Halo Cortana

All about Cortana and the voice actress who made her an icon

By Olivia Richman


Apr 3, 2022

Reading time: 4 min

Cortana is one of the most iconic characters in Halo, an artificial intelligence that has a close relationship with Master Chief. It’s no surprise that she is also present in the new live-action series on Paramount+. Her latest appearance has raised even more questions about this important figure in Halo lore, and we have the answers.

Who is Cortana in Halo?

Cortana is an AI that appears throughout the games in the Halo franchise, often assisting players by hacking alien computer systems and decoding transmissions.

Cortana is a clone of Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey’s brain. She was the scientist behind the SPARTAN-II super soldier project. AI in Halo’s world, including Cortana, have a seven-year lifespan. Cortana has no physical form and instead projects a holographic image of herself as a woman that resembles Halsey.

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Cortana was first introduced in Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001. Cortana helps helps humans escape an alien fighting force known as the Covenant. In the process, she and her human compatriots discover a massive ringworld, the titular Halo, built by a race known as the Forerunners. After discovering that the ring is a massive weapon capable of wiping out all organic life, Cortana assists Master Chief in destroying the ring to protect the galaxy.

In Halo 2, Cortana returns to defend the Earth from a Covenant attack. She travels with Master Chief to Delta Halo, coming in contact with Flood leader Gravemind. The Gravemind sends the duo to High Charity, a Covenant city-ship, with the mission to stop the Covenant from activating Halo. Halo 3 is a continuation of this storyline, with Cortana stopping the Flood along with Master Chief.

What did Cortana do in Halo 5?

Cortana wakes up Master Chief in Halo 4 as they drift towards a Forerunner installation known as Requiem. As they get closer, Cortana starts to glitch due to her short lifespan. In the end, she sacrifices herself to save Master Chief in a battle against the Didact. It’s revealed in Halo 5 that Cortana survived. She explains to Master Chief that she fled to Domain to be granted eternal life.

What is Cortana’s role in Halo Infinite?

Cortana plays a big role in Halo Infinite’s plot as well. She travels with Master Chief to the ringworld known as Zeta Halo to recover the Weapon. This is designed to delete Cortana. The duo fight the Banished and discover data fragments Cortana left behind that reveal what has happened.

With this knowledge, Cortana threatens Atriox, the Banished leader. When he refuses to submit, Cortana destroys his planet. She is captured by the Weapon as revenge. Cortana sacrifices herself again to damage the ring the Banished want so badly. Cortana apologizes to Master Chief, urging him to trust the Weapon.

Who voices Cortana in Halo Infinite?

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Cortana’s voice is iconic in the gaming world. As an AI with no physical form, players often hear her voice as Cortana guides them through the Halo campaigns. The voice players hear is that of Jen Taylor.

The Seattle native is most known for voice acting in both video games and cartoons. Besides Cortana, Taylor has also voiced Princess Peach, Toad, and Toadette for Nintendo games like Mario Party, Mario Tennis, and Mario Sunshine. She has lent her voice to Destiny 2, Left 4 Dead, and Star Wars games. Taylor is also the voice of Microsoft’s Cortana assistant.

Is Cortana in the Halo TV show on Paramount+?

Yes, Cortana is in the new Halo show, and Jen Taylor is serving as Cortana’s voice once again.

At first, Taylor was worried she wouldn’t have time to help with the TV show since she was busy working on Halo Infinite. The production of the two projects overlapped, but the TV show’s executive producer Kiki Wolfkill insisted that Taylor be part of the program.

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“Jen Taylor is sort of a magical being, so being able to get her for the show was incredible,” Wolfkill said.

Luckily for the live-action adaptation, the schedules fell into place and allowed Taylor to act in both. While Taylor was “knee-deep” in Halo Infinite, schedule changes opened Taylor’s availability up for the television show.

“Having her come on board, not just because she’s an amazing person on set and feels like a little piece of home for me out there, but bringing her voice and all of the history with that character was, I think, the most valuable part of it,” Wolfkill said.