Chad Michael Collins goes from Sniper to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Chad Michael Collins voices the main character Alex in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Photo Credit: Sonalii Castillo/Courtesy of ICON PR.
Chad Michael Collins voices the main character Alex in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Photo Credit: Sonalii Castillo/Courtesy of ICON PR. /

Chad Michael Collins tells Hidden Remote about going from star of the Sniper films to star of the hit video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Movie fans know Chad Michael Collins as Brandon Beckett in the Sniper movies, but now he’s saving the world in a new way—as the lead in Activision’s new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare!

Chad lends his voice to the video game’s main character Alex as he and his team strive to stop another terrorist threat, and it’s a definite change of pace for the actor who’s known for his film roles and TV projects like Extinct.

Did any of his movie and TV experience help him in his Call of Duty role? What were his thoughts on the game’s intense and often thought-provoking story? And what live-action part might he be revisiting in the near future?

Find out in our interview with Chad Michael Collins below, then play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on XBox One and PlayStation 4 today.

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Hidden Remote: How did you land the role in Call of Duty?

Chad Michael Collins: I had done a couple of video games things in a much smaller capacity before this, but this is the first time I’ve done a “real deal” one, and it happened through a regular audition.

My manager got me an audition, the casting director I know really well, and it turned out to be this top secret project. I read with our narrative director Taylor Kurosaki and the writer Brian Bloom, and just went right onto a mo-cap [motion-capture] stage and performed the scenes with those guys. Four weeks later, they said “You’re our Alex!”

HR: Call of Duty is one of the biggest video game franchises, but you’ve also been part of a movie franchise with Sniper. So how did you approach the project?

CMC: On one hand, it was a nice extension of the work I do for Sony’s Sniper film franchise. On the other hand, it was something completely different. This character for this game, he’s CIA, he’s kind of a spook, he’s a top-secret commando. He’s more infiltration and espionage; that’s the type of role he plays. He’s got no background, no family, no ties to anything, he’s just kind of this gun-for-hire. And that’s obviously in stark contrast with Brandon Beckett and [his] being a sniper by trade who is bonded with his legendary sniper father.

So it’s two sides of the same coin in a weird way, but I tried to give Alex a totally different character life and take him on a much different journey than Brandon in terms of creating him. In general, I grew up playing video games and still do to this day. So to be part of the Call of Duty universe, it’s a dream role, a bucket list item for me. If I were going to have any choice of any video gamesout there to make my first major foray, it would be Call of Duty.

HR: Were there any major differences in how you prepared for this role compared to a TV or movie part?

CMC: I think it’s similar in a lot of ways. We had really great ex-Navy SEAL advisers with us. We got a day with them before we started filming, and they were on set each day that we were doing the filming process. For a Sniper movie, for example, we always have a military technical adviser and it’s always great to pick their brains and make sure everything is tactically correct, so that was very similar.

I would say the stark difference is that you’re in a temperature-controlled, heavily air-conditioned soundstage for everything in a video game, whereas in a movie like Sniper, you’re anywhere from on a mountain top to the forest to the sea to wherever, and you’ve got to film in those conditions. That can be problematic and challenging, but consistent air-conditioning in Los Angeles is not a bad environment to film in day-to-day!

Call of Duty
Chad Michael Collins voices the main character Alex in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Photo Credit: Activision/Courtesy of ICON PR. /

HR: How much did your movie and TV experience help you in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare?

CMC: I think it really was helpful. There’s such subtle differences between every branch of the armed forces, here and around the world, but having all the soldier/cop/federal agent experience in my other acting work, it was really easy to bring that sensibility to the audition and demonstrate it in the audition process. But I like to approach every military role as if I know nothing, an open book. I just take what I can from the experts and give my performance what they give me.

I was able to pick up the things really fast. There is a lot of very glaring but also subtle differences between how a Navy SEAL does something and how a Marine sniper would do something. You have to pay attention to those things to give the most realistic portrayal, and our advisers were really great.

