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The Death Stranding characters explained

Though information surrounding Death Stranding has circulated for years, much of the game remains shrouded in mystery. Each reveal seems to spawn more questions than answers, sending the world one step forward and two steps back in the quest to understand Hideo Kojima's enigmatic creation. The designer continues to weave an irresistible picture, offering glimpses of Death Stranding's characters in small doses. Through trailers and features, it's possible to piece together quite a bit of information about the personas who inhabit Kojima's devastated future, even if it's not always clear how they fit into the story.

The following is our attempt to connect the dots, providing a look at the confirmed characters in Death Stranding so far and the actors chosen to bring them to life. Some roles seem larger than others, with a more defined place in the narrative. But don't let first impressions fool you. In Kojima's reality, the tiniest elements can go on to have the greatest impact.

Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus)

Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) plays Sam Porter Bridges, Death Stranding's protagonist. A courier for Bridges, a company associated with the the United Cities of America, Sam embarks on a mission across what remains of the land once known as the United States. Sam travels with a Bridge Baby, an infant taken from the womb of a brain-dead mother, allowing him to form a connection to the death realm and detect the spectral creatures known as Beached Things. He has a variety of equipment and suits at his disposal, allowing him to traverse the ravaged terrain.

Sam wears an electronic handcuff and a special necklace resembling dog tags called a Q-pid. The Q-pid allows him to connect to and calibrate terminals, establishing new strands in the chiral network. As the player, you will take on the responsibility of monitoring Sam's condition and bodily functions. You'll also need to look after his Bridge Baby, soothing and rocking it whenever it grows distressed and recharging it at special Bridges facilities.

Cliff (Mads Mikkelsen)

The 2016 Game Awards Trailer first introduced Cliff, played by Mads Mikkelsen, a career villain best known for his roles in Casino Royale, Doctor Strange, and the Hannibal series. In the trailer, Cliff commands a small unit of skeletal soldiers dressed as World War II paratroopers, who he connects to using strands resembling black umbilical cords. The cords retract after he issues his orders, and a black liquid streaks down the side of his face. This liquid seems to be associated with the death realm.

In the 2019 Release Date Trailer, Cliff is shown speaking to a Bridge Baby, promising "I'll always be with you" before singing a lullaby. Later, Cliff emerges from dark liquid into a war zone with another group of soldiers in more modern gear. He lights the liquid on fire before walking through it. The trailer ends with him telling the Bridge Baby that they'll soon be able to go anywhere in the world. Of the characters seen, Cliff seems to have the strongest connection to the death realm, possibly setting him up as a main antagonist.

Fragile (Lea Seydoux)

French actress Lea Seydoux (Sepctre, Blue is the Warmest Colour) takes on the role of Fragile, another character whose role in Death Stranding remains unclear. Similar to Sam, she appears to work in the delivery business. The back of her jacket reads "Fragile Express, Handled With Love," suggesting that she draws her name from the organization she works with. Spikes erupt from the jacket's shoulders when Beached Things draw near, and she sometimes carriers an umbrella and black and yellow bag.

Based on her interactions with Sam, Fragile seems to possess a great deal of knowledge about Death Stranding's supernatural elements. She describes the effects of Timefall, rain that causes exposed humans to age rapidly, and asks Sam if he can see the BTs, possibly implying that she can. At one point, she invites Sam to come work for her, an offer he rejects by claiming that he's "just a delivery person." Whatever her business is, it's something bigger or more dangerous than he wants to get caught up in.

Amelie (Lindsay Wagner)

Amelie, played by Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman), serves as the current president of the UCA. She spearheaded the reconstruction of America, striking out from the east coast in search of isolated settlements to connect to the Bridges chiral network. Based on her conversation with Sam and Die-Hardman in the Briefing Trailer, she appears to be the daughter of Bridget, the former president of the UCA. Die-Hardman also reveals that Amelie no longer ages, pointing out that she looks the same as she did when Sam saw her ten years prior. Though no explanation is offered, this may be a side effect of her connection to the other side, as she says "my body is still on the beach."

After reaching Edge Knot City on the west coast, Amelie was kidnapped by the Homo Demens. She remains their captive, confined to the limits of Edge Knot City as collateral against further advances from the UCA. The group has allowed her to continue her work with the organization, however, and she is able to project her image into the Oval Office for the meeting with Sam.

Deadman (Guillermo del Toro, Jesse Corti)

Deadman first appeared in The Game Awards 2016 Trailer clutching an empty Bridge Baby pod. The presence of a Bridges pin on his jacket and the fact that he uses an umbilical cord to recall the BB that Sam is shown clutching in the E3 2016 Reveal Trailer implies that he works for the same organization. Deadman received his own trailer during Gamescom 2019, showing him at work in what looks like a Bridge Baby lab. Deadman instructs Sam to remove his pod and connect it to the incubator, reestablishing its connect to its still mother's womb before explaining to Sam how BBs function. Based on this, Deadman's role at Bridges likely centers on the BBs, and he may have even helped develop the technology that makes their use possible.

