BAFTA Breakthrough Interview: Baldur's Gate 3's Samantha Béart on leaps of faith
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Featured Image Credit: Samantha Béart, Wadjet Eye Games
Baldur’s Gate 3’s Karlach is undeniably a fan-favourite companion from the game. Unapologetically outspoken, kind, and unmatched on the battlefield, Karlach has stolen the hearts of all who’ve travelled with her. Yet, the actor behind this iconic character, Samantha Béart, is so much more than the voice of a legendary companion.
With a career spanning nearly two decades, the performer has honoured us with many memorable performances, often without us being fully aware of who’s behind the popular tones of the characters we hold dear. One such performance that some may not realise belongs to Béart is Thomasina Bateman from The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, an atmospheric pixel-art indie game that rivals the stories of many AAA titles.
Folklore and horror combine in the tale, twisting a whimsical, albeit unnerving, story that captivates from beginning to end. This was my first introduction to Béart’s work, with me having become a steadfast fan ever since; the emotional range that comes through in this particular performer is exceptional, and the reason why Béart has been selected as one of 2023’s BAFTA Breakthroughs.
Created to support “the next generation of creatives in film, games and television in the UK, the US and India”, it’s a Netflix-supported initiative that gives deserving talent a chance to further thrive in this challenging industry.
To mark Béart’s achievement, as well as to celebrate BAFTA Breakthrough’s 10-year anniversary, I sat down with Béart to discuss The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, as well as the creative process behind getting into character. This is a role that garnered such acclaim from their peers that they were long-listed in the Performer in a Leading Role category at the BAFTA Game Awards, thus proving that Béart’s portrayal of Thomasina evoked a strong, memorable response. As a fan of the game, I wondered if it was the uniqueness of the role that first drew Béart to it.
“No one's writing me roles for me, you know, I'm not in a position to pick and choose. But I've known Dave Gilbert [The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow producer and voice director] for a number of years,” explains Béart. “So we were friendly, and he suggested I audition for it. I remember seeing her on the list of characters, and she was the only Southern English character, so immediately I went to her.”
Although they’ve voiced many characters before Thomasina, this was the first video game lead Béart auditioned for. After shooting their shot, and succeeding, Béart wasn’t only offered the role but also able to see the script prior to recording, which doesn’t often happen before production gets underway. From there, Béart talks of all the “subtext” within the script, with what’s left unsaid helping them to form the character we recognise today.
“She's [Thomasina] already an English woman of the upper middle classes, so there's gonna be so much unsaid, right?” They continue, “It was really about digging into that and finding it. And because I had the whole script in front of me, I was able to attack it with the vigour that I would with a play, for instance, to really examine it, and also find out what others have to say about her. Because she's not aware that she's arrogant, she's not aware of how she comes across.”
It’s a process that Béart was able to really make their own. “Let me paint you a picture: so as a producer, and as a US citizen, [Dave Gilbert] was going to be pay all [UK actors] together in one payment. Because you get charged. And I was at the very end of [recording] it because I'd gone on holiday.”
“Basically, the longer I delay, the longer everyone waits to get paid. But then I had Covid. So I delayed a week and I waited until my voice was stable, because we were actually recording in chronological order, and the idea that her voice gets sort of clearer just wouldn't make sense. Yeah, there was real exhaustion as we got to the end. Yeah, that's a very different and unglamorous first.”
I agree, it sounds like being thrown in at deep end, yet they succeeded where others might have failed. Through Béart's continued efforts and talent, they made Thomasina their own, ultimately leading Béart to a character that wouldn't exist "without Thomasina”. That lead role in such an extremely well-received and highly rated indie game, paved the way for Béart to become a part of Baldur’s Gate 3, as well as finally being recognised by their peers after spending years “digging away” in the industry.
As someone who’s spent years honing my writing, eventually leading me to my role at GAMINGbible, I can relate. I’m by no means as talented as Béart, but I recognise the struggle of persevering through hard times, to keep aiming for accolades in the face of such a subjective and fast-paced industry. Naturally, I had to ask what it was like to be named as one of BAFTA’s Breakthroughs.
“It is absolutely mind-blowing,” Béart enthused. “It's just a great scheme for those of us who've been, you know, really digging away for years and just missing those opportunities to have the spotlight on us.”
“As far as I understand, I am the first breakthrough in 10 years to come through on a game as a performer. That's never happened. I think performers don’t maybe value that games get you noticed because I think the acting is incredible so I don't see why you wouldn’t. But I was emboldened to apply because I made the long list for the last BAFTA Game Awards. I thought, hang on a sec, maybe this is good. Maybe this performance is good.
I can say, wholeheartedly, that Béart’s Thomasina Bateman is more than a “good performance” – it’s an outstanding one. If you haven’t already played The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, or, at the very least, seen someone else play it, I implore you to dive into its horrifyingly dark lore when you get the chance. It’s the reason why, when we think of Baldur’s Gate 3, we think of Karlach by our sides – to mirror Béart’s words earlier, none of that would be possible without Thomasina.
Please join me and the rest of GAMINGbible as we congratulate Samantha Béart on their recognition as a BAFTA Breakthrough, for their performance in The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow. You can play the game on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Béart joins a long list of talented creatives, with the full BAFTA Breakthrough 2023 list as follows: Adjani Salmon, Bella Ramsey, Cash Carraway, Charlotte Regan, Cynthia De La Rosa, Ella Glendining, Funmi Olutoye, Georgia Oakley, Holly Reddaway, Joel Beardshaw, Kat Morgan, Kathryn Ferguson, Kitt (Fiona) Byrne, Michael Anderson, Pete Jackson, Raine Allen-Miller, Rosy McEwen, Samantha Béart, Talisha ‘Tee Cee’ Johnson, Vivian Oparah, Amanda Kim, Aminah Nieves, Apoorva Charan, Cheyenne Morrin, Edward Buckles Jr., Gary Gunn, Jingyi Shao, Maria Altamirano, Santiago Gonzalez, Shelly Yo, Sing J Lee, Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, Abhay Koranne, Abhinav Tyagi, Don Chacko Palathara, Kislay, Lipika Singh Darai, Miriam Chandy Mencherry, Pooja Rajkumar Rathod, Sanal George, Satya Rai Nagpaul, and Shardul Bhardwaj.