The way that a freedom fighter would use their weapon and their style of fighting would be completely different than how Alex—who’s Delta Force and now CIA—would, and those tactics are also different from the terrorists who would come at them. So the advisers gave us our own unique stamp in terms of how we would approach that tactical stuff based on our character’s background.

HR: There has already been discussion amongst fans and critics about the sensitive topics in the game and how it portrays them. Was there anything that was a challenge for you to film?

CMC: There’s always a fine line you have to walk with telling tales of this sensitive nature. It’s the kind of stuff that exists in the world unfortunately, and it’s very uncomfortable—people would rather not know about it, right? All props to Infinity Ward and Activision for not being afraid to go there. They really did their due diligence; they talked to freedom fighters, talked to international war correspondents and got their first-hand accounts.

They talked to soldiers that have lived these experiences so that’s obviously, in the game from the beginning. Building these characters, there’s a sensitivity you have to bring as an actor, and I thought that was really well-done with the dialogue and everything else, but it is challenging.

I would have to say the most challenging thing for me on this shoot was that I was on this really basic playground set, and you have to use your imagination to fill it in. I’m told the story before we film, but there’s certain scenes where I’m in a chopper and there’s no chopper on set, so you have to imagine there’s a roof over your head without sticking your head through it, in terms of how that’s going to read in the final product.

So those were the most challenging aspects to me, just using your imagination in a different way to put yourself in a space that’s not really there. You’re not in a tank, not in a Humvee, you’re not in a chopper. There’s a wall there, you can’t walk through it, so being aware of those things were probably more challenging than anything else.

HR: With the game being so topical, is there anything you hope the players take away from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare?

CMC: Absolutely. At the end of the day, we do this as actors because we love it, and Activision and Infinity Ward, they’re making these games and telling these stories because they love it. But ultimately, we want fans to love it. We want people to show up, to have the experience, to enjoy it, so I hope that there’s a greater understanding of the world at-large from playing through this video game.

I really hope that it opens some eyes and some ears and just informs and educates a little bit as to what is happening 7,000, 8,000 miles away from the comfort of your own home. I really hope it gives a player some perspective in that way, and from the feedback I’ve seen it was really eye-opening for many. The term “controversial” was used in some reviews, and although our game is a work of fiction, it is based on real things and events, and that’s very dubious and sometimes not pretty. But hopefully you can affect people for the better by actually telling them a story like this, and I hope a lot of people walked away with a clearer awareness and understanding about what modern warfare can truly look like.

Call of Duty
Photo: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.. Image Courtesy Activision /

HR: On a lighter note, now that the game is out, have you gotten a chance to play yourself? What is that experience like?

CMC: I’ve been so busy since the game’s release that I haven’t been able to play as much as I’d like, but I certainly played through the campaign—almost finished! It’s a very surreal experience playing as “yourself” and hearing the lines and seeing your face on the screen. It makes it that much more precious in terms of not getting yourself killed! You know you’re going to respawn anyway, but you still feel a sense to keep yourself alive in a whole different way!

HR: What else do you have coming up? Any chance that we’ll see you back on our TV or movie screens soon?

CMC: Modern Warfare dropping is the big thing and I’m super proud to be a part of it, and I’ve got a Christmas movie out now, a holiday film called The Christmas Cabin that’s on Amazon Prime Video. It’s streaming for free in the US, so that’s kind of a nice departure from the Call of Duty character. I play a squeaky-clean guy in a rom-com, so it’s a completely different direction.

I like to balance my acting roles with the pretend-solder parts and then projects where no one has to leave the room when they watch it, which my grandmother appreciates greatly. Also, I don’t die in this one, and my parents also appreciate that greatly. Lastly, I heard there’s a possibility that we might be bringing another Sniper movie to audiences around the world in 2020, so hopefully that stays on target!

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is available now on XBox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows. You can also watch the Sniper films on your favorite streaming platform.