Exclusive Interview: Scott Joseph Talks Blowing Minds as The Emperor (And More!) in ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’


Though Scott Joseph himself would hesitate to tell you exactly how long he’s worked in the industry (as you will read for yourself further into the interview), suffice to say his name, face, and voice are certainly not new to it, fortunately lending his talents across a variety of media.

With professional training and a BA Hons Degree in Performing Arts, in recent years he has focused on furthering his voice over career, though he has a wealth of experience as actor both on screen and on the stage, as well as having written and voiced audio descriptive content for television, film, sports, and live events and launching National UK Commercial campaigns on television and radio.

Thanks to his warm voice, even the most engaging conversation about his dedication to his craft is equally as relaxing, his tone perfect for an early morning chat. In our case, we were fortunate to speak with Scott about his work on Baldur’s Gate 3, with insights into one of the game’s most complex characters, The Emperor, and how his performance helped develop the Illithid for the game.

Note: This interview avoids major spoilers for The Emperor’s storyline in Baldur’s Gate 3, but does still include spoilers. The interview has also been edited for clarity.

Nerds & Beyond: We’ll go ahead and dive in, starting off with something quite straightforward — how did you get involved with Baldur’s Gate 3?

Scott Joseph: Josh Weeden is the Lead Casting and Voice Director at PitStop Productions that was recording all the Performance Capture for Baldur’s Gate 3. During lockdown I had worked with him remotely on a game — another RPG game called Expeditions: Rome, in which I was playing one of the lead companion characters called Caeso. It was a wonderful game and we got on really well, and so perhaps I was in his peripheral thoughts when it came to Baldur’s Gate, which must have been going on simultaneously ’cause Baldur’s Gate had been going on for years at that point. And a few months later, once we wrapped on Expeditions: Rome, Pitstop asked me to self-tape for a character in this other game (which turned out to be BG3) and it was Marcus, everyone’s favorite.

Nerds & Beyond: Oh, Marcus … what a lovely guy.

Scott Joseph: He’s just greeeeat! But Marcus was around September 2021. I got the part and then went into PitStop, did a few sessions with them to record all his material and as is invariably the case with large games, they threw in a couple of other characters, smaller NPCs [Non-Playable Characters]. So I did that and then … much later actually, in I think November 2022, I got asked to audition again for an enigmatic character called “The Companion,” and I didn’t really know too much. This work is always shrouded in secrecy. And it’s not just a voice audition for these because obviously it’s performance capture, so it’s movement as well. So I got out my camera. And donned my tight lycra jogging gear because you want to give an idea of your physicality, your body shape and stuff like that, so that they’ve got as much to work with off the audition as possible.

They cast me! Now whenever I’m cast in something, I get these little peaks where I get cast and I have a fleeting moment of exhilaration that lasts for probably about five minutes, and then suddenly I go, “Oh my, God, I’ve been cast! What does this mean, what have I got to do?”

My main worry was that the voice of Marcus was a kind of deep RP, which means “received pronunciation.” It’s pretty much the way that I’m speaking now, maybe slightly posher. However, they also wanted for “The Companion” character to be deep RP as well … how do I differentiate the two characters vocally? I didn’t know at the time what was going to be done with “The Companion,” their voice or anything like that. I didn’t know if any effects were going to be put on. So I had to make some decisions going in and principally I pushed “The Companion” to the very bottom of my register and softened the tone right down to an almost intimate level.

I go into PitStop and some Larian guys were there! Everyone’s really friendly, it’s a wonderful place to walk into. They’re all smiles. They make you feel welcome, offer you a drink, you sit on the sofa, you chill out for a bit. And then Josh introduces me like, “This is Scott, he’s going to be playing … The Emperor,” and the Larian guys went, “Ooooh, great!”

Of course, they knew everything, I knew nothing. So I’m playing it cool, “Yeah, ‘The Emperor,'” but thinking, “Is that good?” … and then Neil [Newbon], who was there as well, came over and Neil was great. He makes a beeline for you just in a really friendly way to get you to relax, just as a familiar face. “Hi, I’m Neil. How are you getting on?” And so we had a little chat and that helped me relax. Then he said, “Oh, you’re The Emperor?!” And my internal voice is all, “You know nothing but you can’t let on that you don’t know anything.” So casually respond with something vague like, “Yeah. Yeah.”

That first session was nerve wracking because you don’t really know the character, you’re getting to know the character, but you want to do well and you want to nail it, to hit the ground running. But once that first session is done and you’ve got the character, you can relax a little because every subsequent session, you know where you’re starting. You’re building layer upon layer.

