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Gearbox ‘wouldn’t go union’ for Borderlands 3 — so Troy Baker wouldn’t voice Rhys

Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford previously said the voice actor turned the role down

A headshot of Rhys Strongfork from Tales from the Borderlands Telltale Games
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Tales from the Borderlands actor Troy Baker, who played Rhys Strongfork in Telltale Games’ adventure game, “turned down” the role in Borderlands 3, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said earlier this year. But what he left out was that it was because Gearbox reportedly refused a union agreement that would allow Baker to work on the game.

Baker told VG247 that he turned down the role because Gearbox “wouldn’t go union.”

The voice actor is a member of American labor union SAG-AFTRA, which fights for fair treatment of workers in the industry — in 2017, the union reached a deal that ended an 11-month strike against video game companies.

“I can’t do a non-union gig,” Baker said. Union members can only accept union work.

He continued:

And without getting too deep into the weeds of that, we had long conversations about this. We always knew going into it, that this was going to be the thing. They were going to take these characters, and put them from the Tales from the Borderlands series from Telltale, into Borderlands proper. I’ve been waiting for this call. They were like, “Do you want to do this?” And I said, “Yes” They never, because they would never move from that position. I’m not mad. It’s invariably a completely different character, but it still stings.

SAG-AFTRA released a statement confirming Gearbox “refused and disengaged” from union talks.

“The misguided decision by Gearbox to deny their performers the opportunity to have fair union wages, a safe workplace and the possibility of health care coverage for their families, is unfortunate,” a SAG-AFTRA representation said in a statement to Polygon.

We’ve reached out to Gearbox for comment regarding the union agreement and will update when the company responds.

Baker voiced Joel in The Last of Us and will reprise his role in The Last of Us Part 2, due out in 2020. He’s also known for his roles in Uncharted, Mortal Kombat 11, and BioShock Infinite.

Update: A Gearbox representative provided a statement to Polygon after publication.

Troy is an exceptional talent and we were disappointed that he declined to partner on Borderlands 3 after being offered the part. We wish him the best and hope he knows the offer to collaborate with him still stands. Gearbox is a Texas company and is bound by Texas law — which means that a person cannot be denied employment because of membership or non-membership in a labor union or other labor organization. As a talent-owned and talent-led organization, Gearbox enthusiastically works to ensure our pay and working conditions meet or exceed union standards. We also believe strongly in hiring local voice actors whenever we can which is why we’re thrilled Troy’s career really took off after working with us.

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