Pablo Schreiber, Natascha McElhone and Bokeem Woodbine share their experiences about being part of Halo

Produced by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Kiki Wolfkill and Darryl Frank, the series premiered on Voot Select in India
A still from Halo
A still from Halo

The much-awaited web series, Halo, based on the iconic game series of the same name, is now streaming on Voot Select. Set in the 26th century, it follows a conflict between humans and an alien threat known as the Covenant. From India, Shabana Azmi plays the role of Admiral Margaret Parangosky, the powerful, ruthless and ice-cold Director of ONI (Office Of Naval Intelligence), which is quite a contrast from her real-life persona. She’s part of an ensemble cast, which includes the likes of Pablo Schreiber (who plays the Master Chief or Spartan-117), Natascha McElhone (who stars as Dr Halsey, the brilliant creator of the Spartan super-soldiers) and Bokeem Woodbine (who dons the role of the formidable Soren-066).

When it came out in the second week of March, the trailer of the series created quite a buzz thanks to the game’s cult following. Produced by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Kiki Wolfkill and Darryl Frank, the series premiered on Thursday. The lead actor of the show, Pablo Schreiber, and the other actors Natascha McElhone and Bokeem Woodbine who were part of the round table chat shared their experiences working on this military sci-fi action drama and what to expect from this adaptation of the Xbox game series. Excerpts:

You play the MasterChief. Did you feel the pressure of performing when you put on the costume because your character is so beloved and he never shows his face?
Pablo Schreiber (PS):
It felt amazing! I don’t know how much of the pressure I digested at that time, I think I got a pretty good sense early on when I was cast, about how much the universe and this role meant to people. I had a sense of responsibility to Halo fans to make this the best experience of a live-action show, so I definitely had a lot on my shoulders. This is a lifetime experience to be in that suit. We’ve all seen the MasterChief in public discourse for the last 27 years. To get to play such an iconic character and wear that armour on and feel myself inside of that has been a huge honour. The richness and imaginative nature of storytelling hooked me and hopefully will hook audiences. At its core, it’s a very personal story of a soldier discovering his humanity. I think this will resonate with the non-game fans as well.

What was your experience of working with such a diverse cast and how challenging was it to shoot the SFX sequences?
PS: The cast is phenomenal, I enjoyed getting to know everyone. They all brought something different and unique to the table, specifically Shabana Azmi who plays Parangosky. She’s a classic actress with a ton of history. It was phenomenal to work with her. For the SFX, we ended up shooting a lot with the blue and green screens, but there were also some big locations where we shot. But we shot on stage with a lot of imagination rather than physical interaction. What’s pleasing is to watch the effects getting finished. I watched the premiere in a theatre in Austin with the audience. To see those finished effects in a theatre with Dolby stereo sound, with the audience who are avid Halo fans, it was an incredible experience.

Natascha, we read in an earlier interview that you were introduced to the Halo universe because your husband and son played this game. What’s the backstory?
Natascha McElhone: I wouldn’t say that my first introduction to Halo was a joyous, creative experience. It was more of an obstacle to the running of the household. My husband spent quite a long time playing the game with my little boy on his lap, I am not quite sure it counts as child care (laughs). He insisted it did! It was a lovely kind of symmetry coming into this world as a newbie, and I was ignorant of the mechanics to play it. So, I did a boot camp and hung out with a friend for a day, who had played three years worth of Halo, and who had lived in this portal for many of his student years. I had to pivot all my preconceived ideas about gamers, also my half-brother is a gamer and a gaming journalist and he schooled me about this game. But we had to find our own way into the characters.

Are you a fan of sci-fi as a genre? Also, tell us about donning that incredibly huge costume and carrying out your sequences.
Bokeem Woodbine: I have been a fan of sci-fi probably from the age of three. It’s always been fascinating and entertaining. I always wanted to be in a sci-fi project but never thought it would happen. So it’s incredibly gratifying to be part of this project. The costume was cumbersome to say the least. But I had to achieve that level of discomfort. Cumbersome was something that I had to work towards. Initially, it was impossible for me to even move with that armour and costume on. So, I wore a weight vest for several weeks, for four to five hours every day and went about my routine work. We had really nice accommodations, we called it the Halo house. I would just walk around my apartment and hang out with other actors who were playing Spartans. Just shy of a month, I achieved the level of cumbersome which was quite an improvement. It wasn’t easy.

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