Baldur's Gate 3 recently swept the board at the Golden Joysticks. Neil Newbon, the voice behind Astarion, won Best Supporting Performer at the Golden Joysticks 2023—and during his acceptance speech, said: "when I found games I was broke, I was on my knees, I actually was actually very close to quitting the [acting] industry."
That's a remarkable journey to go on, considering he's now in the running for Best Performance in the Game Awards alongside talent like Yuri Lowenthal (Spider-Man 2), Melanie Liburd (Alan Wake 2), and Idris Elba (Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty). I asked Newbon for further comment, and he was very happy to share some further context over the phone:
"I was very close to quitting acting, full stop. It was about 2008/9 … I wasn't earning much, so I was doing a lot of part-time work to make ends meet … I was also becoming a bit disillusioned with myself as an actor … I got to the point where I was just feeling very, very downtrodden. I was in the pain of rejection, the pain of struggling and trying to go after your dream, and just not getting any closer."
After years of working part-time jobs and living in debt, Newbon came to a realisation: "[I should] try acting in voice work. And then I found mocap … it gave my acting career a whole new life." He goes on to talk about being able to take his looks out of the equation—something that had been giving him trouble while trying to find character work in front of the camera.
"That was so amazingly freeing. It meant I could play anything that was appropriate to my ethnic background in casting… that was so liberating. But also, people really embraced me… I'm very humbled and grateful. So yeah, I got saved by games."
We talk some more about that point—the idea that someone's features might limit their roles. Not in terms of beauty standards, just the logistics of casting: "It wasn't like I'm a unique case for, oh, why is this happening? I never felt like 'why me' … This is how these things go. Sometimes there's no fairness. Life isn't fair," he views the harshness of the industry as nothing personal, but still crushing nonetheless. "I was just facing that reality of: 'I'm one of those people who it just doesn't work out for, and I have to give up.'"
Considering the performance Newbon gave in Baldur's Gate 3, I for one am pretty glad he didn't—and he credits that to acting being in his lifeblood: "[Acting's] more than a vocation. It's an intrinsic part of who you are … any storyteller, any artist, any medium—dancer, singer, painter, writer—it's an intrinsic part of who you are. It's not just a job."
Though Newbon considers himself to be very lucky, he also phrases it as being "ready for the luck", saying: "I trained hard, I focused hard … for every ten amazing things someone does in their career, it stands on the 80 things they got rejected from … I always tell my kids that failure is very useful. When you fail you learn."
Despite the fact Newbon's found himself in the spotlight with Baldur's Gate 3's runaway success—not to mention his other successful character-driven roles, like Karl Heisenberg in Resident Evil: Village—he's still very keen to keep doing all kinds of work, both in and out of the mocap suit.
"I'll do everything. I love work, and I like working with lots of different people. And hopefully people understand that I'm still going to do indie games, I'm still going to do in-game mocap stuff [as background characters], I like doing all of it … it's been probably one of the best couple of decades of my life."