Idris Elba isn’t sure he’ll do another game after Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

Elba's work on Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty was a "leap of faith" for the actor.
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty idris elba

In a new interview about his work on Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Hollywood actor Idris Elba has expressed doubt about doing another video game role in future – as the upcoming expansion was reportedly incredibly difficult to pull off, and required multiple years to perfect.

Speaking to Xbox Wire, Elba revealed he had been aware of the world of Cyberpunk 2077 before being asked to join the Phantom Liberty expansion as Solomon Reed, a new character with a dark and dense backstory. Elba was drawn to the character’s “dramatic” storylines, which he described as full of “twists and turns”. He saw Reed as someone who was “really dedicated to his craft, his profession, to his country.”

“When you meet him, I wouldn’t say it’s a sad story, but it’s a story that’s got its layers, and you meet someone that’s sort of caged in,” Elba said.

But while he was enthusiastic about Reed and joining such a vast universe, Xbox Wire described the process of character creation and refinement as “interesting” for the actor. It’s one of the largest video game roles he’s taken to date, and while he was supported by strong writing and direction from CD Projekt Red, recording for Reed was a complex and long process.

Read: Cyberpunk 2077: What’s new in Update 2.0 and Phantom Liberty?

“It’s so complex. I came in and just inherited the world you know – and the storytelling is deep,” Elba said. “And so I just brought my own nuance in terms of, I guess, how he sounds, the emotive spectrum for him – but it’s pretty well written.”

Notably, Elba’s work was purely voice recording – with no motion capture for Reed. That created a strange foible for Elba, as his likeness and emotions were interpreted by CD Projekt Red. In scenes where action was more serious, the motion capture work would occasionally go another way, with Reed’s facial expressions and movements providing an alternative reading for lines.

“It’s funny because you could say a line, and you could say it with, you know, the intention of pain,” Elba said. “And the animator could make you look like you’re happy while you’re saying it.”

According to Xbox Wire, this process of matching acting to on-screen emotion – which was heavily collaborative – lasted a full three years. It also required Elba to record lines multiple times, and act in at least three different ways to ensure the intention of lines came across in the voice acting and motion capture.

“You try to record all the different threads at the same time,” Elba said. “It is a process.” But in describing the complexity of recording for Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Elba also hinted at a preference for more traditional acting roles.

“I’m not sure I’m going to do another game anytime soon,” he said, reportedly while laughing. “It’s graft – it’s proper graft.” In this context, graft meaning incredibly hard work and effort. Regardless, Elba is proud of his work on Phantom Liberty – as is CD Projekt Red.

Players will be able to meet Elba’s Solomon Reed for the first time, and see the results of this collaborative effort in action, when Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty launches for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on 26 September 2023.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.