The leading man of Helldivers 2's hilarious cinematic PSA had a blast filming it—also, there's an improvised democratic 'freestyle rap' somewhere at Arrowhead HQ

An image of voice actor and mocap artist Craig Lee Thomas doing a body scan for Helldivers 2.
(Image credit: Arrowhead Games / Craig Lee Thomas)

One of the most memorable parts of Helldivers 2, for me, is its cinematic opening—a corny, over-the-top recruitment ad with some of the most masterfully hammy acting I've ever seen. 

I recently had the pleasure of talking to the man behind the chewed scenery, Craig Lee Thomas—who has starred in a wide spread of games including Starfield, Honkai: Star Rail, and Octopath Traveller 2. Turns out, the opening was just as fun to record as it looks.

"This was, without a doubt, one of the most fun projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on in my career. I’m an elder millennial, so I grew up renting VHS copies of every single big, dumb action movie the '80s and '90s graced us with … when I saw that this character was a big, cheesy, deep-voiced, charm-and-smarm guy, I knew that I could just go to town."

As it turns out, threading the needle between corny and catastrophe actually takes a lot of effort: "The intro cinematic director Fredrik Lofberg and the whole team at Arrowhead/Goodbye Kansas were fantastic and had a really razor-sharp sense of the tone that we were going for … our directors Chris Faiella and Kal-El Bogdanove were also SUPER specific about keeping it in that perfect pocket of absolutely ridiculous, but still grounded in an exaggerated reality."

Thomas recounts the exact moment he looked at the script and saw the line where his character, overcome with grief and a passionate love for democracy, collapses to his knees and belts sweet liberty: "let me tell you—there are few greater moments in an actor’s life than reading a script and seeing the words: Your character falls to his knees and, screaming to the heavens, bellows a 'NOOOOOOOO!' That’s why we do this.

"I have been receiving an almost non-stop flood of memes and GIFs of that moment since the game came out and all I have to say is: keep 'em coming." Ultimately, Thomas says that he and the team "had a blast shooting this. Freddy really let myself and our incredible stunt performers (Nilla Hansson and Niklas Hansson) go to town." 

I'm personally pleased as punch to hear that the cinematic's meme status was not only the intended result, but also a complete delight for everyone involved—the only thing that upsets me, personally, is finding out that there's a whole spool of bloopers we don't have access to.

"Somewhere on an Arrowhead external hard drive there are MANY many hours of improv, pratfalls, dance breaks, and—very memorably—a freestyle rap that Freddy called out that I should do with no warning, in the middle of a take." Arrowhead—I know you're busy, but I want to see that freestyle rap more than I've wanted to see anything in my life. Democracy is at stake.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.