Westworld’s third season is eagerly anticipated and during the Comic-Con 2019 panel, we got some information on what’s in store for fans as well as a trailer. The panel was attended by showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, as well as stars Jeffery Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Jonathan Nolan, Thandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, and newcomer Aaron Paul.
The trailer showed Newton’s character, Maeve in World War II and there was a whole lot of time jump, which means Season 3 will undoubtedly be confusing web for fans to untangle and theorize over. Maeve is shown alongside Nazis, though it’s unclear whether she’s fighting them or working alongside them.
— Westworld (@WestworldHBO) July 20, 2019
The Man in Black is looking a bit rough, and Bernard’s voice over sounds like he’s talking to someone about Dolores, indicating this unknown person may need to stop her. The futuristic setting is clean and slick, and Maeve’s vintage look is juxtaposed against it.
Thompson began by referencing her supposed demise the end of the previous season. “You never really die on Westworld though, right?” she said. Discussing the Man in Black, who is played by Ed Harris, Nolan said that the final post-credit scenes were written on the back of a napkin by Harris, who handed it to the showrunners to be shot.
“Will the Man in Black be back,” he wondered, before adding, “I’m not going to call him and tell him he’s not on the show anymore,” indicating Ed Harris’s enigmatic antagonist has plenty more mischief to make.
According to Nolan, Season 3 takes played in “a new world,” though when the suggestion that it was a new park was made he replied, “I didn’t say that.” Nolan went on to discuss how the show’s vision for the future it depicts.
“I grew up with my brother who made me watch Blade Runner once a week. That movie set the design for what the future looks like–and it’s brilliant, it’s a gorgeous movie, but we wanted to find something different than that. The thing about dystopias is that they can look really beautiful.”
Aaron Paul’s character is called Caleb and he’s a construction worker. “I am such a psychotic fan of Westworld,” Paul said. “I just had an out of body experience watching that trailer. I have a robot, his name is George. He’s a very helpful robot and I love him. He’s red.
Caleb has a complicated past and is described as “a little bit white hat, a little bit black hat.” He’s just trying to survive in the world and, occasionally, that means doing bad things.
Discussing the end of Season 2, Luke Hemsworth said, “There’s a whole other thing going on [in the conversation between Hemsworth and Thompson at the end of Season 2] that everyone missed. The thing about my character is that he’s not very good at his job.”
“When we started, Westworld was a dystopia but I think now three seasons in, it’s maybe the best case scenario?” Nolan hedged, while discussing the themes that Season 3 is now grappling with. “I think we’re entering into the age of artificial stupidity … we’re trying to figure out what the rest of the world looks like, if that is indeed where the show is happening. There’s the netflix effect where there’s an algorithm determining what you’ll watch next and whatnot.
“These concepts are far in the future, but they’re also kind of not. They’re kind of right now. In Season 3 we discard metaphor–we deal with the world as it is literally, which is a giant shitshow,” Nolan laughed.
The panel’s moderator noted that, while the architects in the show are old white guys, their progeny are incredibly powerful women. Nolan was then asked if Ford was based on a real person. “He’s a composite of a lot,” Nolan said, before Joy agreed.
“One of the weird things happening with AI is that they’re privately funded, they’re very anonymous. Market advantage is to go in stealth mode,” Nolan said, referring to the way people tend to not know what’s going on in the world of AI development. “These projects are happening out of the public eye. That may not be a big deal. Or it may be the single biggest mistake we’ve ever made.”
“This is not just science fiction, this is in someways reality,” the moderator prompted, and Nolan agreed, “The show is heightened, but some of this is happening right now.”
Discussing her character, Charlotte Hale, Tessa Thompson said many see her as a supervillain. She then seemed to invoke the spirit of her character. “But they’re robots–they’re not human, they’re not,” she laughed, “I never know how to talk about this show! I never know what I can say.”
“There were moments in season 2 when we were shooting that I was already Holores (Ed’s note: This is the name given to Dolores in Charlotte’s body), and I didn’t know it,” Thompson recounted. “Once I knew where we were going, I could get on the phone with Evan and get some tips about how to do that.
“There’s one thing that Dolores does, when she sits down, her right hand is always in her left. Every single time,” Wood offered, highlighting the subtleties of Dolores as a character.
