- "I want to be a good dad, love my family and live the dream. But at the same time, I really want the other stuff too."
- ―Michael talking to his therapist
- "You see it in the movies. I wanted to retire. From what I was doing, you know? From that, that... line of work. Be a good guy for once, a family man. So, I bought a big house. Came here, put my feet up, and thought I be a dad like all the other dads. My kids, would be like the kids on TV. We could play ball and sit in the sun. But well, you know how it is."
- ―Michael during Trailer #1
Michael's background is unknown at the moment, but it has been said that he is from somewhere in the East Coast and at some point in his young life he became a bank robber, and through the years he became highly successful at his job. Whilst young Michael somehow ran into an ex-military pilot named Trevor Phillips, who also had a flare for criminal acts and the two became close friends, performing several major heists in the past. Michael then met his future wife Amanda and had two children, Jimmy and Tracy.
Events of GTA V
During the events of Grand Theft Auto V, Michael retired from his life of crime after making a "sweetheart" deal with the FIB. In the process of that deal, he and his family got rich off of it, now living in a large mansion with several sports cars and a private tennis court and golf course.
But Michael's domestic life is sadly coming to an end. In fact, his wife who now barely tolerates him anymore, spent almost all of his money in the city’s finest boutiques. Both his son and daughter have little -if any- time left for him. Even Trevor had a severe falling out with Michael. This caused a severe rift between the two. Running out of money quickly and tired of being bored and miserable, Michael gets back to the criminal life.
His personal story is how the breakdown of his bought idyllic life pushes a man to breaking point. He is described as a man with everything and nothing to lose both at the same time, and his seemingly blissful existence in San Andreas will be changed forever by the events of GTA V.
Michael is known to have a good and bad side. His good side is that he is thoughtful and calculated and likely to keep his motives hidden. But, his bad side are his flaws, and his flaws are certainly his large ego, an inability to control his temper, and his willingness to make large moral compromises. He wants to compartmentalize and be a good guy some of the time. As stated above he has a horrible family that he wants to leave but can't for specific reasons and has access to all the pleasures in the world but is bored. Dan Houser has also stated that despite seeming to be the good guy (at least compared to Trevor), he might end up being worse than Trevor in the end.
Relationships With Other Characters
- Trevor - Trevor's relationship with Michael started at an unknown time period, but the two had a hard friendship with one another. Their relationship was great until both men had a falling out which caused a rift in between their friendship (some believe that it was Michael's deal with the FIB that caused that rift). Since that brief rift, it caused both men to stay friends but with a troubled relationship with one another. When the two old buddies see each other, they often bicker a lot.
- Franklin - After meeting one another, Franklin and Michael began this father-son relationship with Michael holding some affection for Franklin, and saw potential and a younger Michael in Franklin, and Franklin doesn't really have a family but wants to move up in the criminal underworld but at the same time, doesn't know how to do so. So, he saw his way in after meeting Michael. Dan Houser has also stated that the father-son relationship between the two could lead to some "interesting situations."
- Amanda - Amanda's relationship with Michael also started in an unknown time. The two fell in love with one another, got married and had two children. During the events of the game, she can barely tolerate him anymore, (mainly because Dan Houser also confirmed that Michael has been awful to her in the past few years). One of the reasons she fell in love with Michael is because she is bound to him by their past lives, but now both of them can't stand each other anymore (Another statement by Dan Houser).
- Jimmy - Jimmy's relationship with his father is rocky as well and even though Michael is far from perfect, so is his son. They've both got a confused and awful relationship with each other. This was seen in the second trailer when Jimmys says the words, "Hey, let's bounce.", to which Michael is a tad bit lost by and says "Bounce, we're bouncing now?"
- Tracy - Michael's relationship with his daughter was also said to be weak, by Rockstar, though the second trailer, her first appearance, didn't show any dialogue with Michael. According to Rockstar, they barely talk anymore. If they do talk it is either them bickering, or arguing with each other.
