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‘Westworld’ enters a new world for its second …

westworld-daily:

A surprising thing happened in the year and a half since the first season of “Westworld” confounded and attracted viewers with its knotted story of a futuristic android uprising at a patriarchal Western theme park.

At the center of the revolt on different fronts were “hosts” Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) — both of whom suffered horrific abuse and menace in carrying out their duties catering to the park’s wealthy, pleasure-seeking male patrons. With the arrival of the second season April 22, the show’s vision of a dark, cynical tomorrow has moved past its source material’s roots of sci-fi entertainment to resemble a troubling reflection of what’s happening in the country’s political and cultural divides, as well as its #MeToo moment.

“It’s even more relevant now. Absolutely,” says Wood, dressed in a bright blue suit during a recent junket at a Beverly Hills hotel. In the first season, Dolores, a rancher’s daughter who is one of the longest-serving “hosts” in the park, has the simple optimism of her programming shattered and winds up as a leader in a robot revolution.

“It certainly adds extra weight to season two, because season two is very much about the revolution and about the oppressed coming to take their power back,” says Wood. “I think it could be a metaphor for any kind of oppressed group of people or minority.”

Her co-star, however, is less convinced. In a separate interview, Newton, who plays the world-weary brothel madam Maeve, pauses upon being asked about the show’s topicality in a changing world. She finally says, “The role was the role regardless.”

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‘Westworld’ enters a new world for its second …

A surprising thing happened in the year and a half since the first season of “Westworld” confounded and attracted viewers with its knotted story of a futuristic android uprising at a patriarchal Western theme park.

At the center of the revolt on different fronts were “hosts” Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) — both of whom suffered horrific abuse and menace in carrying out their duties catering to the park’s wealthy, pleasure-seeking male patrons. With the arrival of the second season April 22, the show’s vision of a dark, cynical tomorrow has moved past its source material’s roots of sci-fi entertainment to resemble a troubling reflection of what’s happening in the country’s political and cultural divides, as well as its #MeToo moment.

“It’s even more relevant now. Absolutely,” says Wood, dressed in a bright blue suit during a recent junket at a Beverly Hills hotel. In the first season, Dolores, a rancher’s daughter who is one of the longest-serving “hosts” in the park, has the simple optimism of her programming shattered and winds up as a leader in a robot revolution.

“It certainly adds extra weight to season two, because season two is very much about the revolution and about the oppressed coming to take their power back,” says Wood. “I think it could be a metaphor for any kind of oppressed group of people or minority.”

Her co-star, however, is less convinced. In a separate interview, Newton, who plays the world-weary brothel madam Maeve, pauses upon being asked about the show’s topicality in a changing world. She finally says, “The role was the role regardless.”

But Newton also sees a metaphor in the show’s conceit: “We’re talking about what happens in Westworld stays in Westworld, and you can go and you can [sleep with] whoever you want, you can shoot whoever you want, you can rape whoever you want. That’s happening right now in the world.”

“I know without a doubt that we are not using rape as wallpaper, like some shows do, okay?” she says, her voice quickening. “I’m not being specific about which because it would not be good for my career, but do we have a responsibility? Well, it turns out we don’t because nobody really applies that sense of responsibility. But I think [creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy] do.”

The husband-and-wife creators are following up on the same objective this season that they had from the start, riffing on science fiction and western touchstones that flavored its source material (both the Michael Crichton novel and its 1973 film adaptation) while not being beholden to it.

In the first season, the dotted line connection to the film was drawn from its most recognizable figure — Yul Brynner’s gunslinging cowboy in black — but the show’s penchant for upending expectations was vividly illustrated with the character shifting from a murderous robot to a murderous human, portrayed by Ed Harris.

And instead of being about a glitch that leads to violence akin to “Jurassic Park,” “Westworld” is more about the chaotic first steps of a new species.

“This is where our story was always going,” Nolan says when asked if the current climate had any impact on their writing. “It’s a Western, but it’s also told from the perspective of, in video game terms, the nonplayer characters. You’re dealing with the characters who have been marginalized within the world of the park itself. It’s about Maeve, and it’s about Dolores.”

Of course, one of the most talked about — and controversial — ways “Westworld” told that story involved overlapping timelines, one with Harris’ Man in Black seeking an answer to the world’s puzzle while tormenting Dolores (he rapes her in the pilot episode), and the other with his younger self (Jimmi Simpson), who was in love with Dolores.

The series blurred the line easily from scene to scene, a disorienting choice that was anchored by the never-aging Dolores. The conceit was finally revealed in the season finale, frustrating some viewers who had thought there was only a single narrative.

Shuffling timelines is a familiar move for Nolan, who was in college when he wrote the amnesia-shaded short story that inspired his brother Christopher’s breakthrough film, “Memento.” But like that movie, the choice in “Westworld” was more than a structural gambit.

“It was rooted in the lens from which our protagonists saw their world,” says Joy, seated on a sofa next to Nolan. “They did not understand when they were, you know? They didn’t even understand that they didn’t understand when they were.