The next character in the spotlight is Bernard and Jeffrey Wright attempted to talk about whether his empathy was learned or programmed. “I guess that’s the question of the show,” Wright said, unable to answer it. “The question is the thing. It’s all about that question.”
“Being tortured by Anthony Hopkins and by Dolores for a couple of seasons lends itself to a certain internal turmoil,” Wright joked, highlighting Bernard’s withdrawn demeanor.
Thandie Newton then reflected on her character, Maeve. “I’ve never had to go through anything like [Maeve’s experience]. The set up is extraordinary. The second season was really, really hard. This incredible being who has learned so much and managed to find her free will, but chooses to sacrifice that.
“But I still got to kick some ass,” she joked. “[Maeve] is an expensive piece of hardware and she’s treated like she has no value–and yet we know that she really is an extremely expensive piece of hardware, so we get to see her discovering her own value. That’s something amazing about [Westworld, the Hosts] are never, ever told how much they’re worth, so Maeve finding her agency is amazing.”
The moderator puts the question to the panel that Westworld seems to say there’s an error in the source code of humanity.
“Maybe it has something to do with these beautiful actors,” Joy replied. “I think when you’re pretty shy growing up, you start looking at the world from an outsider perspective, almost like a robot–trying to figure out when it’s safe to jump in. You see both beautiful things that people don’t notice, but you also see [terrible things]. You can’t help but see a really vast spectrum.
“I don’t think humanity is doomed, but I do think that we’ve capitulated [to] cycles of violence and tribalism. I don’t know what it’s rooted in but the implications of it are really difficult. Our technologies have evolved and it feels like we should be able to overcome this, we should be able to broker solutions–there’s a disconnect there.
“The show is violent, but nowhere near as violent as the world,” Joy continued. “If you look at the statistics of things like violence against women, we’re not showing more violence than there is in the real world–we’re putting a lens on it and we want to make people uncomfortable with it. It should make people uncomfortable.”
Asked whether the show has changed the way the cast sees everyday life, Aaron Paul said he sees the world a little differently now. “The story they were telling in the first two seasons made me look at the world [through] a more focused lense–it also makes me think that maybe we’re all just living in a simulation,” he laughed.
“I consider myself a very non-violent person,” Thompson continued. “Last season there’s a scene when Holores walks through and shoots some guards, and she walks through and steps on one of them. In the moment I felt really cool, I thought I was a badass. But later in the day, there’s a scene where I have a gun to someone’s head–and suddenly, that violence had a huge affect on me. I struggled with that. It made me think about the way we think about violence in the world and the violence that we pay attention to–what we can ignore in the world.
“I have been privileged to be non-violent,” Thompson continued. “I haven’t had the life experience that’s forced me to be in violent situations, so it helped me to have that experience on the show and realize that I have that in me as well.”
Jeffrey Wright then offered his perspective: “[Technology] is a huge driving factor in wealth disparity, and I’m grateful that we get to have that conversation in this show, especially in season three. The tools that we’re addicted to in real life are such massive tools of wealth disparity and the show really engages in that. So to answer your question about when the show takes place? It takes place right now,” Wright laughed.
At this point, fans offered their own questions to the panel, the first being whether morality is subjective, as it relates to Dolores.
“Things aren’t black and white and the longer I work on the show I see that more and more–but some things are, right?” Rachel Wood replied. “Like the system is rigged. We change the rules constantly. We call people heroes who are doing the same things villains are doing. There are so many grey areas. That’s why I love Dolores–it’s difficult for me to do a lot of the things she does, but I understand why she’s doing them.
“I’m really excited for people to see her this season because I feel like she’s constantly growing. She’s always a thousand steps ahead of everyone most of the time, but she’s still taking all of this information in and still learning and growing,” Wood added.
Another attendee asked Aaron Paul what draws him to less-than-perfect characters, calling to mind his role as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. “I just like to get beat up, man,” he replied.
On the subject of Thandie Newton’s favorite Maeve seen, the actor said there were too man. “I really relish the scenes I play in Season 1 where Maeve is completely vulnerable, physically naked, is just bottling every situation she’s in.”