Michael has a nice clean-cut appearance, along with nice clothes, usually seen in screenshots and artworks with a gray, black or dark blue dress suit with a light green or white dress shirt underneath. In the "Michael, Franklin and Trevor" artwork he is seen dressed with a creamy-yellow collared shirt with blue dress pants. During the opening scene in the second trailer, Michael walks outside to his pool with nothing on but sandals, swimming trunks and a pair of glasses, showing us that he is a small portion over weight but still in good shape.
Skills and Attributes
As an experienced bank robber, he’s skilled in planning the complex heists that make up the structure for the single-player story and is a smooth operator as well as the brains of the team. In the cutscenes that Game Informer saw, Michael appears to be the team’s leader – although neither of his partners were easily led. He’s good with a gun, and though older now, still capable of tackling challenging tasks like rappelling out of a helicopter onto a skyscraper. During the second trailer, Michael demonstrated great driving skills, managing to save his son, who was hanging onto a large boat on the top of a tow truck while losing his grip. Just like Trevor and Franklin he is also the master of greed, ambition and insanity. Dan Houser has stated that, "He is always good at what he does, steal, kill, but he does not want to fall back into its failings."
Like Franklin and Trevor,Michael has a special ability to slow down time while shooting(Bullet Time).
As Rockstar Games made there way into the character development stages of Grand Theft Auto V, Michael was the first protagonist that Rockstar came up with, being a tough guy, as in the past episodes of the GTA series, but also different. So, Rockstar wanted him to be a "little bit older", according to Dan Houser. Part of what Rockstar thought of when making Michael is the hero of Grand Theft Auto III grown older while the other part is "what happens when a GTA protagoninst retires?". Rockstar decided to make him a rich man with a mansion in the most exclusive neighborhood in Los Santos while he spends his time in a chair smoking a cigar near his pool. Rockstar then thought it would be funny if they added him a horrible family as a little push to remain active in his professional criminal life.
Michael has had a very positive responses from critics and fans, one of the reason is because of him being the first playable character in the entire GTA Series that has a family. Another reason is that he is much like Tommy Vercetti, or Carl Johnson who have already lived there lives out as an highly professional criminal and gotten rich off of it.
Dan Houser's Way of Describing Michael
"Michael, to me, is... Who is he? I know who he is, I'm just trying to... He's the person who is trying to ignore some rather large mistakes that they have made. The person who's trying to forget about certain practical but still selfish decisions that they took. He's a man, also, obsessed by images and by appearances and who, when the world doesn't live up to those images and appearances, doesn't know what to do. He just retreats into his head. What he also is, when we started out... What he kind of evolved into as we began thinking about him and developing him... He was the first character we came up with. He began as the idea of, what happens to a regular GTA protagonist after they retire? Then you think, what would make him retire? He's a man with a big ego and plenty of good values and plenty of bad values."
"A guy who's in his mid-40s and on the cusp of middle age who doesn't know what to do, but made a bunch of money and does not know what to do with it. He's theoretically won, but the spoils of victory aren't necessarily what he imagined. For us that's a very interesting character, unlike what we've done in the past or what we've seen in much entertainment in general, let alone any video games. That was interesting."
"He's the person who is trying to ignore some rather large mistakes that they have made. The person who's trying to forget about certain practical but still selfish decisions that they took. He's a man, also, obsessed by images and by appearances and who, when the world doesn't live up to those images and appearances, doesn't know what to do. He just retreats into his head."
- Michael was the first protagonist that came to Rockstar's mind when they began the development of Grand Theft Auto V.
- Michael is the only protagonist in the entire series to be a family man.
- GameInformer December issue.
-  - IGN info about Michael.
-  - Info from Meristation.
-  - Info from Polygon.
-  - Info from a translated interview with Dan Houser about GTA V.
-  - Info from another translated interview with with Dan Houser.