"We didn’t plot it out like, ‘And then we’ll be like "Gotcha!”’ It came from a place of naturalism and trying to build empathy for these characters.“

Of course, now that the black hat is out of the bag, Nolan and Joy don’t get to use the effect again, right?

Nolan shifts in his seat with a sly smile. "Do you?”

Both are cagey about the new season, allowing that a new park — the Kurosawa-inspired Shogun World, which was teased in the last season finale — will emerge (a recently launched website “Delos Destinations” showed four more still-hidden worlds that are part of the park’s corporate family) and that viewers will see the world outside the parks as well. “

The series places such a premium on secrecy that the cast often found itself in the dark during production. Wood remembers working on scenes for episodes she hadn’t yet read without knowing what happened leading up to them, a challenge she called "a crazy acting exercise.”

“I’m starting to think they’re doing to us what they talk about doing to the guests in ‘Westworld,’” she says with a grin. “Where they strip you down to your primal self and create a sense of urgency so that you’re your most honest.”

Though Nolan describes a season two led by a self-aware Dolores as “playing cards up” as far as what the audience understands, he still holds them close to the vest.

In April, he had a little fun when he teased on Reddit that he would release some spoilers of the new season, claiming it would help manage fan theories that revealed too much last season. The subsequent video begins with a dazed Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), who runs Westworld’s programming division, waking up on a beach and ends with Wood gamely singing Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” backed on piano by prostitute and fellow host Clementine (Angela Sarafyan).

“Westworld” may be set in the future, but its taste for trolling is very 2018.

But working under such ambiguity proved difficult for Newton. While Dolores kick-started the revolt last season by killing Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the park’s creator, Maeve initiates a bloody scheme to escape the park. But on her way out, she changes her mind and returns. .

It was a twist that disappointed Newton but, she says, also keeps delivering rewards.

“I had to have no ideas for my character [during production], which was really hard,” she says. “And almost a betrayal because it’s like, this is mine. I made her. I stripped naked in order to present her as she truly is and needs to be. And my nudity is profoundly disturbing because of the way it’s been exploited in the past, both in film and in my life, right? So it was a big deal and something I did wholeheartedly because it made sense, and I felt that it had enormous value.”

She says, “It was kind of like, you know those dreams that you have where you’re trying to get somewhere, and you can’t run, you’re in slo-mo? Your legs can’t move?

"That was what season two was like.”

Tribeca: ‘Westworld,’ Alec Baldwin-Spike Lee P…

New Yorkers won’t be the only ones able to enjoy the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Key moments from the annual event — which officially kicks off its 17th edition on Wednesday night — will be live-streamed to wider audiences.

Throughout the festival, notable names in entertainment will participate in candid conversations during Tribeca Talks and post-premiere panels. Stars set to make appearances include Evan Rachel Wood, Spike Lee, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Foxx, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, among many others.

When it comes to TV, the cast of Westworld will get together to discuss the upcoming second season of their hit HBO show. Antonio Banderas is also slated to speak about playing his idol, Pablo Picasso, in National Geographic’s second season of Genius.

The talks are available exclusively via Facebook Live on the Tribeca Film Festival Facebook page at Facebook.com/Tribeca. Check out the livestream schedule below — and check tribecafilm.com for real-time additions throughout the festival.

Thursday, April 19

6 p.m. ET: John Legend with Sara Bareilles (Tribeca Talks: Storytellers)

9:40 p.m. ET: Westworld (Tribeca TV) Co-creators, showrunners and directors Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, along with cast-members Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden will participate.

Welcome to ‘Westworld’: Inside the HBO Drama’s…

The cast and crew of Westworld brought themselves back online Monday at the world premiere of the HBO drama’s second season, with the red carpet rolled out at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.

“We’re in a new loop,” series co-creator Jonathan Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter, standing alongside his co-creator and wife Lisa Joy, both of whom were minutes away from delivering a speech in front of an auditorium filled with hundreds of their contemporaries and loved ones. “This loop looks a bit like the last loop. It’s the same carpet … the same shade of red.”

The carpet was a soft red, a far cry from the blood-stained hues that coat season two of Westworld, launching April 22 on HBO. The premiere, titled “Journey Into Night,” marks the first new episode of the genre-bending hit since it went off the air in December 2016 — almost a year and a half since Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) launched a revolution against her human oppressors.

“You’re getting a much darker version of Dolores this year, that’s for sure,” Wood told THR about what’s next for her human-slaying host. “Now she’s well and familiar with all sides of herself: the Dolores that we love, the darker Wyatt version, and she’s also building herself anew as we watch her throughout the season. We’ll be seeing more and more of who she really is.”

Fans are understandably eager to know not only Dolores’ next move, but the greater narrative’s next steps. Many of the actors count themselves among the fans awaiting the show’s twists and turns, given how little the cast members know about the series as they’re shooting it.

