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“Just fucking stonewall them. Nothing!”
These were the words of encouragement that “Westworld” executive producer Jonathan Nolan issued to co-showrunner Lisa Joy on stage Saturday night at the show’s PaleyFest panel, as the duo fought off a wide array of questions about Season 2. While he maintained the Nolan family mandate of secrecy at all costs, Joy was tempted time and time again to reveal show secrets — but to no avail.
“We’re writing right now, and we’re terribly excited about what we’re writing,” Nolan said, noting they would have all the episodes written before shooting begins. “Reddit has already figured it out. So, the third episode twist, we’re changing that.”
During the panel (which also featured executive producer Roberto Patino, and cast members Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, and Jimmi Simpson), the creators and cast were peppered with questions about suspicions connected to Season 1 — Dr. Ford’s death, the potential samurai world, and who exactly has been speaking to Dolores in her head — as well as vague queries related to Season 2, but very little came out.
When asked if they were set to begin production this summer, Nolan turned to Joy in silence. “You can say that, can’t you?” moderator Jeff Jensen added, nudging either of them for a response. Nolan remained silent, and a bursting Joy said, “We can– Can’t we say that?!”
Nolan didn’t budge, though, and the panel moved on.
“I was thinking about [the scripts] tonight, and we’re not going to give them to [the cast],” Nolan said. “They’re still not going to get shit. They clearly enjoy it so much.”
Indeed, the cast did marvel over the lack of information provided to them during production of Season 1. Much of the discussion was spent asking them not only about the secrets fans still don’t know, but when they found out about the first season’s many twists. The common answer: “I didn’t know.”
Ed Harris didn’t know Jimmi Simpson was playing a younger version of The Man in Black (until a random crewman told him). Jimmi Simpson didn’t know the backstory behind who he was playing until someone asked him about plucking his eyebrows — which, it turns out, is too odd a request not to elicit a follow-up from Simpson. Evan Rachel Wood didn’t know Bernard was a robot. In fact, Wood — who was notorious for spouting fan theories throughout production — once believed she was the fictional Wyatt (which turned out to be half-true).
But answers came when the questions turned to Maeve, Thandie Newton’s fan-favorite character who ended Season 1 by successfully escaping the park…right before deciding to stick around and look for her daughter instead.
When asked if that was really Maeve’s choice or if it was part of a narrative planted in her programming by Dr. Ford, Nolan actually gave a definitive answer.
“That is really the first decision she’s ever made,” Nolan said. “You’re seeing the birth of free will there.”
Perhaps Nolan was moved to divulge a bit more about Maeve because of how passionately Newton spoke about her character on the panel.
“When I spoke to Lisa and Jonah about the show, they said, ‘So, you’re going to play a madam in a brothel and you’re going to do a lot of it naked. Is that all right with you?'” Newton remembered. “And I said, ‘Do you know I fight violence against women? That’s what I do in my spare time.'”
But the creators explained why the violence and nudity needed to be in the show, and Newton decided to trust them. She talked about how when she typically goes to work, she has to “put my activism behind. When I go to work, I have to just be the actor, and do what I have to do.”
But on “Westworld,” Newton said, “I was an activist every single day I went to work. I was part of the solution every single day.”
“We all knew that was the point,” she said. “The point is this is where we are, and is there a way out from here? I was filled with excitement of where this show could go; not just where it could take us as actors, but the audience, and the people, and — I know this is a little hyperbolic — the world. And here we are, right now, at a crossroads, and I think that ‘Westworld’ is going to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
We have quite a wait until the solution continues: “Westworld” isn’t expected to return on HBO until 2018.
PaleyFest L.A. 2017 runs through March 26. Check out IndieWire’s coverage so far and keep coming back for more.