When Halo returns for Season 2 it’s going to feel a little different to its freshman season. The series has a new showrunner, a more serious tone filled with political sci-fi intrigue and it has a few new faces, one of the most significant being Joseph Morgan.
The actor, known for his work on The Vampire Diaries and Brave New World, told Lifehacker Australia via Zoom that his love for the video game franchise made a role in the TV adaptation “hard to turn down”:
“It was undeniably exciting for me because I grew up playing the games… I really knew the world and was so familiar with it,” he said.
It also offered a chance for Morgan to reunite with his Brave New World producer David Wiener, who took over show running duties on Season 2 of Halo.
“[It was] his vision, his reimagining of the Halo series…” Morgan said. “He sent me the first three scripts when he approached me about the role and they were just so good, and my scenes in them were so good.”
“I felt like the character is a bit of a scene-stealer. He’s got just such incredible charismatic dialogue. [It] has so much subtext to it, so many layers going on. And then, just when you think ‘I know who this guy is’, [in] the third episode, you just open up all of these kinds of vulnerabilities about the character and these personal truths that lead you to understand really, why he is the way he is and where he’s coming from. I just felt like there was so much opportunity there. I just had to do it.”
The scene-stealing character in question is UNSC intelligence officer James Ackerson, who is brought in to replace Doctor Halsey (Natascha McElhone) as the head of the Spartan program.
Entering as the new villain is certainly a challenge in Halo, particularly when it means squaring off against the formidable presence of Pablo Schrieber’s Spartan hero. But Ackerson finds other ways to meddle with the Master Chief that aren’t just physical.
“[Ackerson’s] mission, and his goal is the survival of the human race. He believes that he knows the best way to ensure that for the greater good of humanity, and everybody else needs to fall in line and to do things his way,” Morgan explained. “In order to get them to do that, he’ll do whatever it takes to manipulate them, in whatever way he needs to he’ll puppeteer people. Because he truly believes what he’s doing is right.”
James Ackerson is a character that hasn’t been seen in Halo video games, but was introduced in the wider narrative of tie-in novels and comic books. The Halo producers have established that the TV show sits on a parallel ‘Silver Timeline’ which explains many of the variations from the games. The same goes for Morgan’s portrayal of Ackerson which he said is a “bit of a different take” to the source material.
“I think there’s certainly some aspects that I drew upon and in backstory as well for Ackerson, that I was wanting to use, but really, it was a balance of that, and then what was on the page, what was in the script,” the actor explained. “…I wanted to make him a fully rounded character. So although he may appear like he might be some sort of villain in the beginning, I wanted to make him a character that people relate to, and that people understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, even if they don’t agree with it.”
That idea of a well-rounded sympathetic antagonist is something that Morgan is already very effective at, having portrayed notorious villain Klaus Mikaelson for over ten years on The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. The actor agreed there are definitely some similarities between the two.
“That unpredictability, I love that about Klaus and I feel like James has that to a certain extent where he likes to catch people off guard,” Morgan mused. “He’s certainly a high-status character, and so they share that as well. He’s very confident.
“And then also, you know, because it’s me, I like to look for those elements of vulnerability and those moments that people are going to relate to, so that they’re going to root for my character. Even though they might feel, initially, like they’re not going to, I want to win them over. I see that as a personal challenge.”
Morgan said to keep an eye on Episode 3 of Season 2 for a moment with Ackerson that may surprise audiences.
“There’s a scene where we see an aspect of Ackerson, that we really haven’t seen before and it’s much more personal and real and vulnerable and it shows us really the purest version of him,” Morgan teased.
“…I got to work with an incredibly talented actor who was a bit of a national treasure [and] a bit of a hero of mine, so that was also a very exciting moment for me career-wise.”
As for whether Ackerson will be a one-season character or whether he has some longevity in the Halo TV show, Morgan was uncertain but “would like to think” he’ll be back.
“Although he’ll be very, very different by the time we get there, because he’s got a hell of a journey ahead in Season 2. But listen, if they make the call then I’m going to answer it.”
Halo Season 2 begins streaming on Paramount+ on February 8.
Lead Image Credit: Paramount+
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