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Bokeem Woodbine, Joseph Morgan discuss 'Halo' Season 2 retooling

Bokeem Woodbine returns in "Halo" Season 2. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Bokeem Woodbine returns in "Halo" Season 2. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Halo star Bokeem Woodbine and new cast member Joseph Morgan said the series, based on the Xbox game and premiering Thursday on Paramount+, undergoes changes in focus and tone in Season 2.

The show follows Spartan marines in battle armor waging a war against Covenant aliens. Woodbine, 50, who plays space pirate Soren, said new showrunner David Weiner focuses on the people inside the armor.

"Everybody's not always in the armor this season," Woodbine told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "That was a concerted effort on the part of our showrunner ... to get to some of the humanity of the people in the armor."

The fewer scenes in Spartan armor the better, Woodbine said. The armor costumes are so heavy that the actors have to practice by wearing 25-pound weighted vests for three hours daily to get used to moving in them.

"The costume doesn't care about your feelings, man," Woodbine said. "You just have to accept that you have limited range of motion, limited mobility. It's not personal."

James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan) takes over the Spartans in "Halo" Season 2. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan) takes over the Spartans in "Halo" Season 2. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

A scene in the season's second episode has Soren wearing a space suit for a mission. Though they are more similar to NASA's modern-day space suits, Woodbine said he did not feel any more comfortable in that scene.

"I don't ever want to wear a space suit," Woodbine said. "If Ridley Scott was like, 'I want to cast you as the lead in my new movie, but you gotta wear a space suit the whole time,' I'd probably say, 'Look man, Sir Ridley, I'm going to have to pass.'"

Bokeem Woodbine doesn't miss the Spartan armor. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Bokeem Woodbine doesn't miss the Spartan armor. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

Soren was suited up less than co-stars Pablo Schreiber and Kate Kennedy. Soren was kicked out of the Spartan program by Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) and he blames Halsey for the physical damage he suffered.

Season 2 introduces James Ackerson (Morgan), who takes over the Spartan program after Halsey is convicted of treason. Morgan, 42, said Weiner offered him the role, having previously cast him in Brave New World.

Bokeem Woodbine prefers the less bulky costume. Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Bokeem Woodbine prefers the less bulky costume. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

A fan of the Halo games since the 2001 Xbox launch, Morgan said he appreciated Weiner's new approach to the show.

"It's grittier and grimier -- more consistent action, but more character-driven all the way through," Morgan said.

Ackerson (Joseph Morgan) confronts his predecessor, Dr. Halsey (Natascha McElhone). Photo courtesy of Paramount+
Ackerson (Joseph Morgan) confronts his predecessor, Dr. Halsey (Natascha McElhone). Photo courtesy of Paramount+

Halo is the second show Morgan has joined in its second season. He also came aboard for The Vampire Diaries as Klaus, a role he continued to play in spinoffs The Originals and Legacies.

"What I like to do is find a show that's worked out the kinks and built up a fan base and then come in and steal it all in the second season," Morgan joked. "I'm just hovering, looking for shows like that."

Ackerson also seeks to correct Halsey's mistakes.

"Now, finally everything can be done as it should be done and run properly," Morgan said. "It's about time."

Meanwhile, Soren hopes to bring Halsey to justice. Though space piracy served Soren well and the new season finds him retired, Woodbine said a chance to hold Halsey accountable brings Soren out of retirement.

"He's still also driven to seek and chase this ghost that is all in his mind," Woodbine said. "He thinks if he can bring Catherine Halsey to justice, he can redeem himself and get some revenge, too."

Joining Halo made Morgan feel like he was in the game, he said. Ackerson's scenes in briefing rooms were adorned with full-sized military jeeps like the Warthog.

"Now, I'm seeing a Warthog that's massive in real life," Morgan said. "That was the surreal part of it and really the final step in immersing yourself in those worlds."

Morgan said he also visited the bridge of a Covenant ship and admired the Spartan armor, even though Ackerson does not suit up himself.

"If you're asking me if I took any photos of myself wearing the helmet when no one was looking. I'm not going to tell you that," Morgan joked.

Even after two seasons, Woodbine remains impressed by how much of Halo consists of physical sets built by crews. Aliens and some outer space environments are the product of computer graphics, but Halo constructed the majority of environments on Earth.

"It just blew my mind," Woodbine said. "Where did they find the time to build these sets? How is this even possible? We had some stages that were huge, huge stages -- some of the biggest stages I've ever seen."

Morgan said he was aware of criticism from Halo fans online, just as he observed criticism from Vampire Diaries fans. He said he hopes Halo players appreciate the show's new direction in Season 2.

"What's also evident is how much people care about the game and about the franchise in general," Morgan said. "We've made a show which is the Halo I want to watch so I hope everyone else enjoys it."