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Grand Theft Auto 5 weaves a complex story full of twists and turns, and it’s easy to miss important details when you play through. In this GTA V Characters overview, we provide you with a brief history of each character and their role in the overarching narrative.
This article will be spoiler-heavy; we advise you to finish the game first and then come back to check out what you missed. This guide will also assume the canonical ending (Franklin’s option C).
First, we’ll cover the game’s three protagonists (Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Philips), and then the main supporting cast (Lemar Davis, Lester Crest, Dave Norton, Steve Haines, and Devin Weston).
Michael De Santa
Michael De Santa is the first playable character of the three protagonists in Grand Theft Auto 5. As a 48-year-old retired bank robber who faked his own death, he lives a seemingly idyllic life in Rockford Hills, Los Santos — a particularly affluent area of the city.
His personality is characterized as hot-tempered and emotional, but he’s generally a more complex character than it might seem; for much of the game, his moral compass is decidedly split down the middle as he juggles the life of a family man and that of a hardened criminal.
Stick to the Plan
Michael’s story begins in the prologue during his final heist as Michael Townsley. It was 2004, and Michael had a wife and two children at the time. Anticipating things turning sour, he sought to leave his life of crime.
Through a tentative alliance between himself and FBI agent Dave Norton, Michael staged this final heist in a bid to escape to a new life; he and Norton formulated an agreement: Norton would pretend to kill Michael and reap the glory of having shot one of the most wanted men in America and, in exchange, give Michael a new life for him and his family.
Michael’s partner Trevor Philips, whom Michael considered a liability at this point, would be killed in action to prevent him tracking Michael down later. Their other associate, Brad Snider, would be captured and incarcerated.
Things didn’t go entirely to plan. Brad ended up being the one being killed and Trevor escaped. Nevertheless, the main component of the agreement came to fruition.
Michael Townsley became Michael De Santa and inherited a lavish mansion in the hills; Dave Norton received monthly payments from Michael and gained hero status as the man who brought down an infamous bank robber.
A Fortuitous Meeting
Despite many years living what was a picturesque life, Michael became disillusioned with the fakery of life in the city. His relationship with his wife and two children is strained, and he had become an alcoholic. At the start of the game, he was routinely visiting an unsympathetic psychotherapist and had slumped into a life of depression and midlife crisis.
But it isn’t long before Michael is embroiled in organized crime once again. Upon a fortuitous meeting with Franklin Clinton — the catalyst for his reinstated proclivity for robbing — he embarks on a new chapter in his life.
Michael and Franklin’s partnership is initially borne out of the latter being a helping hand. Franklin helped him with the destruction of the lavish apartment of the Tenis coach who has been sleeping with his wife, as well as risking his life in a fruitless attempt to rescue Michael’s Yacht. Invariably, these comparatively smaller events had large repercussions.
The Tenis coach demanded Michael pay for the damage (totaling $2.5000,000) — money he didn’t have. To cover the cost, he enlists the help of Lester Crest: an old associate who aided in planning his and Trevors’ heists back in the day. He agrees to help but at a price: Michael must help him with his plot to take down the founder of Life Invader, Jay Norris.
Michael rigs the company’s new prototype phone with a bomb that kills Norris instantly upon the demonstration. Lester then agrees to help plan a Jewelry store heist to get Micheal his money, and the two enlist Franklin to join the fray.
The heist itself goes smoothly and Michael is able to pay off his debt, but it is not without consequence. With the heist being big local news, Trevor Philips’ comes to learn that Michael is, in fact, alive, and he travels to Los Santos to find Michael.
Michael is shocked to see him, yet the two re-kindle their complicated alliance when Trevor helps him forcibly remove his daughter from the clutches of a perverted talent show audition.
Also to learn of the jewelry store heist was Dave Norton. After contacting Michael, Norton discloses the gravity of the situation for both of them: if the FBI were to deduce from Michaels’s criminal profile that he was the presumed dead Michael Townsley, their original arrangement would disastrously fall apart.
As such, Norton ropes him into cleaning up the potential mess and securing him his position with the FBI.
Career Criminal Part 2
Michael’s story escalates in a similar fashion throughout the game; he’s blackmailed into a variety of situations subsequent to the ghost of his past.
These events culminate in him being firmly under the thumb of Dave Norton’s superior, Steve Haines — a highly corrupt FBI official. His Family also leaves home following the increasingly dangerous atmosphere due to the jobs he’s partaking in.
