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Though it won’t return to HBO for a second season until 2018, there’s still plenty of reason for the cast and creators of Westworld to celebrate. After finishing their inaugural season in December, the stars of the series reunited with executive producers J.J. Abrams, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan on Tuesday night for an FYC Emmy event.
While many topics were broached, including Abrams’ 20-year journey to actually see the HBO series become a reality, one theme stood tall among the rest: the importance of having females be the hero of the story.
“What’s interesting is that you took a genre that is considered masculine in terms of who the heroes are and kind of flipped the script on that,” UnREAL and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce executive producer Marti Noxon, who served as moderator for the event, explained of the sci-fi/Western hybrid.
“It was the double inversion,” Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy responded. “Not only the kind of robot thing, where it’s normally about the guests being terrorized by the robots but from the robot’s point of view. But then to do a Western, where it’s normally the archetypal male hero in a kind of unknown land. Then to turn it into these fair damsels who are nothing but ferocious warriors when you get to know them, both personally and on-screen, I feel like each of them brings all the layers in life and on-screen that you would want from a heroine.”
According to Abrams, that female spirit is something that’s been at the core of the Westworld creative process since he started developing the show with Joy and Nolan. “The idea of a female at the center was something you guys pushed even when we were looking at materials and posters for the show,” he remembered. “It was a male figure and the idea that it should be a female figure, you guys were always behind that.”
For Evan Rachel Wood, who stars as Dolores, what made the experience so special was getting to explore the various layers of her character. “I knew that she was the quintessential damsel, kind of dizzy princess. But there was supposed to be something about her, something beneath it all and something that drew the guests to her,” said the actress. “I knew that she was going to have an arc, and I think all that I was told was that it was going to start one way and end very differently. It wasn’t until the show started to progress and the episodes started coming in that I started piecing things together myself.”
Of course when she started piecing it together, Wood realized just how complex a hero Nolan, Joy and Abrams had built in Delores. “As an actor being able to look at this and go, ‘OK, I’m basically playing three different people, living in the past, present and future, confronting trauma, walking through the trauma, coming out the other side, picking yourself up off the ground but still being so vulnerable and so human at the same time when you are not playing a human,'” she said. “When we wrapped, I just went over to Jonah and Lisa and started weeping and said, ‘Thank you.’ It’s so rare you find a show like this and it’s so rare you get to work with people like this or play a role like this.”
Beyond the personal journey, Westworld also gives its female heroes the opportunity to make an impression on popular culture, whether it be through fans dressing up as Delores and Maeve (Thandie Newton) at fan gatherings or something as simple as getting their own action figures.
“There are these little toys,” Newton said with a smile, referencing the show’s line of Pop Funko vinyl figures. “My 3-year-old now has one of these toys and he and my husband they avenge — they get all the Avengers together. You’ve got Thor and [Black] Panther and Batman, oh God. Then there’s Maeve in the middle.” While the show may not be appropriate for younger audiences, it is hard to mistake the pride the cast and creators have, knowing the impact their characters can make after only one season.
Than again, for Newton, sometimes the joy can come from the simpler things in life. “Whenever I’m playing with my son, it’s like, ‘And then she kills them all!'” she said. “It’s great to have a doll.”
Westworld season one is currently streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now. The drama returns for season two in 2018.
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