Season 4 of Westworld is bringing fans back into the dystopic society with tech corporation Delos looming over the future of humanity. There are big changes afoot this season, starting with Evan Rachel Wood’s character Christina…who isn’t Delores?
Between Christina and her confusion regarding her life, the Man in Black’s peril at the hands of Charlotte, Clementine’s latest iteration and Caleb, Maeve, Bernard and Stubbs’ concurring journeys to save humanity, there’s a lot to suss through once the series premieres June 26. Shadow and Act talked with the cast members Evan Rachel Wood, Tessa Thompson, Aaron Paul, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Hemsworth and Angela Sarafyan, as well as and executive producers Lisa Joy and Alison Schapker, about the season’s big themes.
Caleb, one of the humans characters from the third season, has survived after the events of that season and it’s now seven years later for him and everyone else in the series.
Aaron Paul, who plays Caleb, said that his character has changed a lot since we last saw him.
“He is now back at his old job, he’s struggling from the aftermath of what he’s just experienced over the past seven years,” he said. “He can’t shake it, he has this suspicion that the war is not over…and now he has ones he needs to take care of and protect. The stakes are just so much higher for him. He’s struggling, he’s suffering. He’s got a lot going on inside, but he’s [trying] to march forward and keep his head up.”
Evan Rachel Wood described her new character Christina as a "human," a complete 180 degrees from Wood's former character Dolores.
“She’s a writer in a big city writing for a video game company, sort of non-player characters. She’s just your average person,” she said of her character. “It was interesting for me to approach the show as a human. I’ve been living by host rules for so long so to get a little big more awkward and imperfect and vulnerable has been really fun and I’m sure there’ll be more and more layers of Christina as we go along, but I really did approach it like an entirely new character.”
Bernard, one of the former hosts of the old Westworld, is going on a hero's journey as he recognizes what it will take to save humanity from itself and from the impending robot takeover.
“It’s ever-evolving and expanding,” Jeffrey Wright said about Bernard’s journey. “I like that term, ‘he’s seen some things.’ He has, since we last saw him and over the course of the four seasons and Bernard, I think, emerging into a type of freedom that I know I have personally hoped for him and I think audiences too. He was kind of burdened by a misunderstanding of himself for a while and I was burned by the systems and of Ford…and the man…and now it seems like he’s starting to come into his own and that’s an exciting progression for him.”
Luke Hemsworth, who plays fellow host Ashley Stubbs, talked about how Stubbs has progressed from being a protector host to becoming Bernard's friend in the midst of worldwide chaos.
“I think as we’ve gone on, especially since Stubbs has spent so much time alone over the years, waiting for Bernard, I think he’s realized that perhaps there’s more to this. We get to see more of Stubbs’ branching out and delving into his own consciousness, making his own decisions,” he said. “What you see on screen between Bernard and Stubbs is a lot of Jeffrey and I. We’re very good friends and we bring a lot of this banter that we have in real life to the core of Stubbs and Bernard and to the core of that relationship. All it does is enrich these moments that they’re together and it makes it feel human.”
The Man in Black, however, one of the human characters in the series, has gone through a metamorphosis of sorts. Now, said Ed Harris, who plays the character, the Man in Black is on the side of Charlotte.
“He’s working with [Charlotte] in terms of what he’s up to,” he said. “He’s on the side of her movement to free the hosts and give them the opportunity to live beautiful lives and doing what he needs to do to make that happen. There’s some other things going on.”
Tessa Thompson, who plays Charlotte, said that she finds it "fascinating" to play someone who is left-of-center.
“She has a sort of tunnel vision in terms of what she wants. I feel she’s hit this point where she feels that humans are pretty parasitic…I think there’s something really interesting,” she said. “…I suppose she’s always been a presence in the show that’s always been more hero than villain for sure. It’s interesting to think around a character who from your perceptive doesn’t have a moral center, but in her case, she has a real center that has to do with, in her mind, righteous ideas. She’s not devoid of a moral center, it’s just askew by the audience’s estimation. I think she’s in the pursuit of something that she thinks is good and true. And that, I think, is fascinating.”
Angela Sarafyan, who plays Clementine, is also part of Charlotte and The Man in Black's scheme. But Sarafyan said that her character plays a more observant role in The Man in Black and Charlotte's chaos.
As she said, The Man in Black goes from killing her to thinking, “‘Maybe I won’t just kill you, maybe you’ll be my friend.'”
“So then we become friends and…then we have fun together all season,” she continued. “It’s fun because, I don’t think I do anything bad this season necessarily, but I’m just observing and I’m having fun because there’s this freedom that comes with this reality that has been created by Tessa’s character…We get to go to plays, have dinners, stuff like that. It’s fun.
Joy said that much of the season, like the ones that have come before, are all about exploring how humanity acts in the face of free will--or at least, in the face of the idea of free will.
“We are trying to explore the free will of not only individuals but humanity as a collective organism. The idea of do we always recapitulate into violence and strife and tribalism, or can we transcend that?” said Joy. “…In a world where there always seemed to be danger and adversity, what gives life meaning?…What makes that life worthwhile?
Schapker also talked about what role Westworld could play in audiences having discussions about humanity's role in the future, particularly where artificial intelligence and technology is concerned, but also how humanity could affect itself for better or worse.
“To get to go to work with really smart people who really care about the present and the future and are interested in the role technology or plays now and the stakes of where we’re going and where we’ve been…as somebody who’s a genre writer, I’m interested in all those questions,” she said. “I care about artificial intelligence, I’m interested in how humanity is going to cope with various crises that are out there.”
She said that the pandemic, which is mentioned in the series, also made the questions Westworld pose “timely.” Such questions include, as she said, “discussions about what does it mean to be human and where’s our hubris around it and can humans actually evolve enough, in time, to handle things that are happening.”
“And on the flip side will hosts have a chance to evolve past their creators and what they’re a reflection of, can humans and hosts coexist?” she continued. “I think those are really metaphorical questions but already, I feel like we should be having these discussions as a culture. Whatever small part Westworld is playing in telling a story that makes people go and ask those questions themselves and still have an enjoyable adventure…it really is kind of a dream job.”
Watch the full interviews below.
Westworld premieres on HBO on June 26 at 9 p.m.