With the facade of his Vinewood Hill’s life all but fallen apart, Michael’s progression to a second shot at being a career criminal becomes absolute.
Alongside Trevor and Franklin, he completes an array of successful heists: one of which leads him to meet Billionaire Devon Weston — another highly corrupt individual that Michael makes a deal with in order to meet and work with his Idol: movie director Salmon Richards. He completes a series of tasks for Richards and earns his favor.
In between the numerous heists, Trevor visits Michael about the potentiality of busting Brad out of prison. Trevor ultimately deduces that Brad is dead. This is confirmed when the pair visit Michael’s fake grave where Brad is buried.
Trevor’s revelation results in a standoff, but this is abruptly interrupted by an ambush of Chinese Mafia henchmen resultant of one of Trevor’s previous escapades. Michael is captured by Wei Cheng’s gang: they hold him captive at a slaughterhouse and threaten Trevor with feeding him through a meat grinder should he not comply.
Related read: Comprehensive GTA V Gangs Guide
Trevor insists he doesn’t care what they do with him following their altercation at the graveyard, and it is Franklin who eventually tracks him down and rescues him. Shortly after, Michael tells Franklin of his deal with Dave Norton.
After this, and despite some sketchy recent events, Michaels’s life appears to be looking up. Following his work for Salmon Richards, he is accredited as an associate producer on one of his upcoming films.
Things quickly take a turn for the worse, however. Following another job for the FBI, Michael deletes his own records for HQ, relinquishing the hold Steve Haines has over him. After meeting for a debriefing where Hains realizes that his grip on Michael is slipping, there is a Mexican standoff.
Michael and Dave Norton manage to escape, but Haines is injured and his partner, Andreas Sanchez (who has, in fact, been double-crossing him), is shot and killed.
Shortly after, Michael discovers that Devin Weston plans to sabotage Richard’s new movie in a ploy to reap insurance money. An enraged Michael chases down Weston’s lawyer, Molly Schultz, but she is anciently pulled into the jet she plans to escape on and is killed.
When he attends the premiere of the new film with his son, Jimmy, Weston makes a surprise appearance: livid over the death of his lawyer, he vows to have Michael’s family killed, sending Merry Weather soldiers to his house.
Michael manages to stop the invasion and sends his family away for their own protection. With the confidence that his family is safe, he begins to plan a long-talked-about heist on the Union Depository with Leister, Franklin, and Trevor (who reluctantly agrees despite still being angry with Michael about Brad).
They execute what is their biggest heist and manage to steal billions of dollars worth of gold.
Now incredibly rich, all that’s left is to mop up any existing problems. Following a plan hatched by Lester, the trio meets at a foundry to take on an army of FBI agents and Merry Weather soldiers. With their enemy’s forces drastically reduced, Michael tracks down and kills one of Franklin’s biggest threats, Bella gangster Stretch.
Trevor and Michael take out Steve Haines and Wei Cheng. Finally, the three meet to kill Devin Weston by locking him in the trunk of a car and pushing him off Mount Chiliad. They part ways but vow to stay friends, and Michael leaves his life of crime to return back to his family with a newfound purpose.
Franklin Clinton is the third playable character in the game. A juxtaposition to Michael’s life of material luxury, Franklin lives in the comparatively poor area of Forum Drive with his mother.
At 25 years old, he’s unemployed and turning to organized car theft to make money. He’s dissatisfied with how his life has turned out and has the ambition to get out of the ghetto — something his friend Lamar frequently chastises him for.
Franklin is a glass-half-empty sort of person, and he’s quick to recognize and point out the flaws and logistical problems in the plans of his peers. Despite this, he often doesn’t have a lot of choice in the matter.
A Want for a Better Life
His part in the Grand Theft Auto 5 story begins with his repossession job with Simeon Yetarian. One of the jobs involves stealing a vehicle from Michael De Santa’s home: a goal that goes disastrously wrong when Michael turns out to be hiding in the car as he steals it.
He orders Franklin to drive it through the front window of Yeterian’s garage, after which Michael pays him for his troubles and casually offers him a drink.
To Michael’s surprise, Franklin takes him up on his offer. He appears at his house having lost his job following the aforementioned incident. Franklin considers Michael may have something to offer him job-wise. Having set out for their drink, Michael’s Yacht gets stolen, and Franklin risks his life in a high-speed chase on the freeway to get it back.
