It sounds like we have the final word on why Troy Baker didn't perform in Borderlands 3, despite his Tales from the Borderlands character appearing in the game. Baker initially said "that isn't me" when Gearbox revealed that Tales co-protagonist Rhys would appear in the game, now as CEO of the late Handsome Jack's Atlas corporation. This set off an indirect back-and-forth between Gearbox, whose own CEO Randy Pitchford said he heard that Baker had turned down the role, and Baker himself, who said that he so didn't.
In a new interview with VG247, Baker finally lays out why he wasn't able to work on the game. There's no dramatic demands over pay and/or creative control and/or exotic contract riders - it's just business dealings. It started with Gearbox approaching Baker to see if he was interested in doing the role, and Baker said yes. But "then they made it impossible for me to do the role." It wasn't about money, and he never actually turned it down himself, Baker said.
"No, it was simply a matter of they wouldn't go union," Baker explained. "And I can't do a non-union gig. 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."
Baker is a member of SAG-AFTRA, the main union representing video game voice actors in the US. In order for him to do voice work on the game, Gearbox would have had to sign a deal with SAG-AFTRA and officially make the game's vocal side a union production, which would mean that other principal performers on the game would need to be or become union members too.
Gearbox has a history of putting its own employees into games as vocal performers: the original voice actor for Claptrap was the vice president of licensing and business development for the studio before an acrimonious split with the company, and its new media manager is the voice of antagonist Tyreen Calypso, as a few examples. I'm not sure if that would have complicated the process of making Borderlands 3 a union production but it's still a shame Gearbox and Baker couldn't come to an agreement.
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