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'Westworld': Jeffrey Wright on that episode 7 shock

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HBO

[Warning: This interview discusses a major spoiler from the seventh episode of Westworld].

Westworld has delivered its biggest twist of the season (so far): Kindly chief programmer Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) is not human after all, but a host. It’s a revelation that fans have suspected in recent weeks, but the news was coupled with a fateful event that nobody saw coming — Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) commanding host-Bernard to murder his human ex-lover, Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen). Below, we spoke to Wright about his role in “Trompe L’Oeil.” 

Entertainment Weekly: So when did you find out you were a robot?

Jeffrey Wright: I didn’t know when we shot the pilot. But when we went back into production and started the second episode I was pulled into a conversation by [showrunner] Lisa Joy where she dropped the bomb on me. Yeah.

Ah, so they signed you up for a full season, got you all committed, and then told you you’re playing a ‘bot. 

Yeah, but prior to that she’d been hinting at the complexities of Bernard and was cryptic about what that meant. But it became necessary so that I could be aware of some of the nuances in the direction, in the story — not so much so that it informed my performance, but that it shined light on moments in which its relevant, and when clues are left, for the audience. 

It’s been something that fans have been speculating about along the way. I like that it felt like a fair twist. This wasn’t something that came out of the blue where you’re hugely shocked but feel like it didn’t make sense. 

I totally agree. It’s woven into the logic behind the relationship of the characters and it’s not done for any shock value. There are very specific reasons why he is synthetic. If fans weren’t at all aware, or didn’t have any suspicions, that would have been a disservice to them and undermine the quality of storytelling. But I will think they will be surprised and pleased by how it’s revealed. 

Yes, I want to get into that in a moment. But what was your reaction as an actor learning this about Bernard?

I glitched for a few moments, then I said to Lisa, “Cool.” It just provided meaty additional layers onto Bernard. She also described Bernard very early on as understated. He’s very quiet, he’s earnest, he’s flying under the radar, he’s an everyman. The foil of him being a host is starker because we initially perceive him to be unvarnished and straightforward. To that extent it informed the tonality of my performance — he’s steady Bernard, he’s somebody not to be second guessed. 

One thing against the Bernard-as-host theory has been that scene where he talks with his wife. But I’ve been assuming if Ford can create humanistic hosts he can surely make a Skype chatbot wife for Bernard to talk to. 

Correct. 

Let’s get into that amazing reveal scene then with Bernard, Ford and Theresa. He’s not only a host but also has to kill his lover. 

That was a heavy read when we got that script. There were a lot of text messages flying around between a lot of cast members. I did not know Theresa was going to be meet her end. We all have certain secrets and I did not know [what Bernard was going to do] and Sidse held onto the fact that’s she’s only on [the show] for seven episodes very close to her vest. But it’s obviously a fulcrum scene in the first season so we were pretty focused but at the same time it all made logical sense. The aim was, from my perspective, to see all the synthetic blood rush from Bernard’s being and see him as a machine and tool.

I wanted Bernard to really seem impacted by what was going on but Ford shuts him down pretty quick. My hope is that perhaps that’s still to come.  

Let’s see where we go. What clearly is also revealed is the extent of Ford’s power — his creativity and his malevolence. What we’ll further explore is his intent. 

What was the logic in the scene of Bernard taking off his coat and tie, it seemed unlikely he’d be programmed to remove clothing before murder. 

It was about meticulousness and efficiency and being physically unencumbered in his calculation on how he would do this deed. Although he’s emotionally detached, we wanted to express a calculous in the way he operates. 

Did you have any theories about the show along the way while making the series that turned out to be wrong?

Oh yeah. Lisa and [showrunner Jonathan Nolan] are light years ahead of all of us. Much like the fans, we had theories about where the show was heading and how certain things would be resolved and none of us batted 1.000 on that — and should say that there are no fans out there who are batting 1.000 either.

Interesting, so you’ve been keeping half an eye on the fan theories?

Yeah, sure, it’s great storytelling. 

There are a lot of smart ideas out there. I know Jonah and Lisa are super meticulous about their plotting and want everything to be fair and you get a sense of that thought-out confidence while watching the show. 

They’re obviously ingenious, but also considerate and responsible. Their storytelling is loaded with intent. Not that they’re beholden to fans as they write, but they’re certainly honoring the audience and their expectations; they’re respectful of that. I think fans will be gratified. 

And on that note, is there anything you want to say, to tease-without-spoiling, the final episodes this season?

No. Episode 7 is all you get for now. This is enough to chew on for at least a week!

More Westworld coverage: Here’s the producers Q&A about this week’s hour, plus our deep-dive recap giving our thoughts

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