Guillermo del Toro provided his likeness for Deadman; Kojima used 3D scans of the director's body and facial expressions to create a 3D model. Jesse Corti, the actor who voiced Lefou in Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast, handles Deadman's performance in Death Stranding.

Higgs (Troy Baker)

Troy Baker, the actor known for voicing Joel in the Last of Us series, portrays Higgs, aka "The Man in the Golden Mask." A figure resembling Higgs appears briefly in the TGA 2017 Teaser Trailer, disappearing into thin air moments before the arrival of a massive Beached Thing. The TGS 2018 Trailer gave him a more official introduction, opening with a scene in which Higgs sets up an ambush for Sam, using his golden mask to summon a monster from the other side before seemingly teleporting away.

Based on the Release Date Reveal Trailer, Higgs appears to be a member of the separatist terrorist group known as the Homo Demens. Given his prominent role, he may even serve as the organization's leader. A voiceover that plays as Cliff emerges from dark liquid at the end of the trailer implies that the two antagonists may be working together, with Higgs stating that he has "a good connection to the other side." This is further supported by the similarities between Cliff's and Higgs' abilities and the black liquid that leaks from their eyes when they call upon that power.

Mama (Margaret Qualley)

Margaret Qualley, a young actress who gained recognition for her portrayal of Jill Garvey in HBO's The Leftovers, plays Mama, a woman whose daughter was born on the "other side." Mama and the child maintain their connection through an umbilical cord (the glowing cuffs that Bridges operatives use to connect with Bridge Babies), preventing Mama from leaving her current location. Sam's equipment reacts to the presence of the spectral baby as it would a Beached Thing; however, Mama assures him that it's safe, pantomiming nursing the girl before she disappears.

Based on the facility where Sam encounters Mama, it appears that she also works for the Bridges organization. It's possible that she was one of the agents who joined Amelie on her journey to reconnect the United Cities of America, but the birth of her daughter forced her to remain at one of the terminals. She recognizes Sam on sight, calling him by his name, implying that they have met previously.

Heartman (Nicolas Winding Refn, Darren Jacobs)

Heartman, as his name implies, possesses a unique heart that stops every 21 minutes. Each time he dies, he searches for his family on the other side for three minutes before the AED connected to his body restarts his heart and returns him to life. He dies 60 times every day and reveals to Sam that he has visited the other side 218,550 times. Heartman has structured his entire life around the 21-minute cycle, occupying himself with books, music, and film. These items serve as filler, distracting him until he can return to his search. "My body may be present," says Heartman, "but my soul is on the beach. I'm already dead."

Like del Toro, Heartman uses the likeness of Danish film director, screenwriter, and producer Nicolas Winding Refn, who Kojima 3D-scanned into the game. Actor Darren Jacobs provided the voice and motion capture for Heartman, yet another character whose purpose in the Death Stranding narrative remains unclear.

Die-Hardman (Tommie Earl Jenkins)

Die-Hardman, portrayed by Tommie Earl Jenkins (Pandora, Vice Squad: LA), brings some much needed diversity to Kojima's vision of the post-apocalyptic United States. He first appeared in concept artwork at TGS 2018; Kojima described him as "the commander of the organization." He wears a black face mask that leaves only his eyes exposed. The following text is printed in white letters across the forehead area: "BR-19-14P-9999 LUDENS." Ludens serves as both the mascot and logo for Kojima Productions. The mask appears to have been constructed from a stiff, protective material, possibly carbon fiber; however, the jaw portion still moves when he talks.

Based on the Briefing Trailer, Die-Hardman seems to be the head of the UCA's military. He helps explain Amelie's current state to Sam, joining the president in her attempt to recruit him to complete her mission. It's implied that Die-Hardman, Amelie, and Sam have a shared history and have worked together in the past, an arrangement that ended poorly for the courier.

Bridget (Lindsay Wagner)

In the Release Date Reveal Trailer, Bridget is shown lying in hospital bed in what looks like the White House. She pleads with Sam to help reconnect America, making the country whole again. Sam refuses, despite her warnings about mankind's impending extinction should they fail to come together again in the wake of the Death Stranding. Based on the conversation, Bridget seems to be the former president of the United States, possibly before it was broken into the United Cities of America by a catastrophic event.

Given that Amelie refers to her mother's work in the Briefing Trailer and the fact that Bridget is also played by Lindsay Wagner, it's likely that Amelie is her daughter. Alternatively, some Death Stranding fans have put forth the theory that Amelie and Bridget are the same person in separate timelines. Given that Sam and Bridget both carry versions of a picture showing Sam, Bridget, and a blonde figure who is likely Amelie in the White House, the mother-daughter relationship seems the most likely, though the variations between the two images could also support the existence of divergent timelines.