The white hats and black hats all got along for one night at the Season 2 premiere of “Westworld.” The cast and crew of the series assembled at the Arclight Hollywood in advance of the upcoming second season, and they spoke on a variety of topics ranging from artificial intelligence to the romanticization of violence. They were unsurprisingly tight-lipped about what to expect in Season 2, but there were plenty of interesting tidbits to chew on. These included:
Dolores’ Queer Storyline
Evan Rachel Wood didn’t reveal that much about where her character was going in Season 2, but she did make the following point when asked about Dolores’ potential queer storyline: “Dolores is neither a man nor a woman, so she’s probably not defined by anything. There’s going to be something. I wasn’t disappointed. I was like, ‘yay,’ but that’s all I can say.”
Representation and Inclusion
Leonardo Nam, who plays Felix, spoke at length about what the show has accomplished in terms of representation and inclusion. “We for the longest time have only been put in certain boxes,” he said, referring to Asian actors like him, as well as other underrepresented individuals. “It’s about time that we blow that up. You’ve seen already that the show amplifies the voices of those who are underrepresented. It’s a systemic issue that we need to address. We’ve seen the show put the roles of women front and center in these roles you haven’t seen before, and it makes you think ‘Oh my god, we haven’t seen this before.’ And it also makes you take a step back and go ‘Why haven’t we seen this before?’ So it’s a great celebration. It is also very eye-opening. Not only do we see it in the roles of women, but also in the roles of other minorities.”
Nam is also an ambassador for the HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries Program, which provides emerging directors of Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent the opportunity to showcase their work.
One thing the show won’t accomplish until next season is paying Evan Rachel Wood what she deserves.
“Westworld” as a Cautionary Tale
James Marsden, who plays Teddy, spoke about his hopes for the future of technology: “I know you cannot stop progress. I just hope we move forward with discipline and intelligence and care for one another, and I hope we don’t become obsolete as human beings. I think we can probably look every day at how we’re tethered to our technology and our phones and our social media presences. We’re looking down quite a bit, so where does that go next? Are we going to go backwards?”
Louis Herthum, who plays Peter, and Katja Herbers, who plays the new character Grace, both referred to the show as a “cautionary tale” about the dangers of artificial intelligence. “It’s here,” Herthum said. “It’s right at our door to the point where it could get very ugly for us. It could be quite dangerous. So I think [the show] is a cautionary tale. I hope that people will start thinking a little more about that. Millions of jobs will probably disappear. I’ve heard estimates of 7 million jobs in the next few years just from automation and AI. This isn’t just a TV show.”
Herbers echoed those thoughts. “I think this could be really, really dangerous. Humans have proven to be…very smart in creating things and really stupid in using them. It’s maybe better had it not been created. There’s no way back. Whatever we as humans can create, we are going to make, and then we’re going to be stuck with the consequences. So I think this is a cautionary tale of what could happen.”
Romanticization of Violence
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, who plays Armistice, connected both her character and the concept of the series to gun violence in America, saying: “‘Westworld’ creates a mindset where you feel you have to eat or be eaten, and it is very possible in society today to have that frame of mind. It doesn’t have to come to a point where you pick up a gun and kill people, but it might come to that, as you see the gun violence being executed here in America. But you can have that in different layers in society. It’s you or it’s me. That is a very dangerous space to be in because it creates paranoia and fear.”
She also spoke about the romanticization of violence in the show’s world: “I think the creators are drawing audiences into the illusion of romanticizing violence — as many films are doing — which many find cool. Which is so strange. The reason ‘Westworld’ is so popular is this zeitgeist thing. It’s like we love larger-than-life violence in a way, because it makes us feel that we can’t die in a sense. The reality is that we kill. It’s so sad.”
Science Fiction and Society
Series co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy spoke about what draws them to this genre and topic. “My question is: why would anyone write about anything other than AI?” Nolan asked. “It feels like the moment we’re in right now where something really interesting is playing out. The ability for us to tell stories in that space is very important.”
Joy followed up by saying: “Science fiction and genre for me are the newest incarnations of the oldest, most epic form of storytelling, which is mythology. There are contemporary mythologies which are beautiful allegories for human nature and society.”
Nolan also spoke about the tangled ideas of consciousness, free will, and agency: “These ideas are better felt than explained. I think with our hosts, we were looking for moments in which we saw them beginning to break from their owners and demonstrate agency…it’s a slow process.”
The Music of “Westworld”
Ramin Djawadi, known for his work on “Game of Thrones,” “Prison Break,” and “Person of Interest,” discussed the music he composed for the series and referred to it as essentially another character. When asked about differences between working with Jonathan Nolan on “Person of Interest” and on “Westworld,” he said: “The shows are totally different and that’s what always attracts me to different topics. You kind of leave everything you’ve done up to this point behind and start fresh and come up with new ideas. The way I like to work with Jonah is, before we write anything we just talk. We talk character, we talk story. He’s really great beyond that talking musically, too. He’s just a great musical vision. It’s a wonderful collaboration.”
Create Your Own Westworld
Ben Barnes, who plays Logan, said he would set his own Westworld in the Prohibition era. Herbers would want to travel to 1920s Berlin between the First and Second World Wars.
Season 2 of “Westworld” premieres on HBO on April 22.