The endeavor is ultimately futile, but it cements the friendship between the two protagonists. Franklin helps Michael again with a variety of small tasks.
In between his newfound partnership with Michael, Franklin accompanies his friend Lemar on a series of high-risk gang-banging jobs — most of which he engages in reluctantly. Both Michael and Lamar are part of The Families street gang, and they are rivals of another gang, The Ballers.
The pair’s first job is Lemar’s plan to kidnap D — a member of The Bellas — in hopes to make ransom money. They capture D but have to release him when Lemar inadvertently reveals their location to the police. Situations escalate when Stretch — a member of The Families that Franklin doesn’t get along with — is released from prison.
Lemar later sets up a drug deal with D, but when he, Stretch, and Franklin arrive, it turns out to be an ambush. The three ultimately manage to escape and D is killed by Stretch in the fray.
The situation further strains the relationship between Stretch and Franklin as he blames him and Lemar for the now worsened relationship between The Families and The Bellas.
In the meantime, the small jobs Franklin completed for Michael resulted in Michael recommending him for the Jewelry store heist: after this, Franklin becomes a mainstay right-hand ally in Michael’s involvement with the FBI.
He partakes in each major operation Michael is associated with, and this allows him to distance himself from The Families. Lemar and his mother berate him for his supposed disloyalty, but Franklin wants to move away from a life of street war; while his involvement with Michael is equally dangerous, he sees that life as an improvement.
Torn Between Two Lives
Despite his feelings, Franklin is still roped into accompanying Lamar to another drug deal involving Stretch and The Ballas. After making a surprise appearance at Michael’s house and professing to want to make ‘new friends’, Trevor also joins Franklin and Lemar on the job. This deal, however, turns out to be another setup.
Trevor figures out that the supposed cocaine is actually drywall, and another shootout erupts with Franklin, Trevor, and Lemar only just making it out alive. Lemar suspects Stretch set them up.
As do Michael and Trevor, Franklin also becomes deeply involved with Billionaire Devon Weston. Weston has him steal some rare cars so that he can export them to Asia for profit, but despite Franklin, Trevor, and Lamar risking their lives in a road chase with the police, he refuses to pay them and states that he will invest their money and pay them at a later date.
After trying to call Michael to air his grievances with Weston but being unable to get through, Franklin eventually finds out Michael has been kidnapped following his capture by the Los Santos Triads. With Trevor refusing to help him given the recent revelations about Brad, Franklin eventually tracks Michael down to an abattoir and rescues him.
Shortly after Franklin completes his last job for Steve Haines, his ex-girlfriend appears at his house. She tells him Lamar has been set up again by Stretch and that he is being held hostage at a sawmill.
Enlisting Trevor and Michael to help him, he travels to Lemar’s location to rescue him. A huge shootout occurs with the protagonists ultimately being victorious, and on the way home Franklin and Lemar settle their differences; Franklin urges Lemar to leave the gang banger lifestyle, but Lemar ultimately still feels deserted by his friend.
The Biggest Decision
Following the trio’s last and greatest heist at the Union Depository, Franklin is given the biggest decisions of the game. He’s contacted by the same FBI agents that are after Norton, Haines, and Michael, and is asked to kill Trevor on account of his volatile nature.
Similarly, he is also contacted by Devon Weston: he’s furious at his Lawyers death which he blames Michael for, and orders Franklin to kill him.
Refusing both offers, Franklin contacts Lester to tell him about the offers and formulate a plan. Lester comes up with the idea to trick Hanes and Weston into believing the gold they stole from the union depository is stored at a local foundry.
Along with the help of Lemar, the three-stage ambush; Weston’s hired Merry Whether soldiers and Haines’s FBI agents storm the building, and a large-scale shoot-out begins. The protagonists succeed in taking out these opponents, and they then seek to finish things once and for all by executing the key individuals that hold their lives in balance.
Franklin is tasked with taking out Trevor’s main enemy, Wei Cheng, whom he manages to kill during a freeway chase. He then reconnects with Trevor and Michael for their final job of disposing of Devin Weston, and he then parts ways with the three on good terms.
Trevor Philips is the second playable character in GTA 5. Unlike Michael and Franklin, he lives way out in the desert area of Sandy Shores in a trailer.
He was one of Michael’s former bank-robbing partners, but since then, he leads his own criminal organization against rival gangs and syndicates. He has no family, with his closest associate being his friend and neighbor, Ron Jakowski. He is 46 years old at the time of the game’s story.
