Westworld panelists from left to right: Ed Harris, James Marsden, Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Roberto Patino, and Jimmi Simpson
PaleyFest’s Saturday night panel discussion at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre included several of the stars and producers of Westworld. Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, producer Roberto Patino, and cast members Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jimmi Simpson, and James Marsden were in attendance to answer questions. They revealed much about the production of Westworld’s first season, but IndieWire reports Jonathan Nolan gave strict instructions on handling season two questions: “Just fucking stonewall them. Nothing!”
Cast Secrecy and Season One Theories
Nolan and Joy were similarly guarded during season one production. IndieWire goes on to reveal the cast was constantly kept in the dark about their characters. Evan Rachel Wood (Dolores) had no idea Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was a host and believed she was Wyatt (which turned out to be mostly true). Jimmi Simpson (William) didn’t realize he was a younger version of the Man in Black (Ed Harris) until he was requested to pluck his eyebrows. Ed Harris was equally clueless until he was spoiled by a random crewmember. Variety quotes him as saying, “I walked by my trailer and someone told me that Jimmi [Simpson] was the guy playing the younger me and I was like, ‘What?’”
Speaking of spoilers, EW reveals Nolan was surprised (and frustrated) when fans quickly guessed that the narrative was taking place in two different time periods: “It’s annoying sometimes when people guess the twists and blog about it.” Nolan went on to say that “you can’t complain when people are that engaged… just stop doing it, please.”
Nolan did confirm one theory though – Maeve (Thandie Newton) truly does achieve consciousness in the season finale when she decides to abandon her escape plan and look for her daughter instead. EW quotes Nolan as saying “that is really the first decision she’s ever made. For me, it’s a very emotional moment in the episode because you’re seeing the first free will.” He was reluctant to do the same for Dolores, however. When asked whether it was her decision to shoot Ford (Anthony Hopkins) Nolan replied, “Isn’t it more fun to just guess?”
Westworld’s Vision and Influence
EW also reports that Nolan stressed Westworld isn’t meant to be all shocks and twists; he wanted to take a different approach to the A.I. narrative. “Everyone is trying to rip the medium apart and see how many boundaries you can push,” Nolan said. “It really came organically from the first idea, J.J. [Abrams’] pitch of, ‘Well, you can make part of the narrative about the hosts,’ we took that and ran a country mile with it. You’ve seen a lot of looking at A.I., and we were taken with starting a story where you start with them and they don’t know they are A.I. and it’s really about what they make of us. The fact that their understanding of the world was limited really [bolstered the story].”
Part of that narrative also involved significant violence and nudity. Deadline reveals that Thandie Newton (Maeve) had strong feelings about how these were portrayed. “When we were going into the publicity for the show, and people saw little bits, there was a lot of comment on, ‘Is this going to be gratuitous?’ Violence against women…It’s valid. And even though we were all terrified, because we just desperately wanted to stick with it—stick with this—we also knew that that was the point. The point we’re trying to make is, look at where we are, and is there a road out from here?” Newton said.
Newton believes that ultimately Westworld will have a positive impact, saying “I was just filled with excitement of where this show could go—of where this show could not really take us not as actors, but the audience, and people; and I know this is hyperbolic, but the world,” Newton said. “Here we are right now at a crossroads, and I think Westworld, for me anyway, is part of the solution, not the problem.”
Speculation on Season 2
Unfortunately showrunners Nolan and Joy declined to give many details about the upcoming season. IGN confirms they are going to complete all the scripts before beginning production to avoid potential delays. Joy almost let filming news slip – when asked about a start date she asked Nolan, “Can’t we say that?” – but her husband insisted they keep quiet.
Nolan went on to say they are approaching the production process differently this time around. “It was a real lesson for us in the first season. When they say it’s not TV, it’s HBO, they’re not kidding. It’s a 10-hour movie we’re making here. We’re writing right now. We’re terribly excited about what we’re writing.” He later joked, “Reddit’s already figured out the third episode twist, so we’re changing that one.”
A huge element of Westworld’s appeal is the music, expertly scored by Ramin Djawadi. Deadline reports that Joy gave a hint about one piece we can expect next season: “At home, we have a little girl, so we spend a lot of time watching children’s movies, and one of them has proven to be, musically, incredibly inspiring. So there may be a strange shoutout to a very kind of innocently joyful song, that we’ll take, and co-opt, and make dark.”
Will we see any other parks next season? We saw a glimpse of Samurai World in the finale, but Nolan declined to say if we would see it again, although IGN quotes him as saying, “That would be cool, wouldn’t it?” Ed Harris seemed less enthusiastic, as THR reports he had some strong feelings about that possibility. “I just don’t want to be naked and I don’t want to wear a samurai suit … and I’m saying that publicly! I’m a Man in Black, not a Man in a samurai suit! Samurais don’t wear hats!”
What did you think of the Westworld panel? Do you wish they had given us more information about season two? Sound off in the comments!
Westworld panel at PaleyFest, courtesy of The Paley Center on Twitter