'Westworld' Star on Clementine's Heartbreaking Reveal: "I Didn't Know That This Would Happen"

"She's the epitome of the prostitute with a heart of gold," Angela Sarafyan tells THR.
Courtesy of HBO

[Warning: This story contains spoilers about the seventh episode of HBO's Westworld.]

There's a lot of attention on the final scene of the latest episode of Westworld, called "Trompe L'Oeil." And rightfully so. It was a game-changer, as promised, certainly for Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen). But that wasn't the episode's only gut punch of a twist. Far from it.

In the episode, Delos board representative Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and Theresa fake a malfunction within the hosts, tied to Robert Ford's (Anthony Hopkins) reverie program, in order to create a plausible reason to push Ford out of power. In order to do this, "the gods demand a blood sacrifice," and that sacrifice comes in the form of Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), among the Mariposa Saloon and Brothel's most prominent employees. Charlotte and Theresa use Clementine as an example of reverie-driven glitches leading to acts of extreme violence, resulting in a bone-breaking battle between Clementine and a host designed to read as human. Due to the "error," Westworld will need to rebuild its hosts from the ground up over the coming months, beginning with Clementine. Her self-aware robot pal Maeve (Thandie Newton) watches in horror as lab technicians lobotomize Clementine, effectively killing her.

Is that it for Clementine? It sure sounds that way, based on what Angela Sarafyan tells The Hollywood Reporter about the "heartbreaking" story. Here's her take on the scene, the physical preparation involved, and her view of Clementine as "the epitome of the prostitute with a heart of gold."

Clementine's story in this episode is incredibly tragic, encapsulating the host experience: being used for human benefit. What struck you most when you learned about the development?

First of all, with each episode, we don't know where the character's going to go. All you get is what's happening in the episode itself. When I read this, I thought it was incredibly heartbreaking. I didn't know that this would happen with her. But it's incredibly pertinent for the entirety of the series, especially because she's someone who is constantly giving love. In this episode, we see why she does that. She does it for her family, providing for them and supporting them. You see this innocence about Clementine. She's the epitome of the prostitute with a heart of gold. It's completely unexpected, too. That's probably why they chose to do this with her. She's the least threatening option of possibly all the hosts, because she's not someone who has hurt anything or anyone in the entire series. It's not a part of her program. It's heartbreaking when you see that initial part of what's happened to her, but then, as things turn around, there's this insane adrenaline rush. She's really strong. Even though the whole thing is manipulated for Charlotte's benefit; they made her do this, she's not malfunctioning in any way.

Can you talk about the rehearsal process for the scene?

The actual fight, it's kind of choreographed. There were these incredible stunt guys, very wonderful. We started choreographing with Jonah Nolan and the director of the episode [Fred Toye], trying to see how we were going to really make it impactful but not jokey. Not like a caricature or a superhero. What he does to her in the beginning is almost like domestic violence. It's not a superhero fight. And then what she does, that's where you see how incredibly strong these hosts really are. Even though she can be delicate and very beautiful, she's actually incredibly strong. I wanted to really show that. You've seen one side of Clementine, and now you get to see this. 

How difficult was it to tap into the scene emotionally? Because there are at least two different sides of the character in the scene: Clementine the victim, and Clementine the warrior.

When I first read it, it was very easy. Usually, you imagine that emotional [scenes] are hard to do, but for me, they're very easy when you have great writing and something with so much meaning behind it. It fuels you to use all of your being to reveal that story. For me, it was a relief rather than a challenge. 

Clementine studies herself in the window and performs her "reverie," stroking her lip. What was in that moment, as far as how you played it?

You know what's funny? That wasn't written in the script. There's a part where she's looking into the window and she's seeing her reflection. I thought this would be a great opportunity for her to go back to her reveries. The physical movement in that could reveal how, one, she didn't realize there's blood on her face, and she goes back to her sensuality in that moment, where she fixes herself up. I also thought, and this was something that just went through my head, that when you see Charlotte in the window at the beginning, I thought that even though we think these hosts are asleep, I still think there's something that they are constantly receiving, whether or not they're awake. And so I kind of mirrored [Charlotte's] hand gesture when she touches her hair. It felt very much in line with Clementine. That's what I loved about playing her. She's a celebration of femininity and women and womanhood. She uses her sensuality and love and everything up until this moment. That's what I loved about playing her. I didn't want to not take an opportunity at the end of it all to bring a little taste of that into it.

How about the development of Clementine's "reverie" overall? What kind of memories did you imbue in the gesture?

