Today we speak with Westworld EP and writer Denise Thé who takes us inside the writers’ room of one of TV’s most genre-bending shows, and how the socially conscious sci-fi action series clicks in all its nuances.
Thé wrote two key episodes this past season, episode 3 “The Absence of Field” in which we step inside Charlotte Hale’s (Tessa Thompson) life in the real world, and learn that she’s having connections problems with her ex-husband and young son. But is it really Charlotte? It seems Dolores has put a different soul (or pearl) into the body of the Delos Boss, and Charlotte can’t stand to be in her own skin to the point of cutting herself. Oh, and it looks like she’s a mole who’s allowed a corporate invader (Vincent Cassel) inside Delos. Thé also penned the chilling season finale “Crisis Theory” in which Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) sacrifices herself to foil the supercomputer Rehoboam that’s a predictor of human behavior — all for the sake of humanity, not just the robots out there.
On where season 4 might go with Charlotte, who we last saw putting the Man in Black in his place: “You see her in a whole new light. Will she pick up the mantle of being host supreme? Does she have that glimmer of humanity in her that she developed with her family? That’s the fun of going on the ride next year,” said Thé.
Commenting on how Westworld has become a great series representing female empowerment, both in front and back of the camera (down to editors, directors, and what Thé says is the “most females” she’s ever worked with in a writers’ room), Thé gives props to co-creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan.
In regard to how the series morphed from a Michael Crichton-created Yul Brynner western movie to women waging war in the real world in the HBO series, Thé tells Crew Call, “I’ve heard Lisa say that she was interested in doing a western, because you have these iconic figures for women –they were a whore or a rancher’s daughter– and she wanted to add layers to that.”
This year in particular there’s this perfect triangle between Charlotte, Dolores and Thandie Newton’s Maeve. “We did see Dolores and Maeve kick ass, but ultimately they come together and have a meeting of the minds. Part of what they’re saying is ‘Our creators tried to separate us and that’s part of how they dominated and controlled us, but we’re together now.'”
Thé left a career in financial marketing at American Express, and was accepted into the CBS diversity program for writing. She wrote a spec script of Grey’s Anatomy and Lost as part of her writers’ submission package and was hired off that on Fox/WBTV’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Soon after working on Cold Case, she moved to CBS’s Person of Interest for more than 100 episodes, where she ultimately became the co-showrunner, thus beginning her working relationship with Nolan and Joy.
Listen to our conversation below with Thé.