I recently sat down for an interview with Amelia Tyler, the voice of Baldur's Gate 3's many, many lines of narration. We talked about the Dark Urge, her favourite lines, and scaring the crap out of carers at an old people's home (hypothetically). But we also spoke about mental health, a subject Tyler's very transparent about.
"Right from the start, I've been very open about my sexuality, and the fact I've got ADHD, the fact I'm a trauma survivor, I deal with PTSD and anxieties and depression," Tyler says, as she reflects on the bizarre nature of being in the spotlight after the game's runaway success. "If people are going to see me in any way as 'famous'—and I hate that word, I hate the word 'fans' because it feels so 'us vs. them' … because of that, I don't want it to feel phoney. I don't want it to feel like I am presenting a mask for them to like."
Ultimately for Tyler, it's a case of "if you still like me, knowing everything? Cool. Bring it on … I'm not going to present a version of myself that I think they wanna see, just to make money." She mentions Samantha Béart (Karlach's voice actor) being non-binary, as well as Shadowheart's voice actor Jennifer English streaming with her partner Aliona Baranova. "The communities they've forged as a result of that honesty has just been so heartwarming. There was nothing like that when I grew up."
Since I also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), we got to talking about the condition specifically, and how it plays into Tyler's voice acting. In case you're not familiar, ADHD is a neurological disorder that causes inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—that's because the ADHD brain is, put simply, understimulated. It tries to create that stimulation for itself. Kinda like how you'll start subconsciously wandering to your kitchen when you're hungry. If the brain needs something, it'll steer your body towards it.
People with ADHD also experience "hyperfocus". This is because ADHD, as a condition, is named a touch poorly. People with it don't necessarily have a deficit of attention, they just find it hard to control where that attention goes. If an activity is stimulating, we'll often become glued to it to the exclusion of everything else. Eating, drinking, stretching our legs: they all become secondary.
"When you think about it, [the recording booth] is the perfect environment for somebody with ADHD. It's completely soundproof, somebody is telling you what to say. There are no interruptions while you're talking. I just hyperfocus straight down this script, I go down a silent rabbit hole of this character."
ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in children, but many adults—including myself and Tyler—receive a late diagnosis, often when their coping mechanisms stop working due to fatigue or major changes in the structure of our lives. For example, a global pandemic.
"I was diagnosed in 2020 … lockdown took away everybody's coping mechanisms, and suddenly you're stuck at home, wondering why you're suddenly feeling 10 times worse. And people started being a lot more open about getting diagnosed," Tyler brings up one such example of a friend who made an explanatory video, after her own diagnosis. Listening to it tipped Tyler off that something was wrong at home, too: "I was watching this video, being a supportive friend, going: 'Oh, that's—huh. Oh. Huh. Shit. I need to do some research'."
That sudden realisation is pretty common—while ADHD is a very well-researched disorder, there are also plenty of public misconceptions about it, too. For example, not everyone with ADHD is hyperactive: there's also "inattentive" ADHD, which leads to someone who is quiet, but often distracted or forgetful. The chaos is just up in their head, instead of the outside world.
This means that when someone starts clearing up those misconceptions, the realisation they might have it comes on very quickly.
"It's a hell of a revelation to realise that you are not lazy, and that you've been playing life on hardmode your entire life. I have no idea how I accomplished half the things I did without realising. I think a lot of it was trauma, and just forcing myself into a stressful situation like everything was urgent."
Tyler's referencing "deadline motivation" here, another common symptom of people with ADHD, who often find it impossible to start tasks until the last second. The adrenaline that comes from deadline anxiety is often a jumpstart that lets us work with no problems at all, like zapping a dead car battery.
Tyler goes on to mention that even just knowing about these common behaviours gives us the power to use them to our advantage. "You can weaponize it. If you know what the rules are, you can use it. But until I was 40, I was just flailing around, like 'sometimes I just don't know what time is!' It's not helpful."
"I think it's important for us to see stories like that of people being able to use [their ADHD] not just survive, but thrive … It's so easy to convince ourselves that it's our fault, or that we're making it up, or we're making excuses," which is a common experience, one that I've felt myself. Struggling because of a disorder you don't know about is exhausting.
"A lot of us are very high-functioning. If you know that you can put in the grunt work to fake being 'normal' … then it's hard to feel like it's a genuine issue. Like, 'Oh! All I have to do is make myself miserable every hour of the day for the rest of my life, and I can be a functional human, like all the other ones!' … you hit burnout real hard if you fake it the whole time. Those masks aren't psychologically healthy."
That's not to say this masking is impossible. In fact, it's often necessary, as Tyler points out: "I can put them on for a bit if I have to function if I'm having a bad day … but it drains me. Knowing that's going to happen ahead of time helps me prepare for it. What I don't wanna be doing is living like that."
Which is kind of core to this issue—yes, people with ADHD can seem very put together and high-functioning, but that's usually because they're paying a big energy tax that stacks up behind the scenes.
I myself wouldn't be in a position to even speak with Tyler about this if I hadn't had my own late diagnosis. The help it's afforded me has been genuinely life changing. To hear Tyler mirror those same experiences, while also finding herself in a position of great success, has only driven that home.