Sophie Becher interview: ‘Halo’ production designer
“I always start from the ground up,” reveals production designer Sophie Becher about massive undertaking of designing the look and feel of the Paramount Plus blockbuster sci-fi drama “Halo.” For our recent webchat she adds, “I imagine, on every show I do; I just put myself in that world,” noting that the breathtaking final product adheres so closely to her initial concept designs that she ultimately felt “really proud” that her and her team pulled it off. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
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“Halo” was developed by Kyle Killen (“Lone Star,” “Awake”) and Steven Kane (“The Closer,” “The Last Ship”), who adapted the series from the blockbuster Xbox franchise that is among the most popular video game series of all time. The space opera is set during a 26th-century war between the United Nations Space Command and the Covenant, a theocratic-military alliance of advanced alien races determined to eradicate the human race, starring Emmy nominee Pablo Schreiber (“Orange is the New Black”) as Master Chief, a genetically enhanced super-soldier fighting both a villainous species of aliens and his own past demons. Jen Taylor reprises her role as Cortana from the game series, alongside co-stars Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Olive Gray, Yerin Ha, Bentley Kalu, Kate Kennedy, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Bokeem Woodbine and Natascha McElhone.
The sci-fi blockbuster premiered this spring on Paramount Plus, breaking records by becoming the streaming platform’s most-watched original series ever within 24 hours after its premiere. Epic and ambitious in scope, it aims to elevate the source material into a thrilling action-adventure saga about humanity’s fate in a distant interstellar future. For Becher, that meant designing the show’s militaristic and other-worldly aesthetic while also immersing the audience in the more intimate character-driven elements of the story. And while realizing the look and feel of the sprawling space saga was challenging, Becher and her team pulled it off by always aiming to ground the series in reality. “I wanted to push it and make it feel much more visceral and grounded, because obviously when you’re playing a computer game you’re sitting behind a console and you’re playing with your remote,” she explains. “But we wanted to make everybody feel like they were in the world.”
“Halo” opens with the bloody Covenant ambush on the insurrectionist outpost on the arid planet of Madrigal, which sets the scene for the entire show. That meant that the success of the show depended to some extent on hooking the audience within the first few minutes and ensuring the outpost looked impressive onscreen. “One of the most important things for me was that we decided that you have to know where you were in any particular moment on each planet. It had to have a very strong identity, and so Madrigal we decided was red and very barren, with hardly any vegetation,” Becher explains. “Then you just start to build up, and this is a way that I work with my team, we say, well, what would their natural resources be; and that’s how you create a world.”