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Why Dr. Halsey From The Halo TV Series Looks So Familiar

Fans of the "Halo" video game franchise are gearing up to witness the upcoming live-action series adaptation, set to premiere on Paramount+ sometime in 2022. Trailers for the series look promising, with the franchise's protagonist, Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber), being thrillingly brought to life. However, among the various shots of spaceships, supersoldiers, and other "Halo" iconography is another important character.

While she is never specifically identified in the trailer, longtime fans of the series can probably piece together that the narrator and the blond scientist character we are shown are likely one and the same. On top of that, it's fairly obvious that this enigmatic figure is meant to be Dr. Catherine Halsey, the controversial transhumanist genius responsible for creating the SPARTAN supersoldiers (including Master Chief), as well as the smart AI known as Cortana.

But "Halo" history isn't the only reason fans would find Dr. Halsey from the "Halo" TV series familiar. It turns out that she is being played by a very prolific actress, none other than Natascha McElhone. If that name doesn't ring a bell, then we're fairly confident at least some of her roles will.

McElhone made her name with The Truman Show

While the English-born McElhone had some early breakout roles in a variety of TV series — the first being two episodes of "Ruth Rendell Mysteries" in 1990 (via IMDb) — her first major leading role came in the 1996 Anthony Hopkins starring film "Surviving Picasso." However, arguably her first big break didn't come until two years later when she starred opposite Jim Carrey as Sylvia (aka Laura) in "The Truman Show." Sylvia serves a major role as the love interest who initially sparks Truman's skepticism about the false world around him, leading to the eventual realization that he is the unwilling star in a reality TV series that documents his life.

McElhone discussed this aspect of the film in a red carpet interview with HeyUGuys. "Of its time it was so prophetic," McElhone said. "Reality TV didn't exist, and people weren't filming themselves getting out of bed and having breakfast and doing selfies all over the place."

McElhone followed up The Truman Show with Ronin

In 1998, the same year as the release of "The Truman Show," McElhone co-starred in the action-thriller "Ronin" alongside Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Sean Bean, Stellan Skarsgard, and Jonathan Pryce. McElhone played Deirdre, an Irish IRA operative gunning for the film's notorious Mcguffin briefcase. In an interview with Bobbie Wygant, McElhone spoke about how new certain aspects of the action genre were to her at the time.

"Obviously, I had never had a gun before in England. We don't have guns," McElhone explained. She went on to praise the film's weapons expert, saying, "He was very professional and they were very safe about that sort of thing because terrible accidents have happened with guns being loaded on set ... John [Frankenheimer] made sure with the driving and with [weapons] that we were all trained ... So that helped. I feel pretty gun-happy now."

Since then, McElhone hasn't been able to put her gun training to too much use, as her career has been more focused on drama rather than action. True to that sentiment, McElhone's next big film strays away from exciting setpieces and instead, discusses themes of love and loss, albeit in a more unique sci-fi setting.

Solaris put McElhone opposite George Clooney in a space-faring drama

Over the four years following the release of "Ronin," McElhone appeared in a number of films, including a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost," a role opposite Christian Bale in "Laurel Canyon," and a return to crime films with "City of Ghosts." However, her next notable starring role came in 2002 with "Solaris," a sci-fi drama about a scientist sent to a space station orbiting a foreign planet that is populated by false versions of people's loved ones.

In the film, McElhone plays Rheya, the deceased wife of Dr. Chris Kelvin (George Clooney), as well as Rheya's doppelganger once Kelvin boards the space station. "[Rheya] is someone who is complex and passionate," McElhone said in a red carpet interview with Screen Slam. "[She's] very much in love with the man that she is with, and sort of lives for him. As soon as he becomes unavailable, then she believes that life isn't worth living anymore."

McElhone joined David Duchovny in Californication

While Natascha McElhone has had consistent roles in various TV series in between her films, her first recurring role came with the award-winning 2007 series "Californication." As Karen, the frustrated romantic partner of the series' washed-out author protagonist, Hank (David Duchovny), McElhone became a frequent face on American television for seven straight seasons.

In contrast to the series' almost x-rated nature, McElhone told The Guardian that she felt it was a good job to support her family, especially after the death of her husband. Even so, the adult aspects of the show were rarely something her character had to deal with directly. "My character isn't involved in that. What's funny is, in L.A. anyway, it's women who often come up to me and say how much they love the show," she explained. "It often occurs to me that no one, but no one comes up to me and says God, I find the sexuality in it offensive. Or I find the depiction of women in it offensive. Quite the opposite in fact."

"Californication" won two Primetime Emmys, once in 2008 and another in 2009 (via IMDb). It also won a Golden Globe and received five additional nominations. With these accolades, "Californication" still holds up as McElhone's most critically acclaimed TV role to date. However, it wouldn't be her last.

McElhone played the First Lady in Designated Survivor

Between starting her tenure on "Californication" and her next significant TV gig, Natascha McElhone appeared in a few more notable roles. The most unique of these is likely her role as Marie Belmont in the video game "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow" and its sequel. She also played Lady Capulet in the 2013 remake of "Romeo and Juliet" and starred alongside Eddie Murphy in the film "Mr. Church."

When it comes to major TV series, however, McElhone's next notable role is most certainly that of Alex Kirkman in 2016's "Designated Survivor." Starring alongside Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, McElhone plays the First Lady of the United States after her husband Tom (the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) is named the de facto U.S. President when he emerges as the highest-ranking survivor on the line of succession in the aftermath of a bombing on the Capitol Building.

McElhone would end up leaving the series after its second season. Despite her early departure, McElhone appears to have parted ways amicably with her "Designated Survivor" co-workers. In response to her departure, showrunner Keith Eisner told The Wrap, "She's super talented, and we've loved what she's done for the show, and we're excited for her new endeavor and the other opportunities she wanted to pursue as well as this show."

McElhone saved The First for last

McElhone took on a different sci-fi series before diving into the "Halo" universe. The Hulu original series "The First," which chronicles humanity's first mission to Mars, may not be the same sort of ludicrous sci-fi that "Halo" embodies, but there are certain things about it, and McElhone's character, that are sure to come in handy in portraying Dr. Halsey.

"The First" has McElhone portraying Laz Ingram, the CEO of the company sponsoring the mission in question. She's quite a determined character, willing to sacrifice lives for what she believes to be the greater good. In fact, in an interview with Channel4, McElhone described her character as "unapologetic" and "someone who does not understand why people don't see what she sees." She also contrasted Laz with her more passive, romantic role from "Solaris," saying she "liked playing a zealot."

Unfortunately, "The First" only ran for a single season. However, that season alone should serve as decent preparation for "Halo." Like Laz, Dr. Halsey can be cold and ruthless in the interest of her goals. In creating the first wave of SPARTANs, Halsey and the Office of Naval Intelligence kidnapped thousands of children and forcibly raised them into genetically modified supersoldiers. Many died in the process, and many more would die in battle. But, like Laz, Dr. Halsey remains wholly unapologetic about her creations, which end up saving humanity from multiple alien threats.