Westworld is already a big hit for HBO. The series from well-known producers J.J. Abrams, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, is inspired by the 1973 film of the same name, with its futuristic theme park "Westworld" populated by artificial beings. However, it’s more likely that artificial intelligence will enslave us all first before Westworld creators Nolan and Joy divulge any real spoilers about the show.
Nevertheless, these two were joined by some of the Westworld cast - including Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Jimmi Simpson, and Ben Barnes - for a panel interview at this year’s New York Comic-Con. Staying tight lipped on what will happen next, we pieced together what they said - and what could lie in the cards for Westworld in the future.
For starters, Joy admits that the show's creative team weren't sure at first how to turn the original Westworld movie into a TV show:
“When we started, J.J. brought this to us. He said you could do this and approach it from the robots [or] the host perspective. And immediately that opens so many possibilities because it wasn't just this binary switch going off [like in the movie where the robots kill all the humans]. Emerging consciousness [drives the story.]"
Video Games Influence The Show
Nolan confesses that he played video game as a way to prepare and conduct research for Westworld:
“Yeah I used to play video games, but now we have children. So no more video games for me, [but] we played some as research for making the show.”
He also questions how the original 1973 Westworld film might have differed if video games where around when it was released, joking “I have to report that my wife (Lisa Joy) is the most boring Grand Theft Auto player I've ever seen" - citing that she even obeys the traffic signals in the game. Joy jokes, “The city looks beautiful. If you just slow down and take your time.”
Thandie Newton notes that video games are prevalent with certain scenes taking place in the park:
“Westworld … is so authentic. It pulls you in, so that anything that is an anomaly to that, you notice it and that is going to be incredibly useful as the time goes on….But when I was watching this episode, I'm like oh my goodness…that shot reminds me of a video game. It's like literally the way they've crafted even some of the shots…is to mimic a video game. So even though we're in this authentic world, suddenly this authentic world becomes a game. I think that's really wonderful because it reminds you as an audience member and as an actor too [that it isn’t reality, but rather a game].”
"The Man in Black" Isn't Secretly a Robot?
Yul Brynner makes the iconic "The Man in Black" character a famous gunslinger robot in the original Westworld movie, but now Ed Harris has stepped into that black attire and boots. Harris portrays "The Man in Black" as a villainous human guest bent on winning the "game" within the world. So, will it be that "The Man in Black" is really a robot in the Westworld TV show too? According to Nolan, maybe no:
"Ed is incredible actor one that we wanted to work with for decades…but [his character] really speaks to sort of the game like aspect of its ugliness…the way we act in our simulations is not reflective of the way that we act in the real world. So that binary aspect of his ["The Man in Black”] personality, I think it's something that we're exploring.”
Season 2 Is In The Works
Westworld hasn't even been picked up for a second season, but Jonathan Nolan admits they are already working on it. He explains that he is enjoying television at the moment, since he is not confined to telling a story in only two or so hours. He confesses, “I tend to have a problem stopping [my writing].”He concedes that there are so many storylines and concepts ready for a second season. “We’re currently breaking the second season,” Nolan said.
The Cast Knows No More Than We Do
With a cast that includes Ed Harris, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Ben Barnes and Sir Anthony Hopkins, you would think that Nolan and Joy would trust their actors with Westworld secrets concerning their own characters - but you would be wrong.
Simpson jokes “They wouldn't tell us anything ever.” Barnes adds, “I found it infuriating that I didn't know what was going on.” Simpson explains it was an interesting experience for an actor, but they are always on set to guide you.
“They [Nolan and Joy] knew so much; they have this story clear. They created it so brilliant and articulate, but as the performers you only really knew what they would let you know and it was always the perfect amount to either play the scene or the episode with absolute clarity. [They] would always get us the scripts as soon as they were done with them, and you know sometimes that was [a] couple of days.”
Jeffrey Wright adds they might receive a script “the night before and have to shoot it at 6 in the morning, but we're still like really stoked that that we got it. However, I have to say that I had a little bit of a break, though, because I worked a lot with [Anthony Hopkins].” He explains that Sir Anthony likes as much time with the material as possible. “So if I was working with Tony, I might get a little bit more time--like the weekend, but whenever they came we were waiting for them.”
Finally, We Have Some Definitive Answers
Apart from emerging consciousness, Joy and Nolan do break form by addressing some fan questions. In the original Westworld, there was other worlds like Roman World and Medieval World. When asked if these worlds exist in their universe, Nolan jokes that he's never said “anything of substance” and “never answered a single question,” but this time Nolan adds, “You said Roman World and Medieval World? No!” As for the concept of the “contagion,” what it is and what it does Nolan said, “I think that's pure speculation.” However, Joy did say, “I honestly don't think that's the last time you'll hear that phrase.”
Westworld airs on HBO Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.