In the first episode, in the pilot, they talk about her lip and her movement. When we were shooting the pilot, Jonah and Lisa mentioned that as the hosts move forward, they're constantly progressing. There's constant growth in them. They're never the same. There's always an evolution happening in them. In that very first scene where she's sleeping in front of Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward), I suggested that she's in a dream state rather than sleep mode. I played the character like she's actually in a different place, rather than in the laboratory and asleep. I started creating everything — all of her gestures and her movements. For example, it could be love, or a man that she's seen, and she wants him to touch her that way. The movements have an element of sensuality and how she would want a man or a woman to touch and love her. I played with that idea when I was working on it. I also thought that we as women, and not all women — I'm talking about a very particular type, being Clementine and mine — we're always trying to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. That's something that's almost in contrast to me growing up, because I'm somebody who likes to use my brains and abilities to impress, rather than my looks. Clementine became an opportunity to use and celebrate this part of my femininity. It's actually a powerful thing to be a beautiful woman. I remember growing up, like Once Upon a Time in the West with Claudia Cardinale, or Sophia Loren — you see these women and they have hips and breasts and waists, and that's what Clementine was. I was using all of these inspirations to build whatever moment I have in the story. 

The lobotomy scene must have been complicated as well — truly baring it all, body and soul, as we're saying goodbye to at the very least a version of Clementine. What do you remember about shooting that scene?

It was really funny. [Actors Ptolemy Slocum and Sidse Babett Knudsen] and I were laughing, because of what Ptolemy was wearing. The tech's outfits are all latex, and they have almost gills like fishes. We were playing with it. It wasn't so serious. We were laughing the whole time. But what I thought was, if Clementine is sweet — and you only see it in the beginning — I thought I would look directly in his face instead of looking out, even though she's in this sleep mode. She's still kind of functioning within her regular reverie of love. I was playing with the idea that she's looking at him and has a crush on him before he puts that drill in her nose. From a distance, you could see me looking at him. Then, when he did it — for me, it was really sad. Everything you are is now dying, and I remember my whole body and my eyes were welling up. It was a sad, sad moment. (Pauses) I loved playing her. I think she's a wonderful creature. She's so beautiful, and I'm so glad I got to bring that kind of life into the show.

Earlier in the episode, Clementine reveals her "backstory," such as it exists. Her family lives in the desert, and she's only working at the Mariposa until she can earn enough money to give them a better life and move "somewhere cold." And she says the word: "someday." That feels like a buzzword on this show — a word that people say when they really mean never, according to Dolores a few episodes ago. What does that word, "someday," embody for you?

It's really interesting. We shot the pilot two years ago now. I remember thinking how challenging it was going to be for me. I don't necessarily function or think like Clementine. We're different. But what's similar about us is her backstory, which is very much a parallel to my own life. I love my family and I'm very close with them, and I recently lost my grandmother, who I was very close with. I believe everything I create, I create for them. I create for them and for all of our happiness. The thing about it is, I don't know what the future holds, just like all of us don't know what the next day holds. Clementine doesn't, either. We just hope for the best. But there's always a little bit of doubt that who knows if it will happen, if her dreams will come true. 

You shared so many scenes with Thandie Newton this season. Can you share a memory of working together?

Thandie and I have become friends. I really adore her. I think she's just a beautiful woman in life and everything she's done with her family. Everything I felt for her in the show, I really feel toward her. There's nothing put on. Never a false moment. I genuinely admire her as a person, and I look up to the things she's accomplished as an actress and as a woman. Even now, we text and email each other about how much we care about each other. When I see her character, my heart melts. I think she's a really wonderful person. It's a gift. It's not always the case when you work with people that you'll love or care about them. Really, throughout the entire season … I was the first actress who came to Melody Ranch [in Santa Clarita, Calif.], where we were shooting, two years ago. I tested before I got the part, and I met Jonah and Lisa, and they're such kind and generous and creative people. That's a rarity. This whole production, along with Thandie and the other actors involved, has been … and as I'm talking, it makes me emotional. You want to have people in your life who inspire you, and that's what they did. Not only did the show affect my life and the character I played, but the people did as well. The whole experience has been amazing.

As much as you can say, is this it for Clementine? Is this where the story ends for her?

Yeah. Sad to say, but yeah, Clementine … this is where it's sad for me. It's kind of the end for her. I loved playing her and I hope that I'm going to get to play a strong character [like her] again. In the end, she really is so strong. I hope I'll get a chance to continue that kind of character in the future. You'll have to tune in and see. 

Follow THR's Westworld coverage for more interviews, news and analysis.

comments powered by Disqus