“I feel like there are three phases for someone who takes part in the show,” said Ptolemy Slocum, who plays the selfish lab technician Sylvester. “You read it. Then you shoot it, and it’s a totally different story. Then you watch it, and it’s a totally different story. I’m about to embark on one of my favorite parts of being on the show: watching the show. It might sound like I’m bullshitting, but I’m not. It’s fascinating. So much changes.”

Indeed, much is changing as Westworld enters its second season, shattering the previous status quo in favor of a new narrative filled with expanding notions of consciousness, empowerment, oppression, war and what it means to be alive.

“For me, one of the fascinating things about season one is we were looking at hosts trying to understand the nature of their own reality as they come into power,” co-creator Joy said. “By the finale of the season, Dolores has claimed some power for herself. Some agency. All of the hosts are moving toward agency. And the question now is: once you have power, what do you do with it?”

“Season one was very much about setting up the world and the characters in it, and the structures that we’re working with,” said Simon Quarterman, the actor who plays narcissistic narrative director Lee Sizemore. “This season, we’re tearing down that structure. The container we created in season one is blown open. It’s so much more expansive this season. It’s an awful lot of fun.”

Based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name, Westworld takes place in a far future where human “guests” visit a park populated by robot “hosts.” Unlike the film, the TV series finds its roots in the perspectives of the hosts, originally presented as malfunctioning antagonists in Crichton’s movie. Over the course of the first season, various hosts embarked on journeys of self-discovery, all thanks to the designs of park founder Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who realized far too late in his life that his creations could be both physically and morally superior to humanity.

In engineering his own death at the hands of Dolores, and in unshackling the programming that prevented the hosts from harming the guests, Ford created a new status quo in which the hosts could not only rule Westworld and the surrounding parks (and yes, plural: beyond Westworld and the already teased Shogun World, the existence of at least four other parks has been confirmed by viral marketing for the show), but the wider world itself.

“There are awakenings happening,” said Clifton Collins Jr., who plays Lawrence, the host who often acts as the Man in Black’s gunslinging wing man. “How do you think Lawrence would react if he started developing a little bit of a conscience?”

Those are the kinds of questions the cast members loved chewing on over the course of filming season two, and certainly the same questions fans devour with insatiable appetites. Among the many reasons why Westworld captured imaginations with its first season, the fervent desire to solve the show’s riddle-filled narrative stands close to the top. Reddit detectives and other sleuths all over the Internet spent weeks embedded in the theory trenches, in an attempt to figure out the biggest mysteries ahead of the show’s reveals. Among the solved cases: the Man in Black’s true identity as William (Jimmi Simpson), Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) secretly being one of the hosts, and Bernard also being based on the likeness of park co-founder Arnold Weber.

In the spirit of the online theory culture that’s developed around the show, Nolan and Joy recently had some fun at their fanbase’s expense, promising Reddit users a full-blown spoiler video if they received enough support from the community. With more than enough of the support they requested, the duo behind Westworld instead trolled the fandom with one of the Internet’s greatest memes: the Rickroll.

“I’ve been a fan of the Reddit community from the beginning,” says Nolan. “That community in particular rallied around the first season in a way like none other: dissecting and breaking apart the story, spending almost as much time thinking about it as we did while writing it. For us, it was a special thank you to that community, in a language perfectly tailored to them.”

For the crowd gathered at the Cinerama Dome, there’s no longer any need to theorize about what’s ahead in the season two premiere, as the episode (clocking in at 70 minutes) unfurled in front of a packed audience. Before the screening, HBO programming president Casey Bloys introduced Nolan and Joy for some remarks about not only the world in which Westworld takes place, but the real world that inspires the show.

“Our show is about human nature — the dark side of human nature,” said Nolan. “Our task was made vastly more difficult every day by the people we work with on our show. We were trying to hold onto [the darkness], and every day we had to work with the most talented, positive and generous collaborators — from the incredible writing-producers to the directors whose ambition never let up.”

Saying it would be impossible to talk about “the professional without the personal,” Joy concluded the opening remarks with a moving expression of appreciation for the human nature of the people who have brought Westworld online.

“We’re a group of advocates, and we’re a group of feminists, not just in the large and incredible sweeping gestures — the heroism of testifying before congress, the heroism of advocating for communities, and the heroism of battling injustice — but also in the small private gestures,” she said in her opening remarks. “The ways we listen to each other. We enrich each other off of each other’s experiences and perspectives. The way we are continually thriving, in art and in life, to do better and be better. We see examples of it every day on set. Jonah and I ourselves are beneficiaries of this kindness. Nothing in the world makes us prouder. Thank you for being collaborators who help us explore the dark themes of humanity while actively embodying and reaching the light. There are more stories to tell, more strides to be made, and we cannot wait to make them.”

Following the speeches, and the premiere itself (which will remain unspoiled here, except for this innocent tidbit: there was at least one major laughing fit during the episode, thanks to a scene between Thandie Newton’s Maeve and Simon Quarterman’s Sizemore), attendees were invited out to the after party, held at NeueHouse Hollywood.

