Questions fired at Westworld stars Hemsworth and Wright
By : Kerry Baggott
Sun Dec 11, 2016
On Sunday morning, screened in the beautiful Madinat Theatre, was the very first episode of ‘Westworld’. Now for those in the audience who were completely new to the US hit series, which recently concluded on HBO and is now being premiered in the region on OSN, the hour that followed left them – for no better word – bewildered. Utterly bewildered. Confused. Fascinated. Appalled. Yet desperate to see how it all pans out. Eager to watch more so as to finally break the code and be able to say: “Oh, now I get it”.
Suffice to say, there’s nothing else quite like ‘Westworld’ – unless of course you count the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name upon which the series is based.
In a nutshell, ‘Westworld’ is a fictional Western-themed amusement park inhabited by manmade androids, dubbed ‘hosts’. High-paying visitors (from the real, modern world), called ‘newcomers’ or ‘guests’ visit the park and can do whatever they wish, live out their sickest fantasies, without harm.
There’s a constant ‘them and us’ scenario. Viewers are perpetually working out who’s who and deciphering who they have, or should have, more empathy with – the hosts or the guests?
Few TV series trigger so many questions. First of all, what genre does it fit into? Is it a sci-fi; a thriller; a Western? What does it really mean to be human? What world do we live in? Can emotions simply be turned on and off at the switch of a button?
To help shed some light on some of these questions and more, were two of the esteemed actors in the series: Jeffery Wright [‘Hunger Games, ‘Angels in America’], who plays Bernard Lowe, Head of the Westworld Programming Division and creator of artificial people; and Luke Hemsworth [‘Neighbours’], who plays Ashley Stubbs, the Head of Westworld security, charged with monitoring host and human interactions and ensuring the safety of the guests.
Yet, what became abundantly clear from the In Conversation session – and somewhat reassuring to the puzzled first-timers in the audience - is that neither Wright, nor Hemsworth had the answers either. They appeared to have just as many questions and to be just as mystified as the rest of us as to how the series would unfold.
“It’s dangerous territory to try and keep up with the creators [Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy],” said Wright. “It always leads you to looking really foolish because they’re intensely smart and innovative and studied.
“They filled me in on the broad brushstrokes of my character after the pilot, but still, as cast members, we’re scrabbling about with theories, just as the fans do,” he said.
“It’s part of the fun, going along with the ride and not trying to second guess what’s happening because it’s an amazing discovery as it unfolds,” added Hemsworth.
“I enjoyed hiding secrets from everyone,” continued Wright. “Each of us had our own little story lines that were hidden from one another, so even if we knew something about our part, we didn’t know how it would fit in as a whole. So Jona or Lisa would have to be on set just so we could ask them ‘Where am I?’, ‘When am I?’ ‘What am I?” They literally were working 27 hours a day on these multi layers of complex stories,” said Wright.
“It’s like shooting six different shows all at once and there’s very little cross over between the laboratory and the Westworld,” said Hemsworth.
“So we [the cast] would all get together and ask each other what the hell was going on!” added Wright. “Only Jona and Lisa could piece together all these facets – and they did it with mathematical precision. Yet, when you really study it you can see that everything is so transparent – in a complex, cryptic way.”
“The signposts are there - they become apparent when you watch it back again,” agreed Hemsworth.
The conversation progressed to delve into some of the deeper, more philosophical debates that ‘Westworld’ triggers, such as emotions, human desires, the power between man and its creator.
And when it came to show of hands during the Q&A session, it became clear that the questions appertaining to this powerful, dark odyssey would continue right up to the airing of series two, which promises to unfold even more layers of complexity in 2018.