‘Westworld’: Tessa Thompson On Tonight’s Episode & The Charlotte Hale We Never Knew

Tessa Thompson 'Westworld' Season 3 Ep. 3 Interview
HBO

SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains details about tonight’s Westworld season 3, 3rd episode “The Absence of Field” on HBO.

Wow. Charlotte Hale, we never knew thee.

Deftly played by Tessa Thompson (of such big movies as the Creed franchise and Thor: Ragnarok), the actress takes her Delos boss to several nuanced emotional planes we’ve never witnessed before. While Charlotte remains a cutthroat executive –though one who becomes her own enemy in regards to allowing a corporate raider in the door at Delos– as a rebooted host, she’s an absolute mess inside. Tonight, both Charlotte and us, learn that she has an ex-husband and a young son she’s remained distanced from. Plus, there’s a torturous battle between good and evil inside her soul, to the point where Charlotte is imposing physical harm upon herself. Thompson explains it all for us. Tonight’s episode was directed by Amanda Marsalis and written by Denise Thé.

Before we jump into talking about tonight’s episode, how are you doing during this crazy time? 

Thanks so much for asking. I’m all right. I’m quarantined here in Los Angeles and my family is all safe and sound. I’ve been trying to really figure out how to best be of help and service during this time. It’s been so confusing. I know so many people, not just Americans globally are struggling, but I’ve been really heartened by people’s efforts online, whether it’s just finding some charitable way to give back or just connecting and providing entertainment and solace for people during this time. It’s really nice. So I’ve been watching.

It’s such a sensitive time that I feel like I’ve been mostly just creeping on social media but sort of nervous about how to use it myself. There’s great organizations like One Fair Wage that’s doing really great work with helping tip workers during this time since so many people are really struggling and don’t get to work in the way that they usually do. I’ve been just trying to help sort of shine some light on those organizations that are really vital during this time. We’ll see, maybe I’ll do something online but mostly I’ve just been using this time to connect with friends and family and read a lot and hang out in my garden.

Tonight was a whopper of an episode for Charlotte. When you first got your hands on the script, was your first impression? It’s a side of Charlotte we’ve never seen before. Did Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy alert you to the fact that a big one like this was coming down the line for Charlotte?

Westworld season 3 Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale
HBO

I mean, I was blown away by it. Every episode this season, I think, has been so well-crafted. We’re really getting to know these characters. They’re sort of expanding in ways that I don’t think any of us really anticipated. I think the addition of these new characters have been so brilliant. I had a conversation, maybe a couple months out when they were sort of working on writing the show. Lisa wanted to run some things by me which was incredible. She let me know about this idea that we would get into Charlotte’s life; that she would have to go and contend with the old Charlotte’s reality and one of those things would be her family life. So I had a sense that that was coming, but beyond that, I had really no idea. So a lot of the things in the episode were such a surprise to me.

I think one thing that has been so interesting about playing Charlotte in the past, to me she was like this sort of enigmatic idea of what big business looked like, what sort of corporate power, dare I say, corporate evil looks like when it places the bottom line over its employees or the sort of ethos of the company. But I had no idea in the past about who this woman was in her personal life. It kind of didn’t even matter in a way because she wasn’t someone that cared a lot necessarily about her own personal life. She was all work. So in this episode, you figure out that she was a woman that was actually struggling with how to exist in the world as someone that was at the frontline of business but also a mother, a partner, struggling with how to make a relationship work. It was incredible to know that all these things are sort of happening with her, and I never knew that nor did the audience. It was just a feast to get to work on this episode and to work with Amanda Marsalis and the incredible directors, Denise Thé, the writer. It was really a joy making this episode.

Charlotte Hale, left of robot, takes control in tonight’s episode. HBO

So there’s a line toward the beginning where Charlotte says, ‘Why must I be here?’ So we know that Dolores can occupy Charlotte. But is there another soul inside Charlotte now? Is that someone we might know or is that the old Charlotte? There’s a sensitive side of Charlotte that’s fighting the business side that we know.

