DR CATHERINE ELIZABETH HALSEY
What was the pitch that eventually got you to sign up to Halo?
One of the creatives was persistent, and she shall remain nameless. But we had quite a few meetings, and what was pitched to me was, we’re really not interested in just putting a game on screen. What we want to do is use this platform of existing interest and excitement, and jump into a world that you can explore deep and discover. Now, if it’s AI that gets your vote – which I am intrigued by that world – then this is for you. You will get to explore and research layer upon layer upon layer, because we’re so far in the future, we don’t even know what this world is going to look like.
Dr Halsey, in both the game and and series, is tasked with saving humanity via her Spartan soldiers. Is she heroic or morally questionable in your eyes?
I’m really fascinated by the practice that morality always lags behind the technology that becomes possible. I feel she is a perfect example of this, albeit a deeply fictionalised one. There are so many axes of quite deep, philosophical, moral, social dilemmas, and constructs that we take for granted. Her job is to save the future of mankind and billions of people. That utilitarian mindset of her mothering capability is an upscaling of that maternal feeling that we hold such reverence for in our moral construct today. By saying, “I’m going to be mother to every generation that I will never meet,” there’s no pay-off for her. The people that she saves will never know her. I find that really fascinating. It goes back to the building of the Sistine Chapel on a very different scale. People who were involved in that knew that they would never see the result of their endeavours. I sort of feel it’s like a futuristic version of that as well.
Is her detachment from what she’s doing to people like John for the ultimate good worth it?
Well, I feel she can see the meteor coming. But no one else, for some reason, has been given that lens. She’s going, “We need to move a thousand times quicker!” So, this idea that you’re worried about your feelings, or that you weren’t raised by your parents… are you kidding? You’ve become the tool that I can use to save mankind, what could be more heroic of a human being than giving you this opportunity? I don’t even think she’s in a moral conundrum about it. She’s peeled back the corners of perception, I feel, and is able to see behind this curtain, so all of what’s here and now has melted away and become totally irrelevant. And we do see that with inventors and creators. They’re often vilified during their lifetime.
Originally you were going to play both Halsey and Cortana, is that correct?
Yes. It was a great theoretical, imaginative leap into the unknown that was very cool because Jen [Taylor] did both in the game as the voice. But when you’re playing it with CGI and with greenscreen, the amount of time involved to be on two different stages, there was just absolutely no way we were going to make good on that. So, when Jen arrived, I was so relieved. And then to see the animated version of her was really gratifying. You have the reward of actually seeing her Jen-ness come through and her endlessly optimistic, positive intelligence, just beaming through Cortana.