After what feels like eons, HALO has finally arrived on our TV screens. Based on the hit franchise that began with the 2001 Xbox game, the series does something different from the games: it goes deep into who Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) is. A major catalyst for this is a Covenant attack on Madrigal where John 117 meets Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha), the daughter of a general who is fighting for independence from the government that rules Earth and its colonies.
Here’s where things get interesting (and a spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the first episode yet): Master Chief starts questioning the UNSC’s motives when they ask him to execute Kwan. Oh, and he starts remembering things from his past that he’d been programmed to forget.
During the HALO press day at SXSW 2022, we took part in virtual round table conversations with some of the cast and producers, including Yerin Ha. Here is what she shared with us about balancing action with emotion, Kwan’s on-screen relationship with Master Chief, and playing the character that viewers will most closely relate to.
The opening sequence is so powerful in establishing Kwan and what Madrigal’s been fighting for. Action sequences are already challenging to film, but then this is layered with intense emotion where you immediately feel for the character. How did you prepare for balancing the physical and the emotional weight of that opening?
It’s quite tough, but having incredible direction from Otto Bathurst and working alongside incredible actors helps. Jung Hwan, who plays my dad, was immediately welcoming and I felt this dad-daughter connection. But you have to trust that the director is seeing and getting everything that they need at that moment. If they’re not, you hope that they’ll tell you and guide you because it is a collaborative, team effort. I tried to have open communication with Otto and make sure that they were getting exactly what they wanted. Also, I put myself in her shoes — as tough as that is to see with aliens — but it’s loss, it’s grieving. Absolutely everything that you love is gone, and feeling that hollowness that Kwan must have felt at that moment is how I tried to tackle it.
What kind of prep went into the stunts and more physical scenes for your character?
I started and grew up with theatre, so everything is about body awareness. Kwan is sassy and feisty — she’s still a 16-year-old — so I let the emotion guide me to how I wanted her to walk, or run when she’s running for her life. I also tried not to overthink it too much because I wanted her to be near and dear to who I am as an actor.
Do you think that Kwan will be the most relatable character for viewers who are not familiar with HALO? Is she a gateway into the franchise for them?
Totally. Kwan is the new audience’s eye in because we see her from the beginning. She’s not happy on Madrigal. All she knows is this planet, and her dad’s been fighting for years to gain independence from the UNSC. But everything else, like Kwan seeing Master Chief for the first time and seeing the Covenant, it’s all new to her. She’s processing this information for the first time, and the new audience will be able to relate to her.
What can you share about Kwan’s dynamic with Master Chief?
Her sarcasm and honesty bring out a new side to Master Chief that we’ve never really seen. She’s a real human being who’s not apologetic for who she is and what she says. Master Chief is like, “Oh, she’s talking to me like this?” Also, Kwan doesn’t want anything from him. That’s why they’re able to have this interesting communication between them, but he also arrives at a fateful time for her.
Kwan is just done with everything. She has nothing to lose anymore. Master Chief is physically daunting but Kwan is emotionally as strong. I approached her with that energy and spirit. As intimidating as Pablo may be as Master Chief, that’s how I tackled it.
Photos Courtesy of Paramount Plus