How 'Westworld' Just Drastically Changed the HBO Drama's Entire Universe

The Hollywood Reporter checks in with star Vincent Cassel about that devastating twist: "Do you choose to survive, or do you choose that the right philosophy, freedom, is more important?"
John P. Johnson/HBO

[This story contains spoilers for season three, episode five of HBO's Westworld, "Genre."]

Once upon a time, it was Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and the hosts who were trapped in loops. In the third season of HBO's Westworld, however, it's the humans stuck in routines they cannot break — all thanks to Rehoboam, a supercomputer with the power to predict (and subsequently mold) future events based on human data.

As of "Genre," the fifth hour of creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's third season, humanity's loops are effectively broken as well — all thanks to Dolores. Over the course of the episode, Dolores and her cohorts (including Aaron Paul's Caleb, Lena Waithe's Ash, Marshawn Lynch's Giggles and a small army of various other Doloreses) manage to publicize all of the data gathered by Incite and powered by Rehoboam. The result: people now know the ways in which they are predicted to die, the jobs for which they are deemed eligible and a whole host of other personal details — and to say the news is going over poorly with the masses would be a significant understatement.

Listen to the Series Regular: Westworld podcast as hosts Josh Wigler and Marya Gullo break down the events of "Genre."

Among the most furious humans of them all: Engerraund Serac, the Rehoboam co-founder played by Vincent Cassel. Positioned as season three's antagonist, Cassel says one can only view Serac as the main villain depending on their interpretation of his intentions — intentions he believes are rather noble, if far too drastic in their execution. Throughout season three, Serac has been at odds with Dolores from afar, leading an invisible war between humankind and the hosts. Now, thanks to Dolores, humanity has taken a massive loss, and Serac feels it most of all. 

Ahead, The Hollywood Reporter speaks with Cassel about working within the mysterious world of Westworld, how he views Serac's philosophy, and what to expect next as Rehoboam's co-founder recoils from Dolores' world-changing attack.

You joined Westworld in season three as a new central antagonist. How do you compare the experience of filming such a secretive show with watching the finished episodes come together?

When you're involved in something, it's really tough to watch it for what it is. Let's face it, it's almost impossible. But I was a big fan of the first two seasons before getting involved with this. I have to say that even though they mention the character a lot, he often only appears at the end of a given episode — so I have a tendency to forget that I'm in this, and so I'm able to enjoy the show. (Laughs.) I'm really enjoying it, actually. 

There's no way to forget Serac is in episode five. This is a big spotlight episode for the character, as we find out about his brother, the experiments he's conducting on outliers and the fact that he was a survivor of a nuclear attack on Paris.

I'm not crazy about watching myself, yeah...there's always some discomfort. I do think this is a big one, though. [Nolan and Joy] told me all about this before I even read the scripts. It was a long call with them, where they gave me the whole concept of the character and his place in the series. From there, I would sometimes only get a script one day before shooting. I had the whole idea for him, the whole spectrum of the character, all of that was in mind...but I discovered how it was revealed on an almost day-by-day basis.

As far as playing such an enigmatic and powerful man, and to use the Westworld parlance, is there a cornerstone for the way you approach the character?

I understand what he wants. I understand why he wants to do it. I don't necessarily agree with his way of doing it! (Laughs.) But I think it's a beautiful thing, what he wants to achieve — and what it is he's actually achieving. How he wants to do it? You know.... (Laughs.) We could say he's a very nice fascist, or something like that.

He suffers serious loss in this episode. We see Serac get angry. It's a speed we're not used to seeing with this man.

Right. In his first episode, it's very low-profile. His speech, his emotion, it was all very blank and cold. I was happy to finally express something else here as an actor. But I knew it was coming. It's why I kept things so smooth for the first few episodes. 

In their scenes together, Serac seems impressed with Maeve. Now that he's face to face with Dolores, what do you think he makes of her?

Well, I don't think he really sees her as "somebody." He sees her as "something." He sees her as a disease, really, that he has to cure his world from. I think there's definitely something a little stronger with Maeve. It's a match, you know? She's a match for him. With Dolores, I think it's more something he has to get rid of — but personally, he also needs to get something from her. That's a big problem.

You said earlier that what Serac is striving for, there's something "beautiful" about it. How do you feel about his goals: providing authorship for mankind through a computer program?

I think freedom is more important than anything else, but at the same time...strangely enough, I think this is already somehow happening a little bit, you know? The ways we want to be amused by bullshit all the time, but at the same time, there are really important decisions that are being taken in a weird way. We're supposed to believe that we can make a change, but it's not quite clear if we can really do it. I don't know, man. It seems like it's not such an enormous extrapolation.

What's next for Serac, after Dolores' latest move?

You know, it's going to be an interesting thing, [depending on] who are you for. Who are you for? Are you going to root for the robots, or are you going to root for the humans? Sometimes, the robots on this series are more human than the humans. At the same time, if the robots get to do what they want, we have to fear for our own survival. So, what do you choose? Do you choose to survive, or do you choose that the right philosophy, freedom, is more important? I don't know. I don't think anybody has the answer. But that's the mind game we're playing as we get to the end.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Follow THR.com/Westworld for more coverage.