Bartenders and wait staff were outfitted in dark uniforms branded with the word “Delos,” the same company that runs the show’s parks. A DJ controlled the upbeat music from a balcony station high above the main floor, surrounded by robotic vultures and multicolored horses. Drone hosts lorded over several different corners of the space, and iconography from the series (including Arnold’s maze) were studded throughout the party as well. Food items on display included sliders and endives with beet hummus, and reserved seating for members of the HBO family featured edible centerpieces, including olives, prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks, and more.

A litany of celebrities were spotted at the party, including Christopher Nolan and Liam Hemsworth, both of whom were supporting their respective brothers Jonah Nolan and Luke Hemsworth (who plays QA expert Ashley Stubbs). Also in attendance: Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), James Tupper (Big Little Lies), David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer) and Silicon Valley stars Martin Starr and Thomas Middleditch.

But the most buzzed about star who came out in support of Westworld was none other than Katy Perry, who was photographed at the party and inside the theater alongside Shannon Woodward (who plays behaviorist Elsie Hughes, missing in action since the first season’s sixth episode). As is the case with the award-winning music artist, fans will hear Westworld roar when it premieres its second season on April 22.

Westworld Is Finally Back. And Its Women Are R…

westworld-daily:

Thandie Newton likes to take the lead. When I meet her, co-star Evan Rachel Wood and Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy–three of the HBO show’s fierce women–in a Los Angeles hotel suite, I dither about whether we should sit on a sectional sofa or around a table. Newton directs us to the table. “This is serious,” she says. “A table creates a kind of boundary. Let’s not be on the couch about any of this.”

Westworld combines cowboys and robots with high-octane violence and a trippy take on artificial intelligence, but it’s also a show with a great deal on its mind. It’s among TV’s most fiercely feminist visions, a series that subverts traditionally masculine genres like the cowboy serial and the sci-fi mind bender by giving women, well, a seat at the table. The show takes the iconography of the American West–would-be Marlboro Men, on steeds with six-shooters in hand, ready to save the maiden or terrorize her–and flips it. By the end of Westworld‘s first season, the women have seized control.

The new season (premiering on April 22) takes the show’s long-simmering tensions and ignites them. Westworld, which began airing before the 2016 election kicked off the current reckoning with sexual assault and misogyny, returns to a world in which the experience of women pushed past their limit has become central to our national conversation. “We’re all becoming more awake to that idea right now–the search for truth,” says Wood.

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Westworld Is Finally Back. And Its Women Are R…

Thandie Newton likes to take the lead. When I meet her, co-star Evan Rachel Wood and Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy–three of the HBO show’s fierce women–in a Los Angeles hotel suite, I dither about whether we should sit on a sectional sofa or around a table. Newton directs us to the table. “This is serious,” she says. “A table creates a kind of boundary. Let’s not be on the couch about any of this.”

Westworld combines cowboys and robots with high-octane violence and a trippy take on artificial intelligence, but it’s also a show with a great deal on its mind. It’s among TV’s most fiercely feminist visions, a series that subverts traditionally masculine genres like the cowboy serial and the sci-fi mind bender by giving women, well, a seat at the table. The show takes the iconography of the American West–would-be Marlboro Men, on steeds with six-shooters in hand, ready to save the maiden or terrorize her–and flips it. By the end of Westworld‘s first season, the women have seized control.

The new season (premiering on April 22) takes the show’s long-simmering tensions and ignites them. Westworld, which began airing before the 2016 election kicked off the current reckoning with sexual assault and misogyny, returns to a world in which the experience of women pushed past their limit has become central to our national conversation. “We’re all becoming more awake to that idea right now–the search for truth,” says Wood.

And as the show takes its first steps into a new world, it’s a provocative statement suited for a moment that is just beginning to dawn. It’s a show on the precipice of going from hit to era-defining smash–all thanks to the women at the center of its spectacle.

Watching Westworld feels unlike watching anything else. Based on a 1973 movie directed by sci-fi maestro Michael Crichton, the show is set at an Old West–themed park and populated by robotic “hosts” who have been programmed to act out a cowpoke pantomime on loop. Guests are allowed to do whatever they want with these bodies: some choose to rescue and save them, while others have more sinister intentions. Scenes shift from the mostly idyllic life of the hosts–which are often interrupted by strange and chaotic outbursts of violence–to the futuristic world of their makers, who attempt to calibrate the robots and keep them in line.

As damsel in distress Dolores and jaded town madam Maeve, Wood and Newton play hosts whose minds are designed to be erased after each encounter. But suddenly, their minds begin holding on to memories of trauma. Their journeys get more attention than do those of the show’s men. Stars like Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris simply don’t have as much to do. They’re obstacles, helpers or foils, while the heroines manifest their own destinies. By season’s end, Maeve embarks on a quest that promises to take her deeper into the show’s universe, while Dolores takes up arms to lead the rebellion, a blue-smocked Liberty leading the humanoids.

