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Halo's Bokeem Woodbine On Rogue Spartans, Character Roots, And Spider-Man: Homecoming - Exclusive Interview

When the Paramount+ TV adaptation of the blockbuster video game "Halo" premiered, fans knew it would include beloved characters like Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber), Cortana (Jen Taylor), and Dr. Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone). What they couldn't predict was all the non-game characters that would populate the world of the TV show, including Soren-066, played by Bokeem Woodbine.

Soren, who wasn't in the games but made an appearance in the book "Halo: Evolutions," was a friend of Master Chief's when they were both kids being raised in the brutal Spartan program. After realizing the horror of what they were being subjected to, Soren escaped and built a new life for himself as a smuggler on Rubble, a settlement on a group of asteroids, complete with a loving wife and young son. Soren's independence from everything controlling Master Chief leads the typically loyal Spartan to bring Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha), the lone human to survive an attack on her home planet, to Rubble so Soren can protect her from Master Chief's people, who had plans to take her out.

Soren is the perfect foil for Master Chief, a former Spartan who's rejected everything John's embraced. Yet, Soren also proves he's still a loyal friend as he's spent much of "Halo"'s first season going out of his way to protect Kwan due to a promise he made to Master Chief. In "Halo" Episode 7, "Inheritance," we get to see more of Soren than ever. In an exclusive conversation with Looper, Woodbine discussed what it was like to spring into action as his character, revealed how he drew on his own experiences to develop Soren, and looked back on working with Tom Holland and Michael Keaton in "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Originating a unique character and getting in on the action

In the "Halo" video games there isn't a Spartan that's escaped like Soren. He's completely unique in that way. What were your thoughts on originating a character like that?

I had a fantastic template in the "Halo" lore. When I read the screenplays, I got the sense of a person who is rebellious by nature, but not necessarily without a cause. He's a sincere profiteer. He loves to profit. That's part of his nature as well, and I really felt like I could give a voice to the character.

In Episode 7, he gets in on the action and we get to see his Spartan skills. What was it like to explore that side of his abilities?

It was a lot of fun working with our stunt team and our VFX department and having the opportunity to make some suggestions here and there about the action. They allowed me to feel as though I was a participant in the whole design of the action. I felt really grateful to be able to be on board on that side of things, and it was a tremendous amount of fun.

How his adolescence inspired his take on Soren

The episode also shows so many different sides of Soren's personality. He can be ruthless, but he's also got a big soft spot. He's very honorable in a lot of ways. How did you go about navigating all those facets of who he is?

He reminds me of [myself] in my late adolescence, and that's a lot of the source material I draw upon. He reminds me of how I felt about things when I was younger. You had to have your head on a swivel and be aware of your surroundings where I was from, which gives you a certain, for lack of a better word, edge. At the same time, I remember when I was younger, how I was determined to approach life with some chivalry. To the extent that I failed and to the extent that I succeeded, I learned about things.

Because Soren is, in some respects, ever new to the world now that the [emotional suppression] pellet [implanted in all Spartans] has been removed, even though it was a non-issue a long time ago, he still approaches the world in a new fashion. I tried to draw upon those experiences and think about how I thought about life back then.

Building a relationship with Kwan and learning about Soren's past

One of the things we've seen over the past several episodes is Soren building a relationship with Kwan. What was it like to create that relationship over time?

[Kwan actor] Yerin [Ha] is a delight to work with, and it formed naturally, that dynamic, while we were doing the work. It came out of the experience of working with such a talented performer in the context of the screenplays. It was a natural evolution.

Soren has built a pretty impressive life for himself, given where he comes from, but he hasn't forgotten his past. How did you go about developing him so viewers could understand his present while stirring in hints of his past?

I believe that the conversations I had with [director] Otto Bathurst and [creator and writer] Steven Kane early on informed me about his origin story. We spent a lot of time discussing that. I feel like that was excellent preparation for me.

Re-connecting with Master Chief and hopes for the future

In the second episode of Halo, Master Chief seeks Soren out after many years. While they were friends, a lot's changed. What did you want to convey about Soren in your interactions with Master Chief actor Pablo Schreiber in those scenes?

I was trying to be honest about what it feels like when you see a dear old friend that you left on bad terms. When a friendship doesn't even really have a chance to necessarily be dissolved absolutely, and you don't see them for decades, what does that feel like? Aren't you happy to see them to some degree? Isn't there always that lingering sense of, "You let me down, pal"?

Are we going to see Soren reunite with Master Chief at any point in time in the next few episodes of the show?

I haven't any idea. It's almost like a Spartan mind wipe. After I left the set, I can't remember anything.

I assume that means you can't tease what we can expect from Soren for the remainder of the season.

Oh, I wouldn't want to misguide you. So, no.

Do have any particular hopes for Soren's arc in Season 2?

I would hope that wherever he goes, he's prepared, he's confident, and not without some charm.

Working on Spider-Man: Homecoming

In "Spider-Man: Homecoming" you played Herman Shultz, AKA the second Shocker, one of the gang of antagonists led by Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes. What was it like working with him and Tom Holland on that film?

Working with Michael Keaton and Tom Holland was an amazing experience. Tom Holland is an absolute gentleman. A gem. He comes from good stock, as they say. Michael Keaton is one of my heroes, an excellent cat, amazing at his craft. I love him to death. That's my pal. It was so great. Jon Watts, the director was so much fun to work with, such a cool dude, so open to suggestions. It was a great experience.

In "Morbius," Toomes gets out of prison and seems to be trying to get a new gang together. Is there any chance we might see your character again in future Sony Marvel movies?

The thing about Marvel is [that] anything's possible.

The role he hopes to play

You have an amazingly eclectic filmography. Is there one role that you would love to play that you haven't yet?

Wow. I don't think anybody's ever asked me that. Oh man, I almost don't want to say in case somebody takes the idea, but I'm sure they're probably already thinking of it. There's some historical figures I'd love to play. One of them was a cat named Yasuke. Basically, this cat was a slave who found himself in Japan and became a samurai. He was a Black samurai.

I'm not sure if he was from Senegal or Sudan, I forget, but he was physically imposing and naturally athletic and talented and picked up the sword skills quickly and naturally, and was known as a badass dude. He was a Black samurai, basically, so that would be a dream.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

New episodes of Halo premiere Thursdays on Paramount+.