HBO’s gunslinging A.I.-fest known as Westworld has taken over SXSW. First, with the fully immersive experience, and now with a panel that gave a generous peek at the season tw0, which gave a peek at the highly anticipated Samurai World (or if you prefer, Shogun World). Cast members Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright were joined on stage by showrunners Lisa Joy and Johnathan Nolan to talk about what to expect from the upcoming sophomore season, as well as shattering the concept of a “powerful” female character.
The panel, moderated by Wired‘s Jason Tanz, kicked off with a scene from the new season (premiering April 22) featuring Dolores (which I will keep hush-hush) and then followed by a trailer set to the tune of Back to Black where, at the end, we were given a taste of samurais and Newton’s Maeve donning a kimono.
There has been a considerably long break between season one and two, so when asked how it felt coming back to Westworld after a hiatus, Newton immediately answered, “I couldn’t f*cking wait! The anticipation was gigantic.”
Wood added that she would get excited to film, but when arriving on set, there would be a feeling of dread that would come over her. “This is not going to end well,” she jokes about the tragic and violent surprises that are associated with the show.
Not much has been unveiled about the new season besides the rumblings and now the confirmation of the presence of samurais in the second season. The cast talks about how they know as much about the show as the audience when they film — particularly season two.
Wood says of the show: “It’s like onion you keep peeling back the layers — you’re gonna see a lot of that in season two.”
“We don’t know what’s happening!” Newton exclaims in regards to playing Maeve. “Just when you think you’re comfortable, you have to be destroyed and start again.”
Wright, who plays Bernard — who has had a complex journey on the show — is even more honest with his confusion on where the show is going. “The first season is about establishing the rules — and then it rips them apart,” he says. He jokes how since his character didn’t have a clue what was going on, it was an advantage because he, as an actor, didn’t have a clue what was going on, so it all worked out.
For Nolan and Joy, they have given a careful thought in constructing this series, which has gained a rabid fan base and theories. Nolan says that when the show first started, he and Joy built a blueprint and they treated the series as a film franchise. “We change the game and reinvent the show every season,” says Nolan.
Joy points out that as they made the show, they explored philosophical, technological, and thematic things, and in the second season, they open the door to what these actors could do and what they are capable of. “The characters are in a constant struggle for self-definition and reconciling power and what to do with it.” Joy says that the second season continues to explore the moral and personal decisions of the characters and shifting the lens on where our sympathies lie.
During the course of the first season, Wood and Newton’s characters have stepped to the forefront as the show’s leads. When Tanz asked the ever-popular question about how it felt to play powerful women, the two actresses were quick to answer.
“It feels right!” Newton exclaimed. “It feels f*cking normal to be powerful!”
Wood adds, “I don’t feel confined,” and subtlety addressed the current social climate and the treatment of women in the industry and beyond. “Art is imitating life — we are doing this for a reason. Playing this role has completely transformed me.” She reveals that she wore a locket with a picture of Dolores when she testified just a couple of weeks ago in front of Congress about her experience with sexual assault in an attempt to expand the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act to all 50 states.
The panel was a lovefest between all the actors, who have been working together for four years, as well as an opportunity for Newton to speak on being an advocate for V-day, an organization that combats violence against women and the 20-year war in Congo. Elon Musk, who is a buddy of Nolan, also made a surprise appearance on stage to show a video directed by Nolan about launching Tesla into space to go along with the show’s sci-fi bend.
There was a lot to take in with the panel, but it was the Shogun World which perked up the audience’s ears. With the reveal of samurais in season two, it is to be believed that there may be more Delos worlds outside of Sweetwater to be seen in the series as there are in the original 1973 film. When asked about this, the panel was dead silent until Marsden chimed in saying, “They’ve erased our memories, so we couldn’t tell you.”
We’re taking that as a yes.