The long-gestating Halo TV series at Showtime has finally been given the green light, so now the question becomes about who will be cast in some of the series' most iconic roles. An IP with the pedigree and potential that Halo carries with it will most likely attract a bevy of top-tier acting talent, as the premium cable channel looks to have their very own contender to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Amazon’s upcoming The Lord of the Rings series and the white whale that is Game of Thrones over at HBO.
Showrunner Kyle Killen - of the alternate-realities police procedural Awake - and director/executive producer Rupert Wyatt (responsible for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and “Why Cookie Rocket?”) will have their pick of whichever presently-unemployed high caliber actors are interested in being attached to a 10-episode season of one of the biggest video game franchises of all time.
The Halo source material is ripe for long-term prestige storytelling, so hopes are high that the talent finally attached won’t disappoint. Here are our picks for who should be cast in the show, whilst also providing a look at exactly what form the main narrative thrust could take.
- This Page: Master Chief
- Page 2: Casting Cortana, Sgt. Johnson, Arbiter and Guilty Spark
The Problem With Casting Master Chief
It’d be foolish to leave one of the most iconic characters of the last 20 years of sci-fi out of a Halo series with this much money and prominence behind it (this isn't Halo: Nightfall). While the amount of screen time the Master Chief could get is up in the air, he's a fair bet to get an appearance.
The character is a tricky one, however. As the high number of superhero movies which conveniently remove heroes’ masks to reveal the pretty, money-making faces of the actors beneath, keeping characters masked in the midst of heavily visual storytelling like episodic television is a challenge. Especially when considering part of the inherent mystique of Master Chief is never being able to see his face. After all, his origin is from that of a video game, where he is designed to be you - for the gamer to imagine themselves under the armor.
The creators may make the unlikely decision to keep Master Chief helmeted, a la Karl Urban’s take on Judge Dredd back in 2012; a move that was certainly successful with fans (if not the box office). But that's no guarantee. With the Halo TV series, we could finally see the Spartan soldier underneath that big green helmet.
Master Chief - Jason Isaacs
The oft-overlooked magnetic presence of Jason Isaacs is a logical reach to connect to the role of Master Chief. He has an existing, positive working relationship with Kyle Killen having collaborated on Awake together as lead role Michael Britten, a man caught between two parallel worlds - one where his son survived a car crash but his wife didn’t, and one where the exact opposite is true. It was a role that Isaacs - too often saddled with bad guy roles (absorbing though they may be) - got to imbue with an alluring combination of guilt, wonder, befuddlement and pathos.
He more than has the chops for a role like Master Chief, which is relatively one-note; if anything, he’d be able to bring his versatility to the table in a confident and constructive way. Not to mention the fact that the Chief deserves an actor with an appropriately alluring baritone to anchor what is potentially a faceless performance. Isaacs has it in spades, as anyone who’s witnessed his intimidating performance as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies can attest.
Which brings us to the final plus in a column crowded with them; he’s got the nerd cred. A card-carrying former franchise actor, he knows the world and everything that goes with fan-followings of that size: the expectation, the reverence, the commitment. Throw in the fact that he’s played a fair few soldiers in his time (Fury, Black Hawk Down, Green Zone) and there's nothing he's not prepared for.
Some die-hard fans would argue that Steven Downes - the iconic voice behind the character in every Halo game thus far - could and should be brought on to reprise the role, with some stuntman doing the Mo-cap (or physically wearing the suit). This would most likely not be seen as a viable option by Showtime. As a TV show is not a video game and a video game is not a TV show, it will be an opportunity to reimagine - even slightly - not just the character (with a bigger, more bankable name star attached), but most likely the entire story. In the realm of game-to-screen adaptations, the original voice cast don’t usually get a look-in.