I don’t know. I think we’ll have to discover that. I can say one thing is when she’s first sort of turned on, at least in this show, it’s sort of like birth in a way. When we begin the episode with her, she’s a new being that has no idea of what they are and whether or not it’s a consciousness that the audience has seen before, an old character that we’re familiar with or a new one. I will say that over the course of this season this new being becomes something none of us has seen before but it’s yet a mystery, at least in episode 3 who this being is.

HBO

So, when did the real Charlotte die? Tonight, we got a sense that it was at the end of season one in the massacre but then we see in the season 2 finale the Charlotte-host killing another Charlotte.

So the real Charlotte died toward the end of season two in that scene where see Charlotte killing Charlotte and at that point the –Halores– she was occupied, this new shell was occupied by Dolores or Wyatt at that time, who then killed the real Charlotte. But that H,alores, that sort of Charlotte double had infiltrated prior to the death of Charlotte. For those scenes, I think around maybe episode six or seven of season 2, one, for example, where you think Charlotte is interrogating Jeffrey Wright’s character, Bernard but it is in fact Halores.

And sound frequencies that Charlotte keeps receiving on her cell phone in this episode — can you expound on that? It’s clearly leading her to certain places. 

At this point in the season it’s a mystery to her what these frequencies are. She’s trying to figure out, but she’s being sent this sort of ominous frequency. Someone is trying to connect with her. It’s unclear who it is, but she’s having to contend. I think one thing that she does discover in episode 3, and the audience kind of already knew, is that she herself was kind of the mole inside Delos. She’s having to sort of deal with that because of course she’s now in charge of Delos, so she’s having to sort of figure out some old choices that Charlotte Hale made and what if any effect they’re going to have on her now as she’s infiltrated Charlotte’s life and the company.

As Charlotte breaks down emotionally in the hotel, Dolores tells her, ‘You’re talking like one of them. They don’t have impulse control”

Westworld
HBO

It’s a reference to humans. Yeah. I think that’s something that we see this new version of Hale or Charlotte really deal with this season because Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores at this point is a new being on a mission that’s very resolute about what she’s after. That will unfold and become clear to the audience as the season goes on, but she knows what she wants now in this new world. I think this version of Charlotte is in some ways her minion  even though it’s presented that they’re sort of equal and they’re after the same thing. This version of Charlotte sort of discovers, I think has to contend with her home life, with her own ideas about the humanity around her that she’s seeing, and she’s having all of these feelings literally wanting to crawl out of her skin. And in this moment I think Evan’s Dolores is trying to say to her ‘Stop that.’ In a weird way, even though we’re sparring toward our own humanity agency in a way, this is a time to be steadfast, to be like a robot, and to be steadfast in our mission, and that’s going to be hard for this version of Charlotte for many reasons this season.

Charlotte’s brutal piercing self infliction upon herself. That just adds a whole other facet to her. Can you talk more about how she can’t stand to be in her own skin?

HBO

It’s complicated. She’s having some really tough feelings coming up. If you were a host in the park at Westworld and had sentients, which they all did to varying degrees, certainly for Dolores, someone like Charlotte was host enemy number one. She was someone that didn’t care about the host, didn’t believe that they were sentient beings, felt that they were just machines and they were pieces of equipment that were expensive but otherwise not very valuable. So in a weird way, for any host mind and consciousness to be stuck inside the body of someone that didn’t care very much about them at all is painstaking enough.

Then I think this being is having to deal with the fact that actually people are not good or bad. That Charlotte, while as a host to a host, she was an enemy, a human or woman that loved, that was trying to do her best as a parent, that was trying to do her best in the world, and I think that’s true of all people. We’re neither good nor bad. So I think this particular being is having a really hard time contending with that. Also, there’s just this fear of having to deal with someone like Serac, of having to deal with the past decisions that Charlotte made and how that sort of put this being’s mission and livelihood literally in danger. So there’s a lot of anxiety.

