Watch: Pablo Schreiber discusses taking off Master Chief's helmet in Halo
Pablo Schreiber says the removal of Master Chief's famous helmet in the Halo TV series was 'an important piece of the puzzle' in telling the show's story.
Canadian star Schreiber plays the genetically-enhanced hero in the adaptation of the video game franchise, which arrives in the UK as part of the launch offering for new streaming service Paramount+.
The series follows the super soldier as he plays his part in the conflict between human beings and the alien order known as the Covenant.
In the very first episode, Chief removes his helmet — something game devotees had not seen across the 20-year history of the franchise.
Schreiber told Yahoo he felt removing the helmet was 'a necessary step' for him and the character in this version of the Halo story.
He added: "Everyone has their opinion on whether that is [necessary] or not and if you're a deep, deep Halo fan then I think, for a lot of people, there's a desire to have the same experience as you had when you played the game.
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"That was certainly not a huge priority for most of the people creating the show. It was to create a universe that felt familiar to the games, so you could be in a universe that felt the same but have a different and unique experience.
"To that end, taking the helmet off felt like a very important piece of that puzzle. As controversial as it is in some corners, it didn't feel hugely controversial for me."
The 44-year-old confessed he was a little surprised at the intensity of the reaction to his face appearing from behind the character's visor.
He said: "I knew what Halo meant to people. I knew how big of a franchise it was. I knew how much passion there was in the fanbase, but I don't think I had a real sense of what the day-to-day interactions were like and what the tone was like on social media and all of that stuff until we released."
Halo franchise overseer Kiki Wolfkill added that some gamers have been waiting for two decades to catch a glimpse of the man beneath the armour.
She said: "You're always gonna have both [viewpoints]. It was very important for the journey of John — the man inside the helmet — to be able to see him."
Despite confidence around the decision to see Master Chief without his famous headgear, Wolfkill said she remained aware of the potential for backlash from video game fans.
"With any creative endeavour, there's always a little bit of anxiety around how it will be received," she confessed.
"But the fans are super-passionate. You definitely get used to that with the games and, for me, the opportunity to try to give them something new was really exciting."
Schreiber is joined in the Halo cast by British performer Natascha McElhone, who plays Dr Catherine Halsey — artificial intelligence enthusiast and boss of the Spartan initiative which birthed Chief.
McElhone said joining the franchise and going through "Halo boot camp" was something of a "baptism of fire", but helped her to research the character and the world of AI for herself.
She said: "I read quite a few books and got very into Nick Bostrom and Stuart Russell and Ray Kurzwei — all these guys who made me think about life in a very different way, to be honest. It was really instructive and interesting.
"It's always good, particularly if you're doing a TV show that you want to run for multiple seasons, to dig deep and plant your seedlings far into the ground so that you don't get bored of the part that you're playing.
"I wanted to make sure, pushing that analogy, that the tree could have many branches."
Halo has already been renewed for a second season at Paramount+, with Schreiber keen to get back into the suit — helmet or not — to continue telling this sprawling sci-fi story.
Schreiber said: "It was a great vote of confidence from Paramount+ to know that they loved the material as much as they did and that it means as much to them and the future of the platform to make that vote of confidence.
"Now we do the harder work, which is taking what we learned on season one and turning it into an even better season two. That's where my head's at and I'm really excited about that opportunity."
Halo is available on Paramount+ now. New episodes will be available to stream weekly on Wednesdays.
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