Comic-Con: Westworld Panel Offers a Look Beyond the Park
At the end of HBO’s last season of Westworld, the sentient robot-populated theme park appeared to be done for. Now, in season three, we’ll finally get a sense of what lies beyond. We’ve seen the outside world in flashbacks, but what is it like now? And what year?
“Futurist” Amy Webb moderated a panel featuring Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, Thandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, and Aaron Paul. Aren’t some of them supposed to be dead? “You never really die on Westworld.”
Asked to explain the Man in Black’s time lop at the very end of the season, Nolan punted to Joy, who responded, “divorce!” Nolan joked that Harris wrote the scene on a napkin and made them shoot it at gunpoint. Asked if Harris would be back, they merely joked they weren’t going to say no to Ed and his big gun. “The highest form of praise on our show is that we kill you,” said Nolan. But said it was easy killing off Luke Hemsworth, because he’s so disruptive. This led to Hemsworth stumbling in and joining the ensemble. “I never leave the house without a Hemsworth,” quipped Thompson.
They showed a new trailer with a very Blade Runner vibe, set mostly in a futuristic city, with Dolores talking about robots being hunted. There are also bigger, bulkier robots. It appears Maeve will be recruited to stop Dolores, and Charlotte and Dolores may be lovers now. Plus: Nazi World! And yes, Ed Harris is coming back. The season will be entitled “The New World.”
“The thing about dystopias is they can look pretty beautiful,” says Nolan. He didn’t want it to look obviously, outwardly ugly, just rotten inside.
Wood apologized for killing Teddy. “She regrets it.” Paul plays a construction worker named Caleb, who has a helpful red robot named George. He has a complicated past, and is “a bit of a white hat AND black hat.” He was already a fan of the show, and describes himself as shell-shocked and star-struck.
Hemsworth describes his character as “not very good at his job…maybe he’s just kinda constantly stoned.”
“When we started Westworld was a dystopia, and now three season in I think it’s kind of a best-case scenario, to be honest,” says Nolan. Calls the modern age an age of artificial algorithmic stupidity, where systems try to predict everything you want. At least his AIs are intelligent, albeit ruthless. The third season discards the idea of metaphor, and shows the world the way it is: “a giant sh**show.” The character of Robert Ford is a composite of Prospero and Deep Mind founder Demis Hassabis. who works on projects like AI out of the public eye.
Thompson thought it was particularly cool that in the future a young woman of color can be in a position of power without having to explain it. Doesn’t see her character as a villain because she doesn’t consider robots human. In scenes where she played Dolores, she wasn’t always told she had a new personality inside her. “It’s fun to be controlled by masters like Lisa and Jonah who can do really twisted stuff to you.” Wood points out that when Dolores sits down, her right hand is always in her left, and she told Thompson to start doing it.
Doe Bernard have free will in his empathy, or is it programmed? Wright will only say “That’s the question.” Newton calls her preparation pure imagination, having been through nothing like it in real life. She found it really hard as an actress. “She’s an extremely expensive piece of hardware, yet this thing who is treated like she has no value.” Notes that the robots are never ever told their own value, but are starting to learn it.
Webb asks the panel to raise their hand if they own a smart speaker. Four raise their hands. Wright says he unplugged his. Hemsworth’s daughter threw his against the wall. Nolan cops to sending DNA to 23 and Me – no other hands raised. Nolan, Joy, and Wood admit to having cars with autonomous features.
Joy thinks Nolan is bleaker about humanity. He says it depends. Joy decries our cycles of tribalism and violence but says she sees real beauty in humanity. “We should be able to broker better community interactions….my car can drive, but we can’t get rid of violence. I think the show is violent, but nowhere near as violent as the world.” Thinks the show is putting a lens on that violence, and it should be uncomfortable.
Paul says the show sometimes makes him think we are all living in a simulation. Thompson talked about walking over a stuntman she shot, and felt really badass, but then later she had to put a gun to Jeffy’s head and it really upset her. When it’s personal to us, suddenly we understand. “I have been able to be privileged to be nonviolent, because I have not been confronted with the circumstances that would cause me to be violent.”
Wright thinks a lot about job replacement and income disparity caused by mechanization, and thinks it needs to be discussed more. Calls it a glaring driver of inequality in our society, and says season 3 will go into that.
Wood got asked if morality is subjective or created by society. Responds that some things aren’t black and white, “and others are, like the system being rigged!” Thinks a lot about why some killing is okay and other types not. Some of what Dolores does is difficult for her, but she understands why her character does it. Very excited for people to see her growth this season.
Paul replied, “I just like to get beat up!” when asked about the character choices he gravitates towards. He’s not afraid to open up his heart and “feel the torture, the pain.” Newton loved doing the scenes where Maeve was completely naked yet absolutely in charge. Newcomer Vincent Cassel didn’t even remember her nudity, because it was not sexualized.
The panel closed out with a second showing of the trailer.