Exploring in Baldur’s Gate III, the main character and their party eventually find themselves embroiled in conflict with the Three Chosen, the main humanoid antagonists and a trio of fascinating individuals. Ketheric Thorm anoints himself the chosen representative of Lady Shar, the goddess of darkness. Lord Enver Gortash, the Chosen of Bane, the god of tyranny, installs himself as archduke of Baldur’s Gate. And the assassin Orin the Red, who serves Bhaal, the god of murder, always has her knives at the ready.
Baldur’s Gate III boasts a high-powered cast, especially for the Three Chosen, featuring the Oscar award-winning JK Simmons, known for his long-running role as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies, as Thorm and Jason Isaacs, who recently had a major role in Star Trek: Discovery and has an extensive resume of voice work from anime to video games, as Gortash. Last but far from least, Maggie Robertson, known for her BAFTA-winning portrayal of internet and video game legend Lady Dimitrescu in Resident Evil Village, takes on the role of the queen of murder herself, Orin the Red. Robertson graciously sat down with RPGFan to talk about Baldur’s Gate III, Dungeons & Dragons, Resident Evil Village, and acting and motion capture work in the realm of video games.
RPGFan: Sorry, my Internet is out. So, I’m on my phone now, and improvising a little bit. But I’m Abe Kobylanski for RPGFan. Thank you so much for joining us to talk about Baldur’s Gate III today.
Maggie Robertson: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be chatting with you despite Internet troubles.
RPGFan: So, have you had a chance to play Baldur’s Gate III at all, or have you seen any video reels of it, maybe?
Robertson: I have watched some people do their playthroughs a little bit, but I have not had a chance to play myself. But I hope to download it soon.
RPGFan: Do you have any impressions from what you’ve seen so far?
Robertson: It’s so fun. I mean, this is the beauty of D&D in general. I think it’s so fun and so quirky, and you can totally imagine whatever your wildest imaginings are. They can come true in the context of D&D, so it’s really fun to see people’s creativity. I love character creation as well, so I’m not surprised that so many people spend hours just on that specific portion.
RPGFan: Have you seen any online reactions that have stood out to you?
Robertson: I don’t if any have stuck out, but it’s certainly been exciting to see the reception that this game has gotten. It’s really exciting to feel like players are appreciating all of the hard work that went into producing this game and feeling the passion and the love that was instilled in the creation of the game, as well. I think that’s something that’s so unique about the gaming industry as a whole, but also Larian Studios and Pitstop. What people don’t realize is that everyone at Larian, they’re fans the same way that the players are. They play Baldur’s Gate — the OG ones, you know — and so to work on this game is such a passion project for them. And I think you can really feel that love when you play.
RPGFan: Do you have any experience with D&D?
Robertson: I am a fairly new arrival into the world of D&D, although it’s not surprising that I’ve arrived here. Because growing up, I was a very avid reader and predominantly lived in a world of fantasy at all times, so many of these tropes are familiar to me. I love playing pretend. Obviously, it’s part of why I do what I do. So, getting to be silly, getting to create these characters, getting to just live in somebody else’s body for a minute is always super fun for me.
I had the privilege of working with Wizards of the Coast. They brought me in to do a one-shot game at PAX East in December 2022, I think, with an amazing cast as well: some of these prolific RPG players like Erika Ishii, Gabe Hicks, Anjali Bhimani, Jasmine Boular and Johnny Stanton. It was so fun, and I had a blast. And what I think is so fun about performance capture voiceover in particular, and then also with D&D character creation, is that you can play characters that are so different from you. You’re not, you know, defined by how you look in the way that you are when you do on-camera stuff. So, it’s quite liberating for me as a character actor to be like, “Oh! I can be this weird thing one second, and then I can be this other weird thing another second.” So, I had a lot of fun with it. I ended up going with a 98-year-old Tabaxi. So, I was literally a cat lady! I had so much fun.
RPGFan: I wish I was that creative with my D&D characters. Let’s talk about Baldur’s Gate III a bit. Tell me a little bit about Orin the Red in your words.
Robertson: Oh gosh, you know… Orin is a shapeshifting murderess whose goal is to paint the city of Baldur’s Gate in blood. She, as you may now know, really enjoys toying with the player character and their companions and uses those abilities to interfere with them along their journey in oftentimes quite creative and unpredictable ways. So, you always have to be on your guard with Orin.
