Yerin Ha's Halo
The actress was a quick study for her role on the Paramount+ show.
"We don't see many Asian characters like Kwan Ha." So says Yerin Ha, who plays the feisty teenage rebel in the Paramount+ series Halo. "She speaks her mind and is brutally honest."
The show is based on the well-known futuristic video game series, but "Kwan is original to the TV world," says Ha, who happily shares a last name with her character. "She is the audience's eye into this world."
Ha — the actress — grew up in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, one of the few Asian students in her school. "I was shy," she recalls, "and acting was a means of escape."
Seeing no Asian faces on Australian TV, Ha decided to pursue her career in South Korea, where her grandparents were both actors. She moved there at fifteen to study at a performing arts school.
After graduation, a friend showed her a TV casting call for a sixteen-year-old Southeast Asian or East Asian girl who spoke English — no acting experience required. Following several rounds of Zoom auditions, Ha won the role in Halo.
The show wasn't scheduled to shoot immediately, so she booked a gig on ABC's crime drama Reef Break, which shot on Australia's Gold Coast. There she learned the basics of working on a set, and when Halo production began, her education continued.
On the Paramount+ series, she draws out the protective instincts of a genetically engineered super-soldier, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, played by Pablo Schreiber. "Pablo is such a giving scene partner," she says. "Learning how he operates was like a master class."
Acting, she adds, is a demanding job, and Halo has taught her the value of taking risks. Ha loves playing a character who doesn't hold back, noting, "She's a fighter for her people and her community."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #2, 2023, under the title, "If the Halo Fits."