Nerds & Beyond: It has to be a bit daunting too when you audition for a character called “The Companion,” to then show up on day one and learn their name is actually “The Emperor.” What was your impression of the character as you started to experience them and figure out what they are?

Scott Joseph: Yeah, like you say, when you hear “The Emperor,” you can’t help but be awash with what you already know connected with that word and that title. For me I’m thinking Ancient Rome, I’m thinking Star Wars. A whole load of influences and inspirations come to you from that one word, and you bring those in as an actor. I don’t push away from those because you can’t help knowing what you already know, so I let that wash over me and perhaps inform what I do to varying degrees. You have to make decisions, and I’d already made some when I did the audition because what was great about it and different to the Marcus audition to a certain degree, was that I had a couple of really fantastic contrasting scenes in my audition material.

I found with “The Companion” audition, it was really something that I didn’t have to try too hard to make decisions about, I read the script and thought, “I know what I’m going to do with the scene,” that doesn’t always happen and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. You just have to make your decisions on how you’ll play the scene and have conviction in that, and hope that those emotional shifts or insights or whatever you find in the script, can actually make it past the camera lens, to the person who’s going to be casting. If you start second guessing and then doubting, well then I can get lost in my head a little bit.

So, bold decisions early on were made about how I felt the character might stand and move and deliver lines and fortunately, they weren’t massively far off from the direction of travel for the character development in the record sessions. Of course, that’s when you begin speaking with the voice director, with the movement director and with the Larian guys and you properly flesh that character out.

My initial impression in terms of The Emperor as a character is that — like all Mind Flayers — they operate very much on the periphery, because of what they are. Anyone The Emperor encounters is likely already going to have a lot of weighty preconceptions that The Emperor may have to get through or contend with.

Because of this, The Emperor’s very much on edge, they’re treading a very fine line. And I think that carried through the whole time that I was working on The Emperor, they’re operating on that knife edge, but not in a way that is overtly tense, anxious, horrible, or necessarily evil way and neither are they a nervous wreck. I think this is where The Emperor thrives — this fine knife edge where things could go either way, death Success? Who knows! That’s what they’re looking for. That’s where they thrive is that knife edge. And I worked on finding that with the directors.

In terms of The Emperor’s physicality, obviously they’re quite regal, seven feet tall, huge chest … the tentacles, obviously! [pause for dramatic effect]. So, there’s a physical power there, but in chatting with the movement and the voice directors, we came to the conclusion that it’s not overt, not dominantly towering over you, it’s more considered, more restrained. And again, that goes back to the knife edge. Its like there’s a gamble going on there with everything that The Emperor does, and so everything’s considered as it has to be.

Nerds & Beyond: There are very subtle movements for The Emperor as the game continues on and they develop that from a body language standpoint are helpful in showing how complex they are and how they’re trying to make you feel comfortable. I notice they always tends to approach a handshake or grabbing your hand from below, so they’re giving you that position of power, so to speak. It’s very fascinating to watch them evolve over time.

Scott Joseph: It’s interesting you picked up on stuff like that as well. I mean, again, you never know how much of this is gonna get noticed in-game – that said I should understand that gamers want to connect with these characters, and so they are watching for everything, and particularly in Baldur’s Gate where so much happens and can happen with little gestures, little details that the adventurer is keen to detect? Because you’re trying to pass your perception check.

Nerds & Beyond: Ah, clever! You’re right — everyone playing is trying to understand these characters. My favorite thing about this game is that each performance, depending on how you approach the game as the player, is going to be completely different for you.

We did mention what’s in the name a bit when you’re drawing inspiration for the character, but where else do you start to take in any amount of inspiration for a character as complex as this?

Scott Joseph: Like you said, we talked about the word “emperor” and performances of emperors that you’ve seen in the past, real life emperors and things like that. There’s a sense of carrying yourself in a way that reflects what is very much the territory of an emperor — that regal, holding yourself in a composed but powerful manner.

And so I allowed that to inform me a little, but then also you can bring a lot of your own memory and experiences. Whether consciously or not, I work from drawing memories as an inspiration for me. I don’t necessarily think, “Do I know a memory for that kind of emotion?”

But I’m very much an emotion driven person and when I make memories they’re very much woven in emotion. It sounds like I’m an emotional wreck, but it’s not like that. It’s just my strongest memories carry with them very strong emotions, and I can draw on those memories to help conjure certain emotions for a character in a scene. When I’m watching films and television, my wife and family, they notice that my face mirrors the emotion that’s on the screen at the time. It’s totally inadvertent, but I’m clearly an emotional person.

So when I’m reading through text and script, I’ll see what emotions I feel or need to feel and maybe draw upon memories to help get me there, and I certainly tried to tap into that a bit with The Emperor. It’s all then filtered through your character; you’re not you anymore, it adapts, evolves. It’s interesting to do and you just have to surrender yourself to it a certain degree.

One challenge in terms of performance with The Emperor, and it contrast to Marcus or any of the other characters that they asked me to do which were invariably humans, is The Emperor’s restraint. For the other characters I drop into a physicality and suddenly I’m largely free in terms of movement and vocal range, stuff like that. For the The Emperor, it’s constricted, it’s constrained, so whenever I got to moments where I could show some emotion, some affection, some vulnerability, some anger … that was fantastic, because it meant so much more. When you’ve got a character that doesn’t show much, when they do, it can potentially be quite powerful.

So I quite cherished those moments, and I had to really find them, with the help of the voice and movement directors who kept me honest. But you let all that — all your emotional drivers, memories, influences, etc. — percolate in the back of your mind while you’re performing.

Nerds & Beyond: I do like that you mentioned The Emperor starting to reveal more of his genuine feelings as time goes on, and there’s a specific moment in Act 3 that I find particularly special, as I’m sure many others do. I think it shapes up to be one of the most special in the game because you’ve got this character that is so walled up and reserved up until then, and now he feels comfortable enough to share himself and something important to him … it’s such a beautiful set of scenes.

Scott Joseph: I know what you mean. It’s like I’ve got a few friends that are quite reserved and when they do share something with you, it means so much more because you’ve been allowed past defences to something quite wonderful. You’ve entered a space of trust.

That’s actually something that we discussed, and when we were talking about the scene you’re referencing; it’s choosing to soften the delivery a little bit and show that degree of vulnerability? And it’s interesting because a vast amount, not just with The Emperor but I think with the game in general, is led by how the player interprets what they’re seeing and their response to that. Their interpretation to a large extent dictates how the game shapes out before them. If they consciously or inadvertently bring a definite reaction to a character, that character might then change based on that reaction and that might alter the quest’s trajectory.

“Oh, I did that and it’s upsetting and now I can’t get that back.” And so that’s the beauty of
the game. It is on such a confoundingly complex level that you’re like, “How on earth did they
to do this?”

Nerds & Beyond: We’ll just say that I have quite a few hours into the game, and the fact that I’m still discovering new missions or details is mind blowing, and a testament to Larian and the work everyone involved with the game put in.

Scott Joseph: I have got it, and whenever I get to play it, I’m a completionist. You have to do certain missions at certain points, but otherwise I quite like exploring the land, the map, like a printer going back and forth. I don’t think I can do that with Baldur’s Gate. I think you’ve just got to surrender yourself and go where it takes you, where your heart’s desires push your story.

Nerds & Beyond: The great thing is, is that they’ve given you so many different ways to experience the game too, between custom characters and all that comes with them and the Origin characters and all that comes with them.

While we are being mindful of spoilers, of course, The Emperor’s storyline is without a doubt one of the more complex in the game, which is a testament to their character because the game is complex, as we just mentioned, in itself. As an actor, what helps you get into the mindset of working on a role like this and what some of your processes for building the character in additional ways through performance?

Scott Joseph: Wonderful question. Fundamentally, and I know I’ve said it a couple of times and I’ll keep going back to it, and you’ve referenced it as well yourself just now. We rely heavily on the voice directors, the movement directors, and the writers for this project because of their expertise, the game’s complexity, but just also because there’s so much more that I wasn’t privy to that they were.

So when I came in, you’re not exactly told, “This is the story so far. These are the characters, here’s the plot lines that you can follow here.” There’s none of that because it would take too long. As much as actors would love to have a complete overview of everything, it’s not practical in a game like this. And also because it’s very much being crafted and re-crafted as the material gets recorded and sent in, there’s an organic process of adaptation that goes on.

We get expert guidance from the directors, and not just on delivery but how to deliver at your best. So them spotting that maybe vocally you need a break, or physically you’re looking a little tired, and it’s a real skill for them to be able to get actors into the Volume and working at their best. I lean heavily on that and I draw a parallel with it for when I started out doing motion capture ahem years ago. I had to be fit. I might be recording the movements for gamer-controlled characters or auditioning for them, [but] it can be physically testing work. A friend of mine was a personal trainer, I worked with him. A great PT knows your limits. They know the limit in your head and then they know the limit your body can get to. If you were training on your own, you’d get to the limit in your head and stop, where a personal trainer goes to the limit that they know your body can take. That’s the zone that can really get results.

There’s a parallel there with what great directors do. They get you into that comfort zone where you’re working really well and then ever so slightly push you and stretch it. So you come to it with an interpretation in mind, and then they throw something at you and you adapt and think, “Oh yeah, I’ll give that a go actually.” And it is very much a sense of play, and when you get into that zone of play, you very much suspend any anxiety you might have about whether you’re doing a good job and just do it.

The first session was hard because you’re finding the character. But once you get away from that mindset and you’re playing, then you can really find some amazing stuff. Also, when you get into the Volume, you have an avatar, so you do all the movements and they capture them to calibrate the system and the space to your physicality. The avatar is a bit like a Power Ranger – it’s on-screen in front of you, a visual representation of your own movements.

I was lucky enough to have an avatar Mind Flayer, so I could see this hulking, great, tentacled, gorgeous Emperor. And it wasn’t me going, “I need an avatar of The Emperor or I can’t work.” They actually said “We’ve got one. Do you want to have it?” And I was like, “Yes, please!”

It’s a practical consideration, what with the tentacles, you have to have your chin up a bit, otherwise they constantly disappear into the chest, again that lent itself a bit to that regal air — chin up, shoulders back. And so that feeds into your performance.

The fact that The Emperor and all Illithids have quite a big chest I allowed to inform me, because every breath would be quite big, so you’d see that in the shoulders. I’d raise my shoulders up and then let them fall with each breath. But it’s only a very subtle thing because otherwise with exaggerated movements it looks like you’re flying, which you don’t want. It’s strange how you draw inspiration not just from words or titles like “emperor” and the words on the script, you also draw inspiration from looking at a Mind Flayer, and specifically The Emperor, and thinking, “Okay, I like that breath movement in the shoulders.”

With the movement and voice directors, we took it further, discussing The Emperor’s movements having the feel of flowing as though through water. It doesn’t always happen, there are times where they have to do fast moves, but typically it harks back to everything they do being carefully considered, being well thought out. When I lift my hand to offer it to someone, how you said, there’s power in that move because they don’t move very often.

In fact, I’m a very gesture driven person, so it was being quite restrained for me as The Emperor. I would come out of a session aching across the shoulders, across down the back because I had to hold that regal, proper position every time I spoke and fight the urge to gesture my head, because The Emperor very rarely will actually turn their head. It’s a movement of the whole body. It only happens occasionally.

Nerds & Beyond: Hearing all of this is so interesting. I think people would look at a Mind Flayer and automatically think it has to be so restrictive, but there is still so much that you have done to communicate the fact that yes — they’re a Mind Flayer, but The Emperor specifically is an individual.

Scott Joseph: Yes, he’s an individual. And it’s because there is a healthy degree of stoicism about The Emperor that works to a point, but the directors and myself wanted to keep me honest and find that balance within a relatively narrow cadence, in terms of the way that The Emperor speaks, and their physicality of gesture and things. It can’t be monotonous. You have to give something.

And again, we’re talking about that fine line — everything The Emperor gives is considered. And I know that leans in towards players saying it’s all manipulation, and with all stuff like that it is, to a degree. I think every single character in Baldur’s Gate manipulates. In fact, I think we all manipulate.

It’s such a calculated word, but it’s about getting what you want. It can’t all be about you. Others want things, so how do you get what you want without communicating an overriding sense of self-interest? We’re all finding that balance. You have to walk a very fine line there because if you’re displaying too much self-interest people will rumble you and they’ll start to go, “I’m being manipulated. I don’t trust you.” And that’s hard to get back.

So that’s something that we fought hard to find — those moments where The Emperor surrenders a bit more than perhaps was expected and the decision is then the gamer’s to interpret what that might mean.

Nerds & Beyond: You touched on something I definitely wanted to bring up, which is watching player reactions. What’s it been like to watch everyone learn about the character and form the many varying opinions on them?

Scott Joseph: Yeah … I mean, let’s face it, he’s quite a divisive character because of what Mind Flayers are. The clue is in the title “Mind Flayer.” That automatically raises alarm bells, doesn’t it?

But what I really loved — when the game first came out, I kind of held back. I wasn’t sure how to interact, whether I was allowed to say, “Hi, I’m The Emperor.” I was aware that The Emperor comes in quite late on in the game, and so there are spoilers and NDAs and stuff like that. So I sat in the background and watched … it sounds evil. But I just enjoyed watching the gamers who were streaming, and a lot of you know so much more than I do about the lore behind it all.

Some of them had selected their class and built their character, maybe they understood all the backstory and all that comes with it, so they knew what their characters will and won’t accept, or what they will or won’t do based on their culture and values. But what was truly fascinating was when they’re in that situation — and let’s say without spoiling, The Emperor gives a player a decision to make. The turmoil that some of the gamers experienced was great to watch. There’d be a pause and then they’d go, “Oh no. God. I don’t know.” You can see the cogs turning about what’s being offered, what’s at stake, what it might mean and the importance, and internal struggle.

It was heart-warming to me because that was something that the directors and I were trying for. When I delivered a line and it was too stoic and I got direction to imagine it a different way, you re-deliver it and suddenly you quite like what it achieved.

The struggle that the gamers were experiencing, they’re having to decide, “Ah, is this Mind Flayer different … are you sure you know?” Far be it for me to say one way or the other because I think the beauty of Baldur’s Gate is that you decide. It’s down to you. If you, if it’s not for you, then you make that decision, and you make your choices and you carry on with your party and you have your adventure.

It’s not right or wrong, it’s just your adventure, and that’s the beauty of the game. You craft your adventure. But just because you craft your adventure, there’s no reason why The Emperor shouldn’t put a case to you and try and convince you otherwise and welcome you with open tentacles.

Nerds & Beyond: I try to avoid anything I can that will reveal too much to me before starting a game, so on release weekends I tend to lock myself in for the long haul, which is getting through the main story first and foremost. Being presented with that decision for the first time is definitely one of those “pause and think” moments.

Scott Joseph: Did you do it on the third of August? That was a crazy weekend.

Nerds & Beyond: That was a crazy weekend — with a lot of caffeine consumed. I didn’t struggle with that decision, by the way. It was pretty much immediate for me.

Scott Joseph: What’s fascinating is that I think that’s where the game battles against typical gameplay is because you made that choice — you influenced how the character and other characters towards you would behave and would be. It’s like if you don’t trust someone, you’re not going to give them as much, you’re not going to entertain them as much, you’re not going to be with them as much. You’re going to be quite cold towards them. They will feed off that and maybe be off and cold towards you as much as you are them.

And that’s reflected in the game of Baldur’s Gate. If you treat a character badly, they’re not exactly gonna go, “Oh, no, please come on.” They might do if it’s in their character, or they might actually say, “Well, okay, screw you. I’ve drawn my sword and we can battle this out.”

Or some such. Your path feels the way it does for you based on the decisions you made, but for others it’s a quick, “Oh, this is why you can’t trust The Emperor.” It won’t be the same for everyone, and we can only choose whether that’s the correct decision or not for our own adventure.

Nerds & Beyond: Regardless of the many decisions presented to us, it’s nearly impossible to convince me to not have The Emperor on my side in the final battle. The presence is appreciated.

Earlier you mentioned the lore — with Baldur’s Gate of course we’re talking about Forgotten Realms and Dungeons & Dragons [D&D]. Was this your first D&D experience?

Scott Joseph: I haven’t played D&D, but let’s do a kind of whistle stop tour of my build up to D&D because I do think at some point in the future I would like to, based on what I’ve learned from doing Baldur’s Gate and the community that I’ve just been blessed to be a part of now.

But my first recollection of D&D, well borderline D&D, is 1981 Lord of the Rings on BBC Radio 4 with Ian Holm, Michael Hordern, Bill Nighy … just listening to that one in the background while I was drawing and my folks had it on. Then from that you’ve got the wonderful Lord of the Rings animated film in the seventies which I loved. So you can tell, I kind of like Lord of the Rings a little bit. And I know that D&D is so much bigger, but for me that’s dabbling my toes in the waters of that fantastical realm.

And then I used to read the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books, which involves kind of ripping bits of paper and numbering them as save my place, like a primitive save method pre-video game. So saving that page place with a little bit of paper before I then went to page 64 from 38.

There’s a bookshop, kind of general store, called WHSmith for stationery etc. over here in the UK. And I used to walk in to just admire the artwork on the books. Up from Fighting Fantasy there were the Lone Wolf books that were slightly for an older age, and then beyond that, there was the adult Fighting Fantasy books and I’d looked through and there were tables that you had to fill in.

So now, looking back, I had the drive, the interest, and the spark for D&D. I used to play, on a really old game console called Intellivision, Advanced Dugeons and Dragons it was called. We’re talking pixels here, but it was fantastic — venturing to mountains and exploring caves and battling dragons and stuff like that.

After Uni and when the LOTR films released a friend asked, “Do you want to play a card game?” Again, this isn’t D&D but it’s a card game for Lord of the Rings where you create your deck. You choose companions and all the cards to do with companions make your deck as big as you want or as small as you want. Then you shuffle in your evil monsters and all their cards and all their magic and stuff like that, and you make that as big and small as you want. You mix them all together and that’s your deck to play against someone else with across nine sites. Nine for Fellowship, Nine for The Two Towers, and nine for Return of the King. A new deck to shuffle in for each set of sites and we would play across all 24 sites with the soundtrack on in the background – if you had massive decks you might not get to play all the cards you need, too small a deck and you might not be able to stop the person you are playing against.

It’s nowhere near the improvisation and the richness that you get from D&D, and I think without knowing D&D I was like, “Oh, this is really cool.” I could see its limitations but we did have some fantastic adventures.

But when I got involved with Baldur’s Gate, I started seeking more and I saw the High Rollers and Frazer Blaxland, who plays Dammon, who’s doing the Shadow of an Empire which I’ve started watching and absolutely love. I’m coming to this completely new, so I am really appreciating watching along with folk starting up their own D&D party.

What’s wonderful is the freedom of it. Literally, you come up with whatever you want, you improv however you want. It has repercussions and that’s when you need a good DM to transport the story along, but it’s so rich and so wonderfully all-encompassing.

I could lose a lot of my life playing D&D I think, in a good way.

Nerds & Beyond: A sentiment shared by everyone who has ever played D&D.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
“Playing D&D.”
“All weekend?”
“All weekend.”

Scott Joseph: I think that’s why I’m set for D&D because when I play games, and my wife and my family don’t get this, but I need time. Someone will offer for me to play my game and I’ll ask how long I’ve got and they’ll tell me an hour, and I’ll go, “No, no, no, no. I need at least a four hour stretch, maybe longer.”

Whenever I played computer games with my dad on the Commodore 64 we would play through the afternoon and into the evening until my mum would come up and say, “Stephen, he’s got school tomorrow!” Or she’d come up and use my full name, and that’s when I knew I was in trouble.

But you just surrender to the game and I think that’s the case with D&D. You surrender to the game and that’s why it takes time and the more you surrender to it, the longer the stretch of playing it, the more you’re into the zone, the more you’re in that world.

So, yeah, I think I would love to do some … whether that actually transpires into being the case is another matter.

Nerds & Beyond: But you do intend to play Baldur’s Gate 3, which has definitely been a lot of peoples’ introduction to D&D now, so that may be the case for you as well! When you get to play are you going to go the custom character route or play as one of the Origins?

Scott Joseph: I have built my custom character actually, because I I had a three hour stretch. My wife was like, “You can play Baldur’s Gate 3 now if you want.” I thought how early on in the evening it was, I’ve got about three or four hours so I could get some something done here. Little did I know that you fall into the void of developing your character, and suddenly it’s like, “Oh, well, there’s three hours gone.”

So yes, I wanted to do my own character and I developed my own character. I went for a Druid.

Nerds & Beyond: That was my next question!

Scott Joseph: Yes, Druid! But I think they’re not the easiest, because I was looking at Paladins, Wizards, and Druids, they can do magic and are also good with weapons. But I think the Druid might be hard for a beginner to really get their head around.

Nerds & Beyond: Druid does have a lot of unique dialogue options in Act 1 due to the grove, so that does end up being interesting. But you could multi-class into Paladin if Druid isn’t offering you enough in terms of gameplay and fighting style.

As I start to mention locations, is there one in particular that you’ve seen in the game that you’d take a vacation to given the chance?

Scott Joseph: Well, you mentioned the druid grove, and when you’re talking about vacation you’re talking about chill time. That seems like quite a tranquil place. I mean, it’s not without its traps, I’m sure, but it still looks quite nice.

But obviously you’d have to go to Baldur’s Gate. I’d actually quite like to retrace — now I might be going beyond the realms of the game — but if I could go to Baldur’s Gate, I think I’d quite like to retrace the steps of The Emperor. Without going into spoilers, I will just say I’d like to explore where they explored. Without going into spoilers, I’d quite like to retrace their steps and definitely explore Baldur’s Gate seeing as how it is quite special to them.

But that’s assuming if I played I could ever make it out of Baldur’s Gate alive, because I’m really quite unlucky in games sometimes. I played Elite Frontier with a friend of mine, and we’d just done a huge battle where I’d had success — I got all this stuff I wanted to get. He tells me to head back home and when I head to the planet he said, “Stick it on autopilot and it’ll dock for you.” And so I did that, flying towards this planet … but the planet’s getting bigger, and I’m starting to wonder when we slow down. He assured me we would because of the autopilot, but I just literally flew into the planet.

My mate could only go, “It’s never done that, that’s not supposed to happen! What did you do?” “It wasn’t me, I did nothing!” Very much an Indiana Jones — Temple of Doom ceiling trap moment.

Nerds & Beyond: Video games have to toss moments like that toward you every so often to keep you on your toes.

What would you consider The Emperor’s theme song?

Scott Joseph: I don’t know whether you know, but there was a thing going around on X where some actors came up with playlists for their characters. And so I did one for The Emperor: Mind Flayer Music – The Emperor Style. There’s some tracks on there.

I have to be very careful. I can’t pick one because as you’ve said, when you’re playing the game, you pick up on everything that the character does … if I were to pick one song and it was to go out, everyone would descend upon that song and pick it to pieces. And whereas it can be to do with the lyrics, it could be to do with the music, it could be to do with one part of a lyric that just inspires all the sentiment behind it.

But there are some really great tracks on that playlist that I liked for what they hinted overall, or a look into the mindset of The Emperor. There’s “Hi Ren” by Ren, which is really great for that knife edge I mentioned. It’s a difficult song to listen to. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but the musician is phenomenal. And then some really out-there ones like “All by Myself” and “I Want to Break Free.”

Nerds & Beyond: Oh, I’ve listened to your playlist.

Scott Joseph: I like the sentiment of that Elton John one, because the more you know about The Emperor, the more that one makes a little bit of sense. But it can, again, it can be interpreted in many different ways. So I don’t like attributing too much to one thing because The Emperor can be different things to different people.

Nerds & Beyond: Your playlist is full of so many great options. It’s “Starman” by David Bowie for me though.

Scott Joseph: Ah, good one. There was another one on the playlist, “The Man Who Sold The World,” also Bowie.

Nerds & Beyond: Another personal favorite of mine.

Are you currently reading anything, and if you’re not, what’s next on your list?

Scott Joseph: I am reading at the moment! I haven’t read very often. I got through a big series of books — Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which if you haven’t read them and you like fantasy, you like Lord of the Rings, and you like D&D, I think you would love this series of books. It’s a huge undertaking.

The lead character is an antihero. They do something in the first story that is very hard for people to get ’round and I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you can, then the rest of the story is just wonderful, and Stephen Donaldson’s got such an amazing way with words. Even if you don’t understand the words, he uses them in such a specific way that you know what they mean, even though you might not have encountered it before. That’s a real skill.

But at the moment I’m reading a factual book which is Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat. It’s all about AI, which is a touchy subject for us VAs at the moment. So there’s that, which I’m only just dipping into, because it’s a little bit hard to wrestle with.

And then there’s Alistair Reynolds’ Revelation Space, which was recommended to me by someone at Larian, and I’ve just started. Annoyingly, I was reading it on the train and my bottle leaked and now it’s dried and looks ancient with folded pages. That really annoys me ’cause I look after books. But still, I’m really enjoying that and it’s really well written, but I’m only 19 pages in, so not very far.

And then I’ve got two huge books to which a mate of mine recommended ages ago, Severian of the Guild, which is by Gene Wolfe. It’s got a quote from Neil Gaiman on the front: “Gene Wolf is the smartest, most dangerous writer alive today.” Boom. That’s quite big.

I read a load of books about AI and that world because I had an injury a few years back and I had to take some time off and started to write a book. I wrote about five chapters and then got back to work and it all stopped. So, I’ve got to get back into it. But I kind of have imposter syndrome where I get into it, and I’m into the idea that “I should just write it for me, not for the fact that I think it’s going to sell.” But I get this imposter syndrome and think, “You’re not a writer. Why are you writing a book? What possible reason have you got to say that you’re a writer?”

Once that creeps in you have to stop and sort of beat that out of you and come back to it fresh. Enjoy the process of trying to create something. Much like D&D — surrender to it and just adventure through and see what comes out the other end.

Nerds & Beyond: I think any creative — or human, really — experiences imposter syndrome at some point. It’s a quite human experience. I definitely do, with writing as well, have those moments where I go, “Why am I doing this? I should not be doing this.” But I try to remind myself if I’m putting words on a page — be it physical or digital — that’s writing.

Scott Joseph: Oh, exactly. I’ve just got to get myself back into it, because at one point I was writing about 1,000 words a day, and for me that was quite quick because I tend to ponder and go back. I started writing the story arc and I’d start it in black, then when a fork happened where I thought, “Well, I could take it in this direction or that direction,” I would put those forks in red. But soon my page looked daunting and I thought, “Oh, God, stop this right now and just start writing,” because I tend to throw up these barriers as to why I shouldn’t do it, whereas I should just do it.

Nerds & Beyond: You should just do it! You’ve got me, at least, who would be excited to see what you’ve written, so there’s one copy sold preemptively.

What’s the funniest nickname you’ve seen The Emperor referred to as?

Scott Joseph: There’s, Empy, there’s Squid Head, or simply Squid. Oh, but some of the more funnier ones — do you have some in mind?

Nerds & Beyond: Sorry to have to tell you this, but I saw someone on X refer to him as Squid Daddy a while ago and I will never be able to think about The Emperor and not think about that nickname again.

Scott Joseph: [laughs] Yeah, that works, providing it works for the player. I love it. Again, it’s spawned out of people’s relationship that they form with the characters, and it is across all the characters, not just the Origin ones, which is fantastic. It’s a testament to the richness of the world created and the writing of those characters. Long may it continue.

Nerds & Beyond: I don’t think Baldur’s Gate is going away anytime soon. People still are quite happy to spend many hours playing the game itself and then creating outside of the game too. I know you’re quite familiar with all of the fan art, and there’s the writing as well —

Scott Joseph: There’s writing as well?

Nerds & Beyond: Well, certainly read the tags of any fanfiction you may seek out first, but yes there is fanfiction for the game out there and a lot of it is very well-written, well-intended stories that further showcase how much people love the game. No promises as to what’s out there, but may be worth exploring.

Scott Joseph: I mean, yeah, because I do think there should be a spin-off game exploring the life of The Emperor. But, you know, clearly I have a vested interest in that.

Nerds & Beyond: I certainly wouldn’t complain. I would love to know what The Emperor gets up to after the game.

Scott Joseph: And before … no spoilers.

Nerds & Beyond: And before … certainly before. What’s something you’re looking forward to this year, both professionally and personally, that you’re comfortable sharing of course.

Scott Joseph: The reality of our industry is that you do a big project, it’s fantastic and it might get you noticed, it might open doors for you, but realistically you’re right back to the square one. You’re back auditioning, you’re back working. You’re back in a pool, a vast pool of very talented VAs and actors.

You’re back making bold choices for characters, finding the nuances that will get you in front of casting directors. Having a career trajectory in this career, it’s incredibly hard. You just have to work really hard, each and every time on each and every job, and after each and every job and you start again and see if you can make it again.

There’s advice that you get along the way. One piece of advice I gave myself is, that I tell myself as a sort of reality check is, “How much of your life are you prepared to sacrifice in the hope of getting the career that you’re after?” If I ask that and the fire and spark are still there, then I gotta keep going.

I was very lucky at back end of 2023/start of 2024 to have a couple of really great projects. One was a kind of test thing which, if it came off, would be delightful but also, just to do it was so much fun! I can’t say anything more on that … boo! And then another was is a game, another AAA game. I can’t say anything more about that, either. So we’ll have to see on those fronts.

And on a personal level, I’ve got four kids between the ages of 12 and eight months. So, yeah, life is quiet, really quiet — just really easy and we just chill. No, my kids are great. They are fantastic. I love them to bits. Parenthood is the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but the highs far outweigh the lows for me. So I’m very lucky but it means there’s very little time because you’re helping these young human beings craft their life. And so that takes time, that takes investment … and that takes polishing off your maths from early days at school and realizing you’ve forgotten so much.

Suddenly, when you do start to help with school work and you go online, you realize the wealth of material that kids have now that we did not have. When I was studying, it was in a textbook or it was in your parents’ head or it wasn’t there at all. But now you can source a lot, which is both wonderful and terrifying ’cause the internet can be a scary place. So yeah, quite busy on the personal front.

Nerds & Beyond: Parents are real life superheroes. When you mention the internet it’s important to note that we’ve been fortunate, I think, that the Baldur’s Gate fandom is such a great community.

Scott Joseph: The community is just so supportive – and hugely positive. Something I really like. And there is just such an unbelievable wealth of talent amongst you all. I am blown away by it all on an almost daily basis.

Nerds & Beyond: Absolutely. Here’s to hoping that’s the case for a long time coming! Hopefully you can find some time for writing yet this year. I’d love to see what you’re creating someday.

Scott Joseph: I made a New Year’s resolution last year to do some more writing, and I started and then stopped, and then I made another resolution this year. So if I can get jobs that free up some time, I’m going to try. If I can’t do that, I might try moving all the material onto my laptop so that I can actually spend time with my wife rather than being in this wonderful booth or in the studio outside the booth, and not seeing anyone because my studio doesn’t have any windows.

Nerds & Beyond: Scott, thank you so much for your time. You’ve been lovely.

Scott Joseph: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much.

Thank you again to Scott for his time and the wonderful conversation!

Hannah’s a lifelong nerd, but has been with the team since May 2021. Her life is easily classified by two abbreviations - BBG3 and ABG3 (before Baldur’s Gate 3 and after Baldur’s Gate 3). Especially nerdy about: video games, folklore, Star Wars, D&D, Spider-Man, and horror (all of it). Based in Denver, CO.

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