Husband and wife team – and co-creators/producers – Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy scored a massive hit with Westworld‘s first season. Season two looks to be an even bigger success, as early reviews are overwhelmingly positive. In two new interviews, Nolan and Joy share some of the influences behind Westworld, how they work together, and touch on some of the choices the hosts will face this season.
Speaking to Fast Company, Joy shares her approach to depicting the abuse the hosts’ are subjected to in season one. “Well before #MeToo came and announced to the world, ‘Hey, we have a real problem here with sexual abuse and violence,’ I would say most women knew that. You whisper it, you talk about it, you understand it, you live it,” Joy explains. “So those thoughts were in my mind [when I started writing the show].”
She continues, “The Western has so often been a tale about men and masculinity on the untamed frontier. I was hoping to imagine truthfully what I thought people would do in a theme park where you could do anything. And based on what I’d seen, the stories I’d heard, and the tales I knew, this was a truthful way of representing it.” While being truthful about the abuse the hosts’ endured, Joy didn’t want to make it graphic. “At the same time, we care deeply about the manner in which we represent an actual act of sexual violence, which is why you don’t see it. You see a girl yelling as she’s dragged away, fully clothed, but we didn’t want to show nudity and sex.”
HBO’s other megahit, Game of Thrones, also served as inspiration for making Westworld. According to Nolan, “Game of Thrones was the model for how to do a show technically. They want a glacier, they go shoot on a glacier. They want a desert, they go to a desert. The co-creators [David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] were supportive as we were going through it, because the first season was very challenging.” He adds, “You’re trying to make 10 movies or 10 hours’ worth of movie on an ample budget, but one that’s dwarfed by [a typical] cinematic budget. We got their input and feedback on how to put these things together.”
How does being married affect their working relationship? The couple admits collaboration is easier because they know each other so well. “The first assumption we get is that Lisa writes the female characters and I write the male characters. That’s not the case,” Nolan says. “One of us will get a handle on a moment with a character and there’s a constant back and forth. There’s no set responsibility.” Joy concurs, saying, “Because we are married and we’ve known each other for so long, some of the niceties go out the window. What you get instead is a free-flowing current of ideas, an exchange that is incredibly vibrant and challenging.”
Check out the entire interview here.
In an interview with GamesRadar+, Joy and Nolan discuss the three main host characters (Dolores, Maeve, and Bernard) and what they will be doing in season two. “One of the things that we were interested in was the question of free will, which is the large question of the first season…Now in the second season, it’s not just Dolores, but several of the Hosts, having what you think of as free will,” Nolan confesses. “The question becomes, ‘What are you going to do with it? What are your decisions now that the story is yours to tell? Do you know what to do? What story will you tell?’”
As for Dolores, “She is leading this revolution with a cold-eyed, clear understanding of exactly what’s happened to her over the years,” he explains. “She understands them in some ways, better than they understand themselves. But the question of what happened to her, the question of how Jimmi Simpson’s character, William, becomes the Man in Black, is something we continue to explore, and her relationship to that character.” It seems flashbacks will figure prominently in her story once again.
A relationship will be crucial to another character – Maeve – as she searches for her daughter. “Her character is struggling with the realization that she’s not human…She’s been built to resemble humans, not just physically, but emotionally. And she gets to choose which of those pieces she wants to hang onto.” Nolan adds, “So, when she chooses to listen to that connection to [her daughter] who is equally artificial and has been programmed, the decision to honor that and follow through on that is very beautiful.”
Bernard is also coming to terms with who he really is, as Nolan explains, “He is close to the center of the second season in terms of a way in for the characters to understand what’s happening, but also, he too is struggling with the realization that he is not as he thought he was. The question is how much of his personality, his cognition, is real and truly his own, and how much has been programmed into him. It’s something that he’s really dealing with.”
Nolan concludes that these internal conflicts over relationships and their feelings about humanity will be the prime dilemmas the hosts face this season. “The question now is how much will our hosts value the relationships they have, even if their relationships threaten their survival? And the question of ‘At what cost survival?’ Maeve, in a sense, has already made that decision, now it’s a question of following through on it. But she is struggling, as Dolores, as Teddy, as Bernard, are all struggling with this understanding that some of the things humans do are very ugly. And some of the things that humans do are very beautiful. And some of the things that the hosts do that are very human may not be things that they wanna let go of too soon.”
Read the rest here.