Compared to the other two protagonists, Trevor’s personality is considerably more sadistic and often psychotic. He’s prone to committing serious violence with his mental state being a defining characteristic of his arc, and while an exemplar pilot, he was kicked out of the air force due to his apparent mental instability.
At some point, he met Michael, and after Trevor aided him in disposing of an attacker during a job, they became closely partnered career criminals.
A Grand Betrayal
Like Michael, Trevor is first seen during the bank robbery of 2004. Unaware that the heist was staged by Michael De Santa and Dave Norton in a plot to kill him, he ultimately escapes to Sandy Shores.
Here he started a new life for himself and founded Trevor Philips Enterprises: an arms smuggling and crystal meth business comprising of himself, Ron Jakowski, Wade Herbet, and meth cook, Chef.
He was a familiar but despised face amongst rival gangs and organizations of the area: one of which being The Lost MC — a motorcycle gang featuring in GTA 4’s DLC The Lost and Damned.
One of the first instances of Trevor’s psychotic nature is when he brutally kills The Lost and Damnded protagonist, Johnny Klebitz. He then proceeds to exterminate the remaining members of the gang and drive them out of town.
Prior to this conflict, Trevor learns of Michael and Franklin’s jewelry store heist. Watching the footage on T.V., he hears one of the masked robbers quote a Salmon Richards film and recalls Michaels’s tendency to do so when they worked together. He came to doubt whether Michael was really dead after all, and so he has Wade travel to Los Santos to investigate.
Early in the game, Trevor’s focus is on expanding his business. Some time before he meets with Michael, he meets with the son of Wei Cheng: boss of the Los Santos Triads gang. Cheng wishes to expand his drug empire into Blane country and sends his son to discuss the possibility of a partnership with Trevor.
The meeting doesn’t go to plan when Trevor is ambushed by a local gang, and as a result, Cheng decides to partner with the O’Neal brothers instead. Livid at the prospect, Trevor traves to their farm and slaughters the majority of the family. He then proceeds to burn down the entire premises.
Soon after, Wade returns with the news that there is no one residing in the city with the name Michael Townsley, but that there is a Michael with the surname De Santa who matches the description. Trevor travels to Los Santos — bedding down in Wade’s cousin Hebert’s apartment — and makes a surprise appearance at Michael’s house.
The family is shocked to see him, but he manages to get in on Michael’s newfound drive for criminal activity. As one of the three main protagonists, he is involved in nearly every major heist in the game as well as playing a central role in Michael’s involvement with the FBI and Devin Weston.
Life in Los Santos
Outside this involvement as the gunman, pilot, and even torturer, Trevor also gains an interest in Hebert job at the docks; suspecting there may be something valuable to steal, Hebert reluctantly gets him in to have a look around.
He finds that Merryweather security is protecting a ship at the docks containing secret cargo and eventually organizes a successful heist to steal it involving Michael, Lester, and Franklin. The cargo turns out to be a superweapon that the U.S. plans to trade with China.
Under the advice of Lester, Trevor is reluctantly put off stealing it to prevent what would undoubtedly be huge ramifications.
He also accompanies Franklin and Lemar on a drug deal at one point and manages to spot the supposed drugs as fake. He even kidnaps a Mexican drug lord’s wife after the two develop an infatuation with each other.
While the truth about brad is revealed to Trevor (which causes him to stay angry at Michael for some time), it remains unclear whether he figured out the entire truth. Nevertheless, having disposed of both Steve Haines (killing him during a T.V. interview on a Ferris wheel) and Devin Weston, Trevor parts amicably with the other two protagonists.
26-year-old Lamar Davis is Franklin’s best friend. He lives close by in Chamberlain Hills. He’s a self-professed gang-banger with views directly antagonistic of Franklin’s want for what he sees as a better life.
Lamar is an ambitious and confident character, proud of his Apache heritage and his abilities as a gangster. He’s described as ‘crazy’ but in a good way, and serves as the polar opposite to Franklin’s proclivity to be skeptical and more level-headed.
Lester Crest is a long-time associate of protagonists Michael and Trevor. As an expert planner and informant, he played a key role in organizing their heists in the past and reprises this role in the events of the game.
At age 42, Lester’s health is already severely in decline; he’s mostly bound to a wheelchair due to a muscle-wasting disease, is significantly overweight, and has asthmatic problems.
He’s a devious character and is depicted as highly intelligent with proficiency in computing and technology.