In just one season, Westworld has become one of the biggest shows on earth. “There are hundreds of people working every single day,” says Joy, who runs the show with her husband, The Dark Knight co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan; J.J. Abrams is another executive producer. The show’s visual dazzle is twofold–in its careful reconstruction of the Gunsmoke America that lives in our shared imagination, and in its invention of a future where life is conjured by science that looks like magic. Westworld‘s grandeur has paid off. Its first season was HBO’s highest-rated debut ever, and it was nominated for Golden Globes and Emmys for Best Drama, along with nominations for Wood and Newton at both ceremonies.

Westworld brings together mass-appealing spectacle with critical approval–perhaps the first show to do that since network mate Game of Thrones. Like that show, Westworldgets much of its story’s momentum from nudity and from violence done against women, like when Harris’ character drags Dolores into a barn, seemingly to rape her. But such scenes do more than establish stakes; they create the necessary conditions to foment revolution. In her first meeting with Nolan and Joy, over Skype, Newton recalls, “they very eloquently described the vision for the show. They were going to subvert incredibly poignant and important themes about how women are represented, and would I mind being naked while I did it.” She said yes.

Joy knows it can be tough for actors to shoot those scenes–especially Wood, who testified before Congress in February about her own experience of sexual assault in efforts to secure an assault survivors’ bill of rights. “I do everything I can to make the set a safe place,” Joy says. “And if it doesn’t feel safe, you have to tell us, and your voice will be heard.”

Wood, who has acted since she was a child–her breakthrough was the youth-rebellion drama Thirteen–has found meaning in this role. “It comes from a very vulnerable, tortured place,” she says. And Newton, an industry veteran with credits including the Mission: Impossible franchise and Crash, had until Westworld been denied opportunities her white counterparts might expect. “I’ve had a really rough road in the 30 years I’ve been acting,” she says. Newton had been prepared to quit before that Skype call. “I came back into myself as an actress and woman and mother and activist,” she says. “Right when I’d given up, I arrived at Westworld.”

Like other projects that now seem more resonant thanks to the culture-wide awakening around assault–among them the TV show The Handmaid’s Tale and the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—Westworld now feels urgently relevant. Each of those projects was under way before the 2016 election kicked off the current reckoning, and Westworld began airing just a month before ballots were cast. The show had already staked out the terrain of a social crisis that only later made headlines. “People say, ‘You’re so lucky this is so timely,’ and I’m like, ‘No, this is timeless,‘” says Joy. “These are things we have struggled with since time immemorial.”

In conversation, Joy takes an empathetic backseat to her stars. As Newton tears up discussing her growing rapport with Wood, I sneak a look at Joy, who’s openly crying. Despite all the emotional brinkmanship and re-enactment of violent trauma that Wood and Newton are asked to do, both feel secure throughout. “It’s allowing people to see they don’t have to be egomaniacs,” Newton says. “They don’t have to be all about themselves. They can be vulnerable.”

“Women are conditioned to be separate, to be pitted against each other,” says Wood. “That’s conditioning. And that keeps us powerless.” On Westworld, the power of three creative women compounds itself, gaining emotional and narrative power not just as a response to bad news but also as an examination of what it means to live through trauma, to overcome it and to fight back. Its second season may be less the show to heal us than the show with the vivid imagination to show us what’s possible. It’s a vision of a future where women don’t play by their own rules. They make their own.

Evan Rachel Wood Turns Her Trauma Into Good. O…

When Evan Rachel Wood needs a jolt of confidence, she puts on a certain playlist, a compendium of feminist anthems and feisty classics — “I Will Survive,” “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, some head-whipping grunge and hip-hop. It was piping through her house here one chilly afternoon last month. Ms. Wood, the actress and musician, had just put herself through an emotional wringer: She testified before Congress, in unflinching terms, about being a survivor of sexual violence, then jetted to Los Angeles to perform songs by David Bowie, her musical idol, with his bandmates.

It was a cross-country head-snap. Now she was welding herself back together.

“My life is definitely going places I did not foresee,” she said, leaning over her kitchen counter, as Sia’s “Unstoppable” played in the background. “But I’m going with it. It doesn’t feel like a choice at this point. This is just what I need to do.”

Her trajectory is even more remarkable when you consider how much it overlaps, thematically, with the story line of Dolores, her character on the HBO series “Westworld.” On that sci-fi drama, set in a Western theme park where visitors can act out their most depraved fantasies with humanlike robot “hosts,” Dolores is an innocent and much-abused host who slowly awakens to the darkness of what has befallen her, and then fights her way out.

A critical darling when it aired in 2016, “Westworld” had the most-watched debut season of any HBO series, and anticipation for its new season, which begins April 22, is high. In a starry ensemble that included Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright, it was the women, like Ms. Wood and Thandie Newton, as a host madam who’s newly conscious of her reality, that were riveting, in part for how they endured — and inflicted — violence.

The show, Ms. Wood said, “completely transformed my entire life,” not because it catapulted her career — although it did — but because playing Dolores forced her to drill into her own struggles. “Her journey mirrored so much of what I had been through and what I was going through,” she said. “It gave me a strength that I did not know I had.”

For Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, the married co-creators of “Westworld,” Ms. Wood was first an exceedingly “protean” actor, as Mr. Nolan said in a joint phone interview. Ms. Wood, 30, has been in front of the camera since childhood, graduating from volatile adolescents in movies like “Thirteen” to a vampire queen on “True Blood.” They cast her knowing she could pull off the lightning shifts that Dolores makes in Season 2, which finds her exacting sweet revenge even as she weighs its costs.

“With Evan’s character, I wanted to explore a hero who has flaws and had a history that was trauma and sadness, but who could overcome that,” said Ms. Joy, a writer, producer and director of the series with her husband. “To me, that’s an inspiring story, and a story that can teach. And Evan, because she is so strong and she is that person, was able to unleash even more of that strength than I imagined. Even the aspects of her performance where she’s vulnerable, or when she makes a mistake, you’re internalizing that even heroes falter. It’s the kind of hero I wish I had had growing up.”

Ms. Wood did not necessarily feel heroic when she traveled to Washington — her second time there, after the 2017 Women’s March — to testify before a House judiciary committee in February. “I shook for days” beforehand, she said. She feared she would be judged for what happened to her.

“I couldn’t even believe I was about to say these words aloud, that I probably have only said out loud to three people.”

That somebody with her background — “I’ve had practice baring my soul in intense, surreal situations; it’s like what I do for a living” — was still terrified made her even more determined to go, to represent those who couldn’t. She was invited to appear by Amanda Nguyen, the founder of Rise, an advocacy organization for rape survivors. They were endorsing the Survivor’s Bill of Rights, 2016 legislation which amended the federal criminal code to give survivors of sexual assault the right to a free medical exam and to have rape kits be preserved for as long as 20 years, among other changes. (The hearing examined the law; its supporters are hoping to get a version passed in each state, because most rape cases are tried on the state level.)

Ms. Wood called herself a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, and described being raped twice, about a decade ago, first by an abusive partner, then by a man in the storage closet of a bar. “Being abused and raped previously made it easier for me to raped again, not the other way around,” she said. She has aligned herself with these causes before, but never in such personal terms.

She spoke of suffering from “depression, addiction, agoraphobia, night terrors” and attempting suicide; eventually, she was given a diagnosis of long-term PTSD. The assaults left her with “a mental scar that I feel, every day,” she said. She delivered her testimony in a gripping voice and broke down in tears afterward.

Around her neck, in a locket on a long silver chain, she carried a picture of her character, Dolores.

She was still wearing it a week or so later, at her home in Nashville. “Whenever I had a moment of self-doubt, I remembered — this is a part of me,” she said, as her cat, a protective Devon Rex named Smokey, curled up beside us on the couch.

She moved to Nashville a few years ago, seeking a quieter place to raise her son, now 4½ years old, she had with her ex-husband, the actor Jamie Bell. Save for an old friend turned writing partner, she knew few people there, and gets around without much fanfare, helped by a pair of tortoiseshell glasses and a choppy bob. (Her long “Westworld” hair is a wig.)

Would she have been able to testify without the show?

“I hadn’t even cried about my experiences until after ‘Westworld,’” she said. Her defense mechanism was to go numb and power through. “And I didn’t even realize that until I’d done ‘Westworld.’”

When she finally gave herself permission to cry, “it was like the floodgates opened,” she added. “It just felt like an exorcism; it was so painful but so healing.”

Revealing her ordeal, she felt freer, she said, comparing it to coming out as bisexual in 2011. “Everyone was like, ‘Don’t do it!’” she mock-yelled. “And I was like, I have to, it’s me, and it’s unhealthy if I live in a way that’s not authentic.”

Ms. Wood’s testimony, coupled with the personal revelations and shifts of the #MeToo movement, made a difference, said Ms. Nguyen, who helped draft the original bill. “Storytelling is so important in convincing people about policy change,” she said. “I know that that hearing moved the needle for progress.”

Twenty-four hours later, Ms. Wood was in Los Angeles, about to perform at a touring Bowie tribute. She has a lightning bolt tattoo, from Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” album cover, and songs like “Rock n Roll Suicide” were her beacon. “I used to just put that on when I was at my lowest points and just wait for him to scream, ‘You’re not alone!’ And that would get me through another night,” she said.

When she opened the lyric page for that song, onstage at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, her hand trembled. The words looked like symbols — “like I couldn’t even read,” she said. “Everything went white. And I thought, ‘Oh boy. Breathe, girl, breathe.’” In videos from the show, you can see her hesitate and back off, then regain her momentum. She finished the number with shattering intensity.

“Evan is a powerhouse,” said her friend Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes, Pink’s “Get the Party Started”), the vocalist, songwriter and producer, who recommended her for the Bowie gig. “What I like about her is, she’s not afraid to be vulnerable, and that to me is an extremely powerful position to be in. She stands right there with her feet on the ground and her arms open, saying, This is who I am, this is how I’m going to be, and this is how I’m going to walk through life. Take it or leave it.”

In Ms. Wood’s telling, that position is hard won. The daughter of two actors from Raleigh, N.C., where her father runs a community theater, she began performing early, and moved to Los Angeles with her mother, an acting coach, after her parents split when she was 9. A steady career followed, but looking back, she said: “I didn’t feel like I had proper training for the world. I lived my whole life asking, ‘What do you want me to do and who do you want me to be?’ I was so insecure and didn’t feel worthy of much.” As a teenager, she began a much-ogled relationship with Marilyn Manson, the older goth rocker, to whom she was briefly engaged.

Only later in her 20s, she said, and especially after she became a mother, did she find her voice. The 2016 election also impelled her to act, to set an example for her son.

In between Seasons 1 and 2 of “Westworld,” Ms. Wood filmed an indie drama, “Allure,” out now, in which she plays the gaslighting abuser of a teenage girl. It was not fun to play, she said, but a painful story she felt needed to be told. “If you’re going to be famous, for me it has to mean something, or be used for something, because otherwise it just freaks me out,” she said.

The playlist we’d been listening to all day — her soundtrack for the revolution — is called “Invincible,” she said. In a flannel shirt, dark jeans and cowboy boots embossed with stars, she was unguarded and casual, peppering the conversation with “Dude!” and the click, every now and then, of a fidget cube, to channel her energy. Her house is cozy but feels half-lived in — she’s still in Los Angeles often. “Westworld” shoots in the Utah desert; to lighten the mood on set, she and her co-star James Marsden, as a “host” gunfighter, run their lines as Veronica Corningstone and Ron Burgundy, from “Anchorman.” (She puts on her coaching voice; he’s dense. It works.)

But Dolores’s transformation, in Season 2, left Ms. Wood unnerved.

“I’ve worked for a very long time to not be angry and vengeful,” she said, “so it was hard to take pleasure in that, even though I knew that the character had definitely earned it.”

Ms. Wood’s mission is always to turn her trauma into some other force. Before she went to Congress, she had her aura read at a Nashville shop. It told her some of her energy was blocked, that she needed to get something out. Now, a week afterward, we went back, to see if anything had changed.

She was still glowing lavender — “wonderful storytellers, writers and artists,” the description said. “They have the talent to visualize and describe magical, mystical worlds.” But where before her emotional chart looked like a jagged mountain range, now it was flat, calm. “Speaking your truth!” she said.

Her hope was that — especially post #MeToo — “Westworld” would do for others what Dolores did for her: help them to feel powerful, and be heard.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear,” she said.

Does a New Westworld Teaser Unlock a Key Seaso…

In a coordinated social-media effort on Thursday, the cast of HBO’s twisty Western sci-fi drama, Westworld, started tweeting out clues. The breadcrumbs led to the Discover Westworld Web site, which in turn revealed a stunning new Season 2 poster.

But that wasn’t all the Web site had to offer, as the castmembers continued to tease fans.

Buried deep in the poster was a string of numbers, which wound up being a code that unlocked a new URL. And there, Westworld lovers, is where the fun really starts. You can go here to watch it for yourself.

While the tagline of the poster is “Chaos Takes Control,” the tagline of this new video is even more intriguing. A young, male, British voice claims to be in control. “You’re in my game now,” he declares, invoking the dispassionate children of various video games and the Resident Evil film franchise. This is, of course, the young, robotic version of Anthony Hopkins’s character, Dr. Ford, as played by Oliver Bell,whom we met in Season 1.

This opens the door (if you’ll pardon the expression) to the tantalizing possibility that while Ford himself is dead and Hopkins won’t return, young, robotic versions of him could still haunt the upcoming season of Westworld. As Westworld footage flashes, the young Ford encourages watchers to “find the door.” There is, indeed, a door in this footage that looks like it might lead to what many dearly hope is something called Shogun World.

This might be a big clue and the central mission of Season 2 … or it could just be a hint for even more games to be found at the Discover Westworld site. We’ll update as the hunt continues.

Westworld Team Talks Season 2 and A.I. at SXSW…

westworld-daily:

There were plenty of surprises at the Westworld SXSW 2018 panel, including a peek at Season 2 and a visit from SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (yes, you read that right). Series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy were joined on stage by Evan Rachel Wood (“Dolores Abernathy”), Thandie Newton (“Maeve Millay”), James Marsden (“Teddy Flood”) and Jeffrey Wright (“Bernard Lowe”) for an in-depth conversation with Wired’s Jason Tanz about what’s next for the hosts of Westworld and what’s to come in the artificial realm that’s quickly becoming our new reality. Here are the biggest moments from the talk.

Season 2 will turn the tables.

Fans of SXSW were treated to an exclusive first look at Season 2. As the footage played before a packed ballroom, Evan Rachel Wood pumped her fist while cheers echoed throughout the ballroom. The response was overwhelming. “I think I speak for everyone when I say, ‘Oh shit!’” Tanz declared.

James Marsden hinted at the hosts’ new motor functions, “The identities that have been created for them are being replaced by the identities they choose for themselves”; while co-creator Lisa Joy offered insight on the season’s moral code and themes: “There are no clear answers, no clear ‘shoulds’ in [our characters’] paths… I think Season 2 becomes a shifting lens on where our sympathies lie.”

It was “like Christmas” to get back to work.

On gearing up to film Season 2’s episodes, Evan Rachel Wood said, “It was like waiting for Christmas to come… But it was also daunting,” she continued. “We didn’t really get to know what was in store.” Thandie Newton concurred, “I could not f**king wait. It was like, ‘Can I come home now?’”

Jeffrey Wright praised “mad scientists” Nolan and Joy: “I think I speak for all of us when I say working with them — helping them realize their vision — is as satisfying as it gets in the work we do. It’s completely fulfilling and challenging to help them flesh out, or, synthetically flesh out, these characters,” he joked.

Keep reading

Westworld Team Talks Season 2 and A.I. at SXSW…

There were plenty of surprises at the Westworld SXSW 2018 panel, including a peek at Season 2 and a visit from SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (yes, you read that right). Series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy were joined on stage by Evan Rachel Wood (“Dolores Abernathy”), Thandie Newton (“Maeve Millay”), James Marsden (“Teddy Flood”) and Jeffrey Wright (“Bernard Lowe”) for an in-depth conversation with Wired’s Jason Tanz about what’s next for the hosts of Westworld and what’s to come in the artificial realm that’s quickly becoming our new reality. Here are the biggest moments from the talk.

Season 2 will turn the tables.

Fans of SXSW were treated to an exclusive first look at Season 2. As the footage played before a packed ballroom, Evan Rachel Wood pumped her fist while cheers echoed throughout the ballroom. The response was overwhelming. “I think I speak for everyone when I say, ‘Oh shit!’” Tanz declared.

James Marsden hinted at the hosts’ new motor functions, “The identities that have been created for them are being replaced by the identities they choose for themselves”; while co-creator Lisa Joy offered insight on the season’s moral code and themes: “There are no clear answers, no clear ‘shoulds’ in [our characters’] paths… I think Season 2 becomes a shifting lens on where our sympathies lie.”

It was “like Christmas” to get back to work.

On gearing up to film Season 2’s episodes, Evan Rachel Wood said, “It was like waiting for Christmas to come… But it was also daunting,” she continued. “We didn’t really get to know what was in store.” Thandie Newton concurred, “I could not f**king wait. It was like, ‘Can I come home now?’”

Jeffrey Wright praised “mad scientists” Nolan and Joy: “I think I speak for all of us when I say working with them — helping them realize their vision — is as satisfying as it gets in the work we do. It’s completely fulfilling and challenging to help them flesh out, or, synthetically flesh out, these characters,” he joked.

Strong female parts like Dolores and Maeve “are f**king normal.”

Though Westworld is run by men, moderator Tanz acknowledged the most powerful characters are females. “How does it feel,” he began, “to play such strong female roles in this kind of construct and, not to put too fine a point on it, this day in age?” Newton threw her hands up and shouted, “Normal! It feels f**king normal!” igniting a wave of applause.

Wood wholeheartedly agreed: “Playing this role completely changed my life and transformed me. I just testified in front of Congress and I was wearing a locket with Dolores in it. She’s become this beacon for me of a strength I didn’t know I had and I hope she does that for other people, too.”

There’s a violent reality to the human cost of technology.

Thandie Newton, who volunteers for V-Day, a nonprofit organization that works to end violence against women around the world, spoke about our use of tech and the human toll it’s taking in wartorn countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She spoke of the fight over coltan, a mineral used to manufacture batteries and electronic devices, and the militias that are raping and pillaging local villages to get to it.

“These women have died again and again and again. Their psyches have been destroyed,” Newton said with a hand to her chest. “When I was playing Maeve, I would think about them. Maeve is a robot, she’s entertainment. She gets to die and come back. These women die, and they have to stay alive.”

Jonah Nolan warns of the “A.I. Apocalypse.”

When the topic of artificial intelligence and ethics arose, Tanz relayed an audience question: what advice do the Westworld creators have for those creating these technologies? “I think we’d be lucky if this was the A.I. apocalypse… but I don’t think that’s where we’re headed,” said Nolan. “Sadly, I think we’re headed for this networked moment of artificial stupidity, which involves algorithmic manipulation of social media. And we’re in it.”

The next frontier is here.

Before the panel concluded, a surprise visit from Elon Musk brought the crowd to its feet. Musk and Nolan worked together on a short video that chronicled SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch on February 6, 2018. After playing the video, — set to the tune of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” — Musk spoke to the audience about the power of humanity and his vision of expanding humanity beyond our planet.

“This guy called Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, an early Russian rocket scientist had a great saying,” said Musk. ‘Earth is the cradle of humanity but you cannot stay in the cradle forever.’ It is time to go forth and become a starfaring civilization, be out there among the stars and expand the scope and scale of human consciousness. I find that incredibly exciting. That makes me glad to be alive. I hope you feel the same way.”

Westworld Season 2 premieres April 22 at 9 pm.