“It’s deeper, it’s darker.” Pablo Schreiber on Halo Season Two

Pablo Schreiber is back as Master Chief, John-117 in the epic second season of Halo, the Paramount+ series based on the iconic videogame.

The second season sees Chief lead his team of elite Spartans against the alien threat known as the Covenant. In the wake of a shocking event on a desolate planet, John cannot shake the feeling that his war is about to change and risks everything to prove what no one else will believe – that the Covenant is preparing to attack humanity’s greatest stronghold. With the galaxy on the brink, John embarks on a journey to find the key to humankind’s salvation, or its extinction: the Halo.

We sat down with Schreiber to find out what it’s like being back as Chief for Season Two and what videogame easter eggs we might find…

What’s it like seeing the success of Halo Season One and being back as Master Chief for Season Two?

It was amazing, I’ve said from the very beginning how honoured I am to have this job and to get to play this character. Some so many people feel so strongly about it. Millions of people have played the game and played the game as the Master Chief. So they have personal ownership over the character. The way the character is designed in the video games, you’re meant to feel like you’re him. He’s left as a little bit of a blank slate. You fill in the character with your personality.

So many people have taken personal ownership over the character that I think is beautiful. They have a passion for the character and many opinions about how the character should be presented. It’s one of the reasons why I took the job because it’s a beautiful thing. There’s a lot of passion for it. It feels wonderful to have the first season out and even better to have the second season about to come out. I feel strongly about the second season, and about a lot of the tonal shifts that we’ve made. It’s more interesting, it’s deeper, it’s darker. A lot of the ways we’ve gone about shooting it match the tone of the universe better and I really can’t wait for everybody to see it.

Can you tell us where the story is heading for Season Two of Halo?

There’s a bit of a time jump between Season One and Season Two. At the end of season one, John had given his consciousness over to Cortana to get him and his team out of a pretty tough position in fighting the Covenant and she was controlling him at the end of the season.

At the beginning of Season Two, it’s about six months later, and Cortana is nowhere to be found. John is on his own and we don’t know why. It’ll take a few episodes to unravel what happened in the time jump and why she was taken away.

In the first season, he had a bit of a resistance to Cortana and didn’t see her value until the end of the season when he saw it quite clearly. But in the second season, at the beginning, you feel that he’s wrestling with having had her there, and now there’s an absence and that’s a really interesting place to start.

Season Two takes place around six months after Season One.

A lot happened in Season One! How do we find Master Chief in Season Two?

You find all of the Spartans and the whole Silver Team on a distant planet. They’re all in a foul mood as they have been relegated to mop-up duty. They feel that they’re doing a job that’s below them and they don’t know why. And you find out pretty quickly in meeting this new character, Joseph Akerson, that he’s taken over the reins of the programme from Halsey and ONI have come in and taken the Spartan programme for their own. [Joseph] has his own reasons for wanting them to be sidelined and it’ll take a while for that to play out.

How do we find the rest of the Silver Team in Season Two?

They’re feeling underutilised. They’re in bad spirits. He’s just trying to hold everything together. One of the things I really love about the second season is how much each of the characters in Silver Team get to establish themselves and differentiate themselves from the team. You really get to know Rizz and Kai and Vanik in a way that you didn’t get to know them in the first season. That gives all of the wonderful actors who play these characters a chance to step forward and show what they can do.

All three of them just took the challenge and ran with it and they’re wonderful in the season. It really deepens the experience to get to know the team around him better.

We get to find out more about the members of Silver Team in Season Two of Halo.

Can you tell us any of the planets we’ll be visiting in the show in Season Two?

I can’t! [haha] I can tell you that there’s a pretty decent chance that they’re going to get by the end of the season, somewhere that we’ve been waiting to get to for a very, very long time. I can tell you that there’s a massive event in the middle of the season, that all Halo fans will know, that is tragic and leaves us having to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward.

Those are kind of the two big touchpoints in the season that I think Halo fans will be most excited about.

The last time we spoke, you said it was important to take off Chief’s helmet straight away in Season One, and we can see in the promo images for Season Two that he still has the helmet off. Will we still be seeing the two sides of the character again in this season – that of John and of Master Chief?

Yeah, that’s the approach of the show that I was hired to make. The people who hired me to make this show, it was very important for them to tell the story of a dual-sided character. They wanted to tell the story of Master Chief and they wanted to tell the story of John and so to that end, for the people that hired me and obviously for my job, it was important to see him without the helmet, to see him without the whole suit, and to really get an idea of what was going on underneath the armour.

So that’s the approach that this show has taken. I know that there are fans who take issue with that, there are people who would rather the helmet stay on and that’s fine. I totally respect everybody’s opinion in that regard. When I said – it was taken a little bit out of context and frustratingly so – that if people didn’t like the helmet coming off, they might as well give up on the show, that was a definite misquote. I don’t want anyone to give up on the show, especially anybody who’s a Halo fan.

My deep hope is that as many Halo fans as possible will be able to enjoy this experience and I just hope that everybody will check out the new season and see if there’s something for them in this experience that adds to the Halo universe. That’s the approach that the people who hired me wanted to take, was to add to the experience of the video games, not take away from them. They wanted to add to the experience.

Schreiber hopes that as many Halo fans as possible will be able to enjoy this experience.

What do you think the TV series adds to the Halo universe as a whole?

The opportunity to get to know the main character. Master Chief was created so that you feel like you’re him and so that’s why, in the video games, he doesn’t take his helmet off. You don’t learn anything about the guy underneath the suit because the videogame wants you to believe that you’re him. So that limits your storytelling options in that version.

In the television version, you have the opportunity to investigate the character and see what’s going on underneath the armour in a way that you can’t in the videogames. So that’s I think one of the things that is certainly added in this context, in this universe.

Then just the freedom of storytelling, Of being able to add characters that feel like they’re from the same universe but weren’t necessarily explored in the videogames. Being able to explore characters that might have had a smaller appearance in the videogames, you can go deeper into their storylines. How you can add to the universe is almost unlimited. It’s television, you can do so many different things. So I think that’s the important thing.

If you’re looking for an experience that just re-creates the videogames, you probably won’t find it on this show. But if you’re open to an experience that adds to the videogames and is adjacent to the storytelling of the vide games and expands the universe of Halo in a positive way, then I think everybody can find something that they like.

The first two episodes of Halo Season 2 are out now on Paramount+ 

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