I think it’s a multitude of things that drive her to want to literally just sort of claw her skin away. It’s a weird thing to say that it was fun to play because it’s not fun and the truth is there’s very many people that actually hurt themselves in that way; humans that have a hard time with whatever they’re doing emotionally and she’s expressed it in that way. It’s harrowing and really painful and hard to watch and hard to do. But I thought it was such a beautiful sort of physical expression of what she’s facing internally and having to see her as a sort of buttoned-up businesswoman but inside she’s really just struggling I thought was such a beautiful, poetic, deeply sad thing to play. It was also someone that’s sat with this character for a lot of years, to see a side of her that was more sympathetic is something that I never thought I would see. I mean, I really thought I would die (laughs) during the middle of season one. So, I can’t believe that I stuck around this long on this show, this show that I’m such a fan of. But to get to see a character that I have loved in my own personal way evolve and get to see new sides of her is really incredible.

There’s a lot of commentary about humanity in Westworld. In light of what’s going on right now in the world with the coronavirus, has the show taken on a new meaning for you?

Westworld
HBO

One of the joys of working on this show has always been the ways in which it’s so profoundly poignant at these times, whether it’s talking about the ways in which data is used against us or asking the questions about the nature of our humanity. For me, my favorite kind of entertainment is the entertainment that also holds a mirror up to us; that we should be entertained and also be asking big questions. First of all, I feel like everything has new meaning these days for me. I’m obviously reading, watching, listening to a lot, as most people are because there’s not much else to do as I’ve been in my house.

I’ve heard of this virus referred to as the great equalizer: That we’re all sort of in the same boat and to a certain extent that’s true, and I would posit that in some ways something like this also illuminates those of us that have privilege and those of us that don’t. First of all, to even get to stay home and quarantine and to help flatten the curve is a privilege. Some people cannot do that. Some people have to work. Some people have to go out into their workforce. My sister, for example, is a nurse. Every day she puts her life on the line. So in some ways, we are all in this together and in other ways we are not.

I think for me something that this season really articulates is the ways in which, for example, Aaron Paul’s character, Caleb, is stuck in this loop and sort of begins to make this realization in episode 3 that the powers that be have decided what he is capable of and what he’s not capable of and that they —Dolores says it, that they decide not to invest in you and thereby it’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think the same thing happens in this country and globally. So I think this time, this virus sort of illuminates that. I mean, for example, I had mentioned earlier, tip workers for example. I mean there are issues in the way that tip workers are treated anyways prior to this virus and now you can really see how essential it is that they’re paid a fair wage during this time. Hopefully this time can help people in the restaurant industry really see that and make some changes overall so that when we bounce back from that, that the workers are paid fairly.

There’s a tinge of seeming sort of post-apocalyptic (in the show). Sometimes I’d like to just watch something fun because there’s so much uncertainty and a lot of sadness, and I think we’re really struggling in ways that we’re not used to, particularly in the Western world and as Americans. Having this thing infringing sort of on our personal freedom, which is something that we’re not really used to, but I think for me I feel this opportunity in ways to sort of reshape the way that we live and the way that we treat each other and the way that we treat the planet.

This is sort of begging us to look at those things and really deeply consider what lasting changes we can make. For that, I’m grateful. If there’s one silver lining, I’m grateful for it. I see definitely this season the Hosts on Westworld are in a time when they’re thinking of trying to literally reshape the world, and Dolores, for example, is trying to do that through revolution. But I would say the creation of a humanity that is more just, kind, equal — it doesn’t happen without some strife. It doesn’t happen without some people making some big sacrifices. So those are the things that I kind of think about as I’m watching this season at this time.

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2020/03/westworld-tessa-thompson-interview-spoilers-season-3-episode-3-the-absence-of-field-1202895388/