Prolific voice actor Troy Baker has revealed the true reason why he didn't reprise his role as Rhys in Borderlands 3. Baker originally played Rhys in Tales from the Borderlands, who quickly became a fan-favorite character. Baker is also famed for his work as a number of other major characters in modern video games, such as Joel from The Last of Us.
The development of Borderlands 3 was fraught with controversy. Even aside from the spiraling lawsuit against Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford, the contention over the game itself started when Baker first said he wasn't the one playing Rhys in Borderlands 3. There was some question as to why that was the case, with Pitchford saying it was because Baker had "turned it down" and Baker debating that idea. Gearbox's relations with other voice actors also worsened the controversy around the game's development; David Eddings, the former voice actor for Claptrap, did not return due to a pay dispute. Pitchford responded by calling him "bitter," and the exchange eventually resulted in Eddings claiming that Pitchford had assaulted him. Add to that Gearbox's choice to retain another voice actor accused of abuse and Pitchford's inaccurate claims about microtransactions, and Borderlands 3 had a pretty bad image leading up to release.
Now Troy Baker has explained why he didn't work with Gearbox to voice Rhys again, and his reasoning is simple but significant. In an interview with VG247 during a fan event for his Let's Play series, Baker said that Gearbox came to him and asked if he wanted to take the role again, and he "absolutely" wanted to at first. After that, however, Baker said the studio "made it impossible" for him to do so. When asked to elaborate, Baker said it had nothing to do with the money. "They wouldn't go union," he said. "And I can't do a non-union gig."
Unionization in the video game industry has been a important topic in recent times, and voice actors have successfully campaigned for better treatment and wages as part of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (or SAG-AFTRA). Evidently, Baker is part of such a union, but didn't want to get into that too much during the interview. Both parties always knew that characters from Tales from the Borderlands were going to be transplanted into Borderlands 3, and Baker said he and Gearbox "had long conversations" about the situation. According to Baker, Gearbox was never willing to move from its position. "I’m not mad," he said. "It’s invariably a completely different character, but it still stings."
This new information doesn't do much for Gearbox's less-than-sterling reputation. Borderlands 3 was moderately well received and has become Gearbox's biggest success in quite a while, but the studio's baggage has kept it out of the public's good graces.