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Joseph Morgan Discusses His Role as Colonel James Ackerson on Season 2 of ‘HALO’

Actor Joseph Morgan joins us to discuss his role as Colonel James Ackerson on Season 2 of the hit action series ‘HALO’ on PARAMOUNT+.



Joseph Morgan

In HALO Season 2, Master Chief John-117 (Pablo Schreiber) leads 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. He 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 begins to find the key to humankind’s salvation or its extinction: the Halo.

HALO stars Pablo Schreiber (American Gods) as Master Chief, Spartan-117, and Natascha McElhone (Californication) as Dr. Halsey, who both serve as producers this season. Additional returning cast members include Jen Taylor (HALO game series, RWBY), Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo), Shabana Azmi (Fire), Natasha Culzac (The Witcher), Olive Gray (Half Moon Investigations), Yerin Ha (Reef Break), Bentley Kalu (Avengers: Age of Ultron), Kate Kennedy (Catastrophe), Charlie Murphy (Peaky Blinders), and Danny Sapani (Penny Dreadful).

New additions to the cast in Season 2 include Joseph Morgan (Vampire Diaries, The Originals), Cristina Rodlo (No One Gets Out of Here Alive, The Homeless World Cup), and Christina Bennington (Midsomer Murders). In Season 2, Fiona O’Shaughnessy (The Forgiven) and Tylan Bailey also return as series regulars.

All HALO Season 2 Episodes are now available to stream on Paramount+ in Canada.

We thank Joseph Morgan for taking the time last week to field a few questions for V13 via Zoom. The audio (via SoundCloud) and video are available here if you’d prefer to hear Morgan’s answers in real time.

Is there a story behind how you got attached to your role in season two of Halo?

Joseph Morgan: “Yeah, it was really through David Wiener, the showrunner. I’d worked with him before on a show called Brave New World based on the Aldous Huxley novel. So we did a season of that together, and I just hit it off with him. I really enjoyed the process of working with him. And so we kept in touch, and then he called me and said, ‘I’ve got a new show I’m doing, and there’s a role that I’ve written with you in mind, and I’d love to send you some of the scripts and see if you’re into it.’

“And he sent me an email first, and at the bottom of the email, it said, ‘David Wiener series, showrunner Halo, season two.’ I thought (gasps), ‘his new show is Halo!’ So, being a fan of the games and the franchise, I was incredibly excited to be a part of it and read those scripts. So yeah, he really plugged me into it.”

When you were reading the scripts, what characteristics did you know you wanted to bring to your character on the show as you were going through them?

“Well, I knew I wanted to make him relatable. I knew he would come across as a villain at first, certainly. And people were going to think that we were buying into that trope of the new boss who comes in, who turns out to be the villain, which we’ve seen so many times before. But I knew David wanted to flip that on its head later in the season.

“So, for me, the key was I wanted people to question themselves when watching him. So I knew I had to bring out some of his vulnerability, which I tried to do in the scene with his dad. And then, as the pressure mounts in those private moments, he has where you see the strain that all of this is having on him, making these tough decisions. So I felt like if I could bring out those characteristics, then people would at least understand where he was coming from, if not agree with what he was doing.

“Also, the character came across as so dynamic and charismatic on the page. I knew I wanted to try and put some of that across as well because there’s a whole lot of fun in playing a character like that. And I love to watch scenes with characters where you feel like the actor is having a blast as well, where they’re really having fun playing this character. And I’m having fun watching it. So, I knew that was important to come across as well.”

Did you have to do any research on military protocol to do this character? Any fact-checking, anything like that?

“I was very familiar with the games, of course, the franchise. And I read some of the graphic novels to familiarize myself with Ackerson. Then we had a military advisor on set as well, who I talked to. And I also employed a sort of strict physical regime. Even though Ackerson wasn’t involved in too much action, I felt it was important to develop that routine for myself because this was a man of military bearing who had come up through the UNSC and had that outlook on life and that kind of demeanour that comes with that level of routine and putting yourself through something like that. And he’s a man who’s lost friends on the battlefield and been through those experiences. So yeah, there was certainly some of that I wanted to bring into it.”

Is there room for you to ad-lib on a show like Halo?

“I mean, I do, I have (laughs). I don’t know how much I’m allowed. This was the great thing about working with David, actually.

“OK, so I’ll say this. The writing was so great that I had a lot of incredible dialogue that I didn’t need to change a thing. I did ad-lib sometimes. I threw some lines in, and David was great because he would always be around, and he’d come to set and say, ‘I loved what you said here. Let’s keep that. Lose this, though; I didn’t like the way that line went, so we won’t do that.’

“And then he’d constantly be changing the dialogue as well. He’d come in between takes and go, ‘Actually, let’s lose this section and can you say this and this instead?” And so we’re always trying to improve it as we are making it because he’s hearing what works and what doesn’t work. So that gave me the feeling of freedom to experiment myself.”

Halo Season 2 poster

Halo Season 2 poster

And finally, is there any additional prep or work that you have to do when you’re on a show that has so much CGI like Halo has?

“Not really. The sets were almost all practical, so they built a lot of them. But a lot of what you see outside the windows of the ships, for example, was blue screen and green screen. It was CGI.

“For me, the final episode, the finale, involved a little more of the kind of CGI in the room, so you had to be aware of that, but it wasn’t too taxing. I’ve worked in that way before and you just use your imagination, which is part of the job really. It’s what we do. So, it just requires a little more of that.”