Westworld: Ed Harris on those big finale twists
The Man in Black weighs in on those finale shakeups
The Man in Black’s full legacy — but not quite his fate — was revealed in Sunday’s Westworld finale. Spoiler alert: “The Bicameral Mind” confirmed a long-running theory that Ed Harris’ grim gunslinger and the more youthful park newbie William (Jimmi Simpson) are the same person, and the show traced their separate adventures some 30 years apart. We spoke to Harris by phone from London, where he’s starring in Sam Shepard’s play Buried Child (and hadn’t yet seen the finale). Harris took our questions about Sunday’s big twists — including that maze reveal, Ford’s death, the brutal fight with Delores, and season 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: All the William scenes were shot separately with Jimmi Simpson, but presumably you were aware of them while they were shooting, right?
ED HARRIS: I wasn’t aware initially. But I became aware as Jimmi started showing up, and I was then informed that he was playing my younger self. So I was aware of the experience he was having in the park. But I didn’t know that this whole host revolution that was going to be taking place.
Did you have any conversations with Simpson that informed either of your performances?
No. We rarely saw each other on set and when [we did], it was very cordial, but we didn’t speak about what was going on. We never really talked about it. There were certain weeks we were shooting three episodes at once, so it wasn’t always really clear what the heck was going on.
What was your reaction to learning his past — and that you were doing half your character’s story and another actor was doing the other half?
As far as I was concerned, I was playing my character. Whatever was going on with him in the past, is the in past. I’m in the present time, that’s my business, and it’s pretty much what I was concerned about, to tell you the truth.
So there’s the scene where Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) realizes who the MiB is and beats the hell out of him. What was that like to film?
It was kinda fun. It was certainly fun for her. It was fun doing the physical stuff. She becomes this super-strong, 180-degree turn from the country girl she had been in the past. Evan Rachel is pretty great in this thing. All the actors playing the hosts blow my mind, with all that’s going on — or not going on — where you try to figure out what’s going on in their brains when you see what’s in their eyes. It’s very impressive to me, acting wise.
What was your reaction to the maze being revealed to be a toy? I suspect it was not that much different than your character’s reaction.
Yeah. Basically: “What is this sh–? What is going on here?” Yeah. I gotta tell you, I’m still not quite clear on what the maze was supposed to have represented. But the fact that it didn’t really mean anything, or didn’t exist … I haven’t penetrated that. But I haven’t seen the finale yet.
Was there else that particularly surprised you along the way?
I love the episode where Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is revealed to be a host. That was an excellent episode — and I wasn’t even in that one at all, but it was really strong.
So you’ve said before you’re on board for Westworld season 2. Clearly being swarmed by hosts isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Man in Black.
I know we’re doing a second season. [Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy say] we’re doing 10 episodes. Probably won’t start shooting until June or July. They sound pretty excited about what it’s about. But I have no idea what it will encompass.
Since you don’t know what happens, you’re free to speculate, though. What do you think is next for him?
I don’t know, but it sure seems like there’s going to be an awful lot of violence. I think all hell’s going to break loose. I don’t know if I join forces with the hosts, or what. But I’m happy for Jonah and Lisa. This has been something they’ve been working on for a long time. They have very specific plans for season 2. I think they’re gonna spend more time in Utah next season — they were there for two weeks last season, next season will be a month. They’ve done a great job. And it’s nice to be in a hit.
More Westworld finale coverage:More Westworld finale coverage:
— