Like a lot of us, Chad Michael Collins has spent a lot more time playing video games during the last few months.
"I’ve been a gamer my whole life," the 40-year-old star of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare tells Inverse. He recalls memories of playing Warcraft on PC and owning a Super Nintendo. "Playing Call of Duty has been a great thing during quarantine. I've always wanted to stream [on Twitch]. I took it upon myself to teach myself the basics."
That inspired Collins to play alongside fans of the series. "There's not a lot of people involved in these games who get involved with the hordes of players around the world. I thought, wouldn't it be fun for gamers to play and ask questions?"
The actor has streamed dozens of sessions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the mega popular military shooter from 2019 with 50 million players, on his new Twitch channel. He plays as his own character, CIA officer Alex — a.k.a. Echo 3-1.
"There's nothing like it when I play with fans, they all use Alex as their skin," Collins says. "We run around as a gang of Alexes. I think it's a blast."
Collins is taking a break from Twitch to promote his latest movie, Sniper: Assassin's End, available now on digital VOD and Blu-ray. Three years after Sniper: Ultimate Kill, Collins returns to the role of Brandon Beckett for the fifth time in Sony's Sniper franchise.
In Assassin's End, decorated marksman Brandon Beckett (Collins) is framed for the assassination of a foreign dignitary. On the run, the ace shooter teams up with his estranged father, Thomas Beckett (Tom Berenger), the protagonist of the original Sniper trilogy, to clear his name.
Collins says Beckett is actually "very similar" to his Call of Duty hero.
"Alex and Brandon question a lot of things," he says. "They question orders. They feel they're not making the difference they could because of the brass holding them back. They both have good hearts and good intentions but they're not afraid of going rogue. Both are thinking men and they soldier from the heart."
Collins spoke with Inverse about the differences in acting in a game and a movie and where he thinks the Sniper series will go next.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
This is your fifth time playing Brandon. What's new this time?
The great thing about taking a character for a five-movie ride is there’s evolution. You get a 90-page script, you’re gonna go places. Get 90 pages times five, you really go places. In this one there’s a great Thomas Beckett/Brandon Beckett story that will harken fans back to the original. This [film] ushers a new dynamic between them, lynch-pinning our version of Sniper since the original three Tom [Berenger] did. Brandon’s at a place where he’s been around the world taking down big bads. In this he’s on the run, and the big bads are hunting him.
We explore that search for the missing father. As Brandon approaches that age, those questions become important: The father that wasn’t there, and finding that relationship at this point in life. You see what becomes important to Brandon. When he gets in trouble the first person he goes to is his estranged father, which tells a lot.
It's been three years since your last Sniper movie. How have you changed in that time?
It’s the longest gap I've had between a Sniper movie. In between I got to play more bad guys. I was able to do a couple years of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, so I've done additional training with some high-level Navy SEALs. That exposure is always good — Brandon is a character always looking to add to his skill set as the world continues to evolve.
I found new ways to be more fit and take care of my body. Stepping back on to the set of an action film, I feel reinvigorated. Getting healthy and getting this body in alignment was a big priority a few years ago and it’s come a long way.
What's next for the Sniper movies? Will Brandon go up into space and fight aliens?
It's up to Sony. If they want to take us to space, suit me up.
The tragic thing about our world is there’s no shortage of villains. As we try to tell a grounded story, there’s always a villain that our servicemen and women are always having to put down to make the world a better place. So long as the world doesn’t run out of villains, Brandon will always have a job to do. But I’m all for taking down space aliens.
As an actor, what are the differences in shooting a movie like Sniper and acting in a game like Call of Duty?
It is a completely different process. We shot Assassin's End in 18 long days. I worked on Modern Warfare on and off for the better part of two years for the single-player campaign, which takes the player about seven or eight hours to get through.
On a film set, you've got two cameras. You start wide, you get your medium shots, you come in for close ups, boom, we go on to the next. Video games are a different animal. We got 75 cameras mounted everywhere in a motion capture studio capturing everything. We have helmets with a cam rig, so a high-def camera stares back into your face in front of you. You’ve always got this extreme close up, and the wide shot picking up everything.
It's a bit like theater. You have to be word-perfect and hit your marks exactly. You can’t edit like a film or television show.
We didn't have actual set pieces. A chopper was made out of PVC piping we had to know not to put our hands through the roof. It was a unique challenge, but one of the most fun acting jobs I've ever had.
Games like Call of Duty release new content way after the initial release. Do you have to come back later?
For a year and a half I did all the single-player stuff. Cinematic cut-scenes, intros, outros of the missions, stuff like that. When it got around to the seasons in multiplayer, I did go back clandestinely and recorded my Alex scenes for Season 3. I did another thousand lines to fill in all that battle chatter.
They set me up on a photoshoot with Tu Lam, he’s the Operator [named] Ronin and a very decorated veteran himself. We did a great photoshoot wearing all the real gear for promos and calling cards for Season 3. So I fortunately did go back and film stuff for the multiplayer and that was a blast.
Did having a film franchise like Sniper improve your chances at the Call of Duty audition?
The thing about video game auditions is that you never know what game it is. Everything is secret and you're signing NDAs at the audition level. But you can kind of put two and two together. I'm glad it was Call of Duty because I love them.
We had a great conversation about Sniper. I don't think it hurt. I don't know if it cinched the deal, but I think that grounding helped.
What's it like playing as yourself in a video game?
I love it, man. It is a bit surreal when you see yourself lying around the battlefield, exploding out of a window. My mother would be upset. I take it with a grain of salt.
Are you shooting any more content for Call of Duty?
I don't know. The game has been a success in a way they never expected, hopefully that leads to more with Modern Warfare 2 or 3. I hope I get invited back.
Alex has this thing where he doesn't know what the brass has planned. I'm kind of the same way. I'm on a need-to-know basis. I'll get a call and it's a wonderful surprise.
What are you working on next?
I’m really eager to get to the next thing. I’ve got a sci-fi action film that I co-wrote I'm shopping around. I'm developing a TV series based on werewolves and the supernatural. Quarantine has been wonderful for developing things.
I know Sony's really excited [for Sniper: Assassin's End]. We’re all excited. It feels like a reinvigoration of the franchise. Who wants to wait three years between a Sniper movie? Not me.
Sniper: Assassin's End is available now on digital VOD and Blu-ray.