RPGFan: I had some difficult times with her. We didn’t get along too well.
Robertson: Yeah, yeah, her storyline is quite dark, and she’s very creative in how she pursues her goals, so I think players should be ready to experience just a wide array of gruesome atrocities when it comes to Orin.
RPGFan: She is a particularly dark character, but there’s some complexity to her. Where do you draw from? Where do you go for inspiration for an extremely dark character like this?
Robertson: I think you always pull from a wide variety of sources when you’re working on a character. I don’t know if I have any one specific thing that I looked at and mirrored myself off of, but in general, I looked at a lot of different villains, especially villains that tap into this more (I guess) chaos theory element of villainy. Because what I think is unique about Orin, and one of the first things that I noticed when I initially got the script, is her dexterity of thought. She jumps quite quickly from point A to point Z, and that’s what makes her so terrifying.
So, then my job as an actor was how to create that connective tissue between those thoughts. And I think they’re developed within that work: this sense of lightness or almost childlike playfulness around her use of text and use of language within the game, which is a terrifying juxtaposition when the words that are actually coming out of your mouth are so gruesome and so violent. So, then the conversation became about how I can continuously flip the script on its head and make unexpected choices to put the player on the back foot so that there’s always this unnerving sense of discomfort around Orin. You never know what she’s going to do or what she’s capable of. So, she can be very disconcerting. So that was really how I approached character creation — I think it’s always important to look at what is unique and specific about that character. And that’s how you make them engaging and multifaceted. Villains are not just a wash; every one is different. And so, it was really by looking at the text and figuring out, well, what is unique and different about Orin that I was able to find her specific pocket as a character.
RPGFan: Actually, now that you mention it, she’s a little bit Gollum-like. Maybe even darker though, I guess.
Robertson: Oh, gosh! Well, they’re both broken, I think, is the underlying element there. They have both been broken. And Orin has such a dark past, such a dark history. I also think when you’re an actor working on a character, especially villains, you can’t judge them. You have to find a way to love them, even if they’re sadistic and twisted. That’s part of the job. And to me, Orin very much feels like this broken little girl. The only thing she’s ever known in her life is death. That is the only parameter she has to navigate her way through the world, and to me, that’s quite heartbreaking. Of course, that would twist someone. Of course, that would change them and make them into what they are now. What she is now.
RPGFan: I thought all the villains in this game were pretty fascinating. They’re all very complex. None of them were the type that would be just like, “Ohh, I’m going to kill you and eat your face!” and such. Although, I think Orin probably did say that to me at some point.
Robertson: I wouldn’t be surprised, honestly. But I think you’re right, and that was one of the things I loved about the game as well. There are so many different types of villains within Baldur’s Gate III and even within the evil triad of Orin, Gortash, and Ketheric. Each one of them is so different. In the scenes that we shared, it was interesting to figure out well, what are the internal dynamics and politics that are happening within these relationships and the negotiations that are always at play underneath: the things that they’re saying.
RPGFan: I think the player’s relationship to Orin is never particularly straightforward. It’s not like a straight line. I think her motivations are complex. All three of the villains, I think, would like this hero to be kind of on their side a little bit. At least they can be a useful idiot of sorts. So, how do you balance Orin’s more menacing personality with trying to be a little bit convincing with the player and trying to gain their trust a little bit?
Robertson: Yeah, I think, whenever you’re working with the villain or any character, you always have to answer the question of “Why?” Why are they doing what they’re doing, and especially if you have a character that is putting on a face or — I don’t want to say lying, but you know, saying words — they have to believe them. They have to believe in what they’re doing. It has to be genuine. So, answering that question is really important. And I think what is able to make Orin so believable, even when she is committing all of these gruesome atrocities, I think there’s a lot of sadness. I think she is desperate for approval. She believes herself to be Bhaal’s chosen and is striving to prove that throughout the game. And so that’s what gets to finding this element of what can you love about them? What I love about Orin is that she just is so desperate for approval, and she wants to feel that love and that sense of belonging, and she’s very proud. And yes, ultimately broken. But underneath all of that is that need for approval, which is something I think we can all relate to. Everyone wants to find their place in the world. Everyone wants to feel like they have a purpose. And I think she’s searching for that.
RPGFan: Well, do you think she’s trying to find approval from even the main character?
Robertson: Oh, I don’t know. But certainly from Bhaal.
RPGFan: I think that there’s an interesting difference between the acting you do in something like Resident Evil Village, which I’ll get to more later, and something like Baldur’s Gate III. In Resident Evil Village, you’re essentially playing out a scene with the other characters, the other actors that are in the scene, and you’re essentially playing that scene for the camera. But the player or the audience doesn’t have a lot of direct interaction with you. They’re kind of just watching and then, when you’re done, they take over. But in Baldur’s Gate III, essentially, for a lot of your scenes, your acting partner is the player. Of course, you never get to see their side of that partnership. Do you approach this any differently than you would something like Resident Evil?
Robertson: Yes. Well, you’re so right, and they are two very different styles of game. Resident Evil has a linear plotline. So, everyone starts at A and they end at Z. They go from ABC consecutively all the way until you finish the game at Z. What’s unique about Baldur’s Gate III and some other RPGs is that the narrative is defined by player choice. So, there is an infinite number of possibilities for how the narrative can play out for any given player. What that meant for us behind the scenes, and they even showed it to me one day, was that they had this just insane spreadsheet of all the different threads that could be happening. I got a headache just looking at it. I can’t imagine what it was like for the dev team to be working on that and to be constantly referencing back to make sure everything was in line with all of the different branches that could happen. It just is such an amazing feat to have created something that complex and that nuanced.
But what did that mean for us in the volume when we were doing motion capture and video? With Resident Evil Village, yes, we were able to film cutscenes which function very similarly to theater or on camera, where you are playing through the scene from beginning to end and interacting oftentimes with the other characters in the scene with you. So, you have a lot more in the space with you to engage and interact with and create those dynamics with. With Baldur’s Gate III, I was in the volume and we had to kind of take each line individually rather than playing all the way through because each line could be spliced in at different points depending on what the character chose. So, the interesting aspect is there’s a lot of times where you’re doing the same line over and over again, but maybe with some subtle twists. Or you’re doing one, where — yeah, we just said this, but then we could go all the way over here, depending on what they choose, or we could stay over here, or we could go over there.
So, the follow-up lines to what a player chooses could be vastly different. And what that means for me as an actor is it offers the opportunity to create a lot of nuance and variety within your work. If you’re going to say the same line but maybe with subtle tweaks, how can I add a slightly different element of performance to that? I think that’s the opportunity that it offers, is there is an opportunity to continue to deepen and expand on what the character can offer because there’s an infinite number of options, so there’s no one right choice. There’s a million different choices that you could make, so that was kind of the fun part of how I can take this line and make it slightly different. Make the intention slightly different. Make the play around it slightly different each time.
RPGFan: Well, that’s really cool because, if I happened to play through a scene a couple of times, and I picked a different dialogue choice response to them, I didn’t know if it was just me, but it did seem like that sometimes they would deliver lines slightly differently, so that’s really cool that you confirmed that.
Robertson: Yeah, I mean, I can’t speak for everyone else, but certainly that was something consciously that I was working on. As an actor, “OK, now that I’m going to be saying this line. How can I make each time I say it slightly different depending on what else is happening?” How did the new set of circumstances change this line in different ways?
RPGFan: Were you pretty heavily scripted, or did you get a lot of chances to improvise in Baldur’s Gate III?
Robertson: You know, maybe this is just me. I don’t know if I’ve ever really improvised. I stick to the script. I think there are opportunities for improvisation. There are opportunities for play within, I think, movement and character creation as a whole, but my background is also in Shakespeare, so text is pretty sacred to me. And when you have good writing (like I did with Baldur’s Gate, and even with Resident Evil and, honestly, a lot of the other games I’ve worked on have been pretty freaking great), it does a lot of the hard work for you. Then your job as an actor is about “How can I use what is before me and elevate the text and allow the text to do its job?” So that was my work, and I think that language can communicate quite a lot.
There’s something about language and how it is received by the body that is not wholly cognitive, especially when you’re working on stuff like Shakespeare, where a lot of the language is archaic. It’s antiquated. We don’t use it in the same way as they did back then. So there’s an element to which we’re hearing words that we’re not fully understanding cognitively, but there is an understanding that we are getting through our bodies. Our bodies are receiving information, even if our minds are not rationally understanding every single word. Language affects the body. How do the consonants and vowels hit and affect me physically and emotionally in my body, as opposed to just in my brain and in my mind?
So, that’s something that I carry with me in all of the work that I do, is this fascination with language and with sound. How can I play with sound to have an effect on the player? And I’ve been very lucky with the characters that I’ve played, especially with Orin, who uses such graphic language. How can the language, the sounds themselves, affect the player, not just the meaning behind what I’m saying. So, when you say a word like slaughter, you feel that inside of you in a way that is not just in your brain. So, that was that was the fun bit for me as well. So, I didn’t really improvise a lot. That might be different for other people who worked on the game, especially some of these companion characters who worked on it for years and years and years. They might have had a different experience. But for me, I tend to feel that text is sacred, and I like to work within the parameters that I’m given. But I think the fun parts of character creation are that you can have a little bit of fun in terms of movement that’s not clearly defined and laid out, but the movement is — everything I do. Everything I create is informed by the text because that’s what I have in front of me. So, the choices that I made for movement are informed by the script as well. It has to be supported by the script for me.
RPGFan: What do you think Shakespeare would think of Resident Evil?
Robertson: I mean, he’d probably love it! Let’s be honest. I think that was one of the things that initially drew me to it. It is a heightened world, and Resident Evil Village in particular is in this more fantasy world than I think past Resident Evil games have been in, so there was a lot of that within the game. To me, that felt like a very natural sidestep from what I had been doing before with theater and with Shakespeare. You have these characters in Resident Evil Village, and honestly in Baldur’s Gate III, that are quite heightened in dealing with these stakes that are life and death, and the language is heightened as well. There’s a really specific use of language in both of these games, so there was a lot of carryover and I’m sure he would have gobbled it up. There’s so much drama. And so much political nuance too, specifically within the Four Lords of Resident Evil Village, that it’s all politics. It’s high political drama, fantasy political drama.
RPGFan: Well, I transitioned a little more smoothly than anticipated to Resident Evil. But since we’re on the topic of Resident Evil Village… So, Lady Dimitresu. She was extremely popular on the internet, so what was it like watching her kind of pop up on the internet and then become this massive internet legend?
Robertson: It was totally surreal. I mean, for people who don’t know my story already, Resident Evil Village and Lady Dimitresu pretty much put me on the map in terms of video games. It really created a career for me overnight. I had just graduated from my Master’s degree program in classical acting, so lots and lots of Shakespeare. That’s where that all comes from. And I had moved to LA. January of 2019. Didn’t have an agent with self-submitting myself to different jobs and just, you know, working a wide variety of side hustles to pay the bills and submitted myself to this audition. Often with video games, everything’s under NDA, so when you see an audition, there are code names. The breakdowns are fake. The scripts are fake. The sides that you’re auditioning with are fake, and that was true for Resident Evil.
I had absolutely no idea what I was auditioning for while I was auditioning for it. And it wasn’t until I booked the job that I started to realize… I went to the first table read, and I just felt this quality in the air that was palpable; it was electric. And I could sense the excitement of everyone else in the room. They clearly knew something that I didn’t, and I was like, hold on. I think this is actually a really big deal. I feel that something’s happening here that I don’t quite understand. I think it’s a big deal, and I hadn’t received the script up until that point. So then I went home, and I furiously researched all the names that I could find in the contract, all the names that I could find in the script. Luckily, she says Ethan Winters a lot, so I easily figured it out.
I was not a gamer myself growing up, but obviously Resident Evil is such a massive franchise that even the likes of me had heard of it. So, even when we were working on the game, I knew that the game itself would be a big deal, but I never expected my character specifically to become the sensation that she became and the poster child for this game. Yeah, so that was all totally surreal, because when she was first going viral during the pandemic, I was still under NDA. The game hadn’t come out yet. I’m seeing this character that I’m playing all over the Internet, and all of my gamer friends are thirsting over Lady D and posting memes and doing this, this, or that, and I am not able to tell anyone that it’s me. And that was certainly a unique experience of just quietly freaking out on my own in my room, unable to tell anyone. When the game finally came out, my friend texted me. He was like, “I can’t believe it. I’ve been thirsting over this character for months, and now I find out that it’s you and it’s so awkward.” So, that was certainly fun. I have an immense love and immense appreciation for this game and this character. It changed my life in every complete and possible way. It’s not an understatement to say that.
RPGFan: So, you’ve been doing a lot of the motion capture work for a lot of the characters that you’re voicing as well. That seems like it probably adds maybe a richer experience to voice acting. Would you have anything that you could talk about on that?
Robertson: I don’t think one is better than the other. They’re different types of acting. But, at the core, everything that you do, whether it’s voice acting, whether it’s voiceover, whether it’s motion capture, performance capture on camera, audio, book narration, whatever else you can possibly do as an actor, at the end of the day, it all boils down to acting. It all comes back to that core work as an actor. So, they offer different opportunities to do that. But I think each of them has value in their own specific way. Certainly, doing the motion capture and doing the performance capture is super fun for me. And I think even when I do voiceover, I’m a very physical actor.
A way that I key into characters is definitely “How can I allow text to flow through my body and impact my body?” I always use my body as a way to glean different aspects of the character and feel how it sits, and that will give me new information. So even when I’m doing work that is just voiceover, I find that I’m incredibly physical in the booth. Maybe sometimes to my detriment if I make too much noise, and then I have to rein it in. But for me, working physically is always a key component to my work in character creation as an actor. Motion capture is so fun, and it ties into a lot of the work that I did as my background in theatre and with Shakespeare. Also, because when you’re working in the volume, you don’t have any of these other things like set, costume, hair, and makeup, sometimes even scene partners, you know, to help you tell the story. You really have to rely on your imagination and your sense of play and creativity to tell the story and to endow it as real. I think if you’re not finding a way to have whatever you’re doing, whether voiceover or motion capture, affecting you physically, I don’t know if it will read as well to the audience. And what’s fun about that is that it gets into that sense of play, that sense of imaginative play that we were doing as children. I think, ultimately, that’s the core of what acting is. It’s engaging that sense of play and that sense of imagination. So, to work in an industry that allows me to tap into that every day is so fun and such a joy.
RPGFan: Looking at your resume, it seems like you play a lot of the darker characters, people who happen to be around magic and such things. Is there something that naturally draws you to characters like that?
Robertson: It’s typecasting! It’s method acting! I’m evil as a person! No, I don’t… That seems to be where I’m hitting right now in the industry, and I certainly have a lot of fun with them, I think, as you can tell. But, as actors, we’re always excited about the next challenge. I will certainly be excited for new challenges moving forward, but I’m also pleased with where I’m at currently. I have a lot of fun playing these villains because, as we’ve already touched on before, each one is different. You have to approach each one individually and figure out what is unique and special about them and, ultimately, I do feel like each of the villains I’ve played is quite different.
In particular, if we’re looking at Lady D versus Orin, I think they are quite different characters. Lady D is fueled by rage and anger and a deep hurt that overlays this immense capacity for love. And it’s that love that ultimately defines her actions within the game. Whereas Orin, her violence feels really joyful. It’s a form of pleasure. It’s a form of self-expression and, I guess, similarly to Lady D, Orin does yearn for approval and recognition. Her upbringing was so brutal that I think the only thing she knows is death. Again, as we touched on before, that’s the only parameter that she has to navigate her way through the world and engage with the world. Whereas Lady D feels a lot more grounded in her humanity, Orin’s humanity has been brutally stripped away from her over the course of her lifetime. So, I actually feel a lot of sadness for Orin because she is ultimately this broken little girl. Moral of the story is I think they’re quite different. And finding those differences is what is fun as an actor. Even when you’re playing villains.
RPGFan: Is there anything else you want to say about Baldur’s Gate III or anything else you have coming up?
Robertson: Oh, golly gee. Yeah, this is the never-ending joke of people who work in video games, is that you’re always under NDA about something. So, know that you’ll see me again or hear me again, and I will be so excited to tell people about that when I’m able to. I guess in the meantime, everyone, you can follow me on social media at @maggiethebard. I’m also on Cameo, and you can buy prints from me on Streamily. I never know how to answer that question.
Thanks so much to Maggie from everyone at RPGFan for chatting with us! We’re enjoying your performances and look forward to seeing more. For more coverage of Baldur’s Gate III and other RPGs, keep following us at RPGFan.