Dave Norton is the 55-year-old F.B.I agent responsible for uncovering Michael and Trevor’s criminal crew. Following their arrest in the prologue, he made a deal with Michael: if he surrendered Trevor to the F.B.I he would allow him to fake his own death and gain a new identity.
This would be in return for the fame Norton would gain having shot and killed one of the most wanted men in America.
This plan comes undone years later as Norton’s boss, Steve Haines, discovers the plan. He’s from then on forced to comply with Haines’ scheme for revenge against the IAA. Although undoubtedly corrupt, Norton is considered a far more tolerable personality compared to Haines. He’d rather solve problems diplomatically than with violence.
38-year-old Steve Haines is the secondary antagonist of the game. A high-ranking F.B.I agent, Haines connects the dots between the profile of the apparently deceased Michael De Santa and a recent jewelry store robbery, and he uses this information to blackmail Michael and Dave Norton into helping him get revenge against a rival agency.
His stranglehold over Michael and the other protagonists represents the core of the story, with Haines being a narcissistic, selfish, and wholly manipulative character.
Haines has hold over Michael for much of the game due to the fact that he knows he faked his own death. At any moment he could expose Michael, but this blackmail is eventually relinquished when Michael is able to erase his information from the FBI HQ.
Despite efforts to have him killed, Haines is ultimately unsuccessful. He is eventually killed by Trevor as he is being interviewed for a T.V. show.
A 51-year-old billionaire and entrepreneur, Devin Weston is the main antagonist of the story. The three protagonists become involved with Weston in relation to their dealings with Steve Haines, and his power and influence become a huge danger for them throughout the events of the game.
Weston is portrayed as an arrogant, over-the-top character who uses his incredible wealth and duplicitous ploys to entrap the main characters. He’s a huge threat to the lives of the protagonists and their families and is the most powerful figure in the game.
Weston’s dealings centrally involve Michael. He and the protagonist initially made a deal that should Michael steal some expensive cars for him, he would get him in contact for a working role with Michael’s favorite film director: Salmon Richards.
Weston ultimately double-crosses him, and the situation escalates to Weston sending soldiers to kill Michael’s family. At the end of the game, Weston is captured in the boot of a car by the three protagonists and pushed off of the peak of Mount Chilliad.
Question: What Happens to the Three Main Protagonists after the Story Ends?
Answer: While the base game leaves each character’s fate open, Grand Theft Auto Online offers snippets of what the characters are up to in the present day.
The player character has the opportunity to complete a series of jobs for Franklin. Having been recommended to him by Lemar, the player works for Franklin under his newly founded ‘Celebrity Solutions’ agency — a business catering to the champaign problems of the rich and famous. During the player’s time with Franklin, he reveals Michael is working as an associate producer for Salmon Richards.
Trevor’s whereabouts are also eluded to. Franklin’s security guard mentions an event wherein a ‘guy dressed like a hobo’ barged into the office, claiming he used to work with Franklin. Trevor is more explicitly mentioned during the GTA Online missions with Trevor’s friend, Ron Jakowski. Ron makes reference to him leaving his trailer for a new lift in Vinewood as a life coach.
Question: There are Three Possible Endings to GTA 5. Which is the True Ending?
Answer: Franklin does have the option to take the offer to kill either Michael or Trevor. In these scenarios, Michael dies after a scuffle on top of a water tower with Franklin, and Trevor is set alight after being dowsed in petrol.
However, given that all protagonists are confirmed to be alive in GTA Online, we can consider Franklin’s option to reject those offers as the true, ‘canonical’ ending.
Question: Does GTA 5 Take Place in the Same Universe as Other Games in the Series?
Answer: Yes. GTA 5’s setting of Los Santos (modeled on Los Angeles) is narratively connected to cities featured in other GTA titles. Liberty City (modeled on New York) is referenced by Lester when he states that there was, “an Eastern European guy who use to do jobs in Liberty City” (meaning GTA 4’s protagonist Niko Belic).
There is also Trevor’s altercation with The Lost and Damned protagonist Johnny Klebitz that confirms a cross-over.
We hope this overview gave you some clarity on GTA 5’s main characters. As is mentioned above, the story fits into a large, interconnected universe; having a fundamental knowledge of each character and their motivations will help you understand not only this game but also others in the series.
We’re eagerly awaiting the now officially announced GTA 6, and we’ll be sure to have another guide for that game once it drops!
Here are some of the GTA V Characters we have specifically covered: