television projects, including playing the alien Anna in V (2009), Jessica Brody in Homeland (2011), and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham (2014). She has also contributed her voice to the role of Talia Al Ghul in multiple animated Batman films. Recently, Baccarin played the role of Vanessa Carlysle in the film Deadpool (2016), opposite Hollywood A-lister Ryan Reynolds. Her character, Deadpool’s girlfriend, could have been a flat role, but her performance circumvented many stereotypes about the “damsel in distress” in superhero films.
Baccarin is definitely talented – any fan of Firefly will sing her praises, and Deadpool showed that she not only can she be hilarious and heartfelt, but she can also helm a successful, high-grossing movie. There’s no question that she would be an amazing choice for Chell.
1. Constance Wu
Constance Wu is best known for her starring role as Jessica Huang in Fresh Off the Boat (2015). She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s multi-talented – on the show, in interviews, and on the red carpet. Wu is just the sort of actress that you want to be at the helm of your film. There’s no doubt that Wu would be able to make headlines. In fact, she already does. Her amazing work has attracted a lot of attention – critics cannot get enough of her – and even on the small screen, it is clear that she has some major star power. Earlier this year, fans even used the hashtag #StarringConstanceWu to promote the idea of Asian women starring in films, creating faux movie posters with Constance Wu in the starring role – and it’s clear why they chose her. It’s not a question of if Constance Wu will star in films, it’s only a question of when – and Portal would be lucky to have her.
Did we forget your favorite pick for Chell? Or is there anyone on this list that is head and shoulders above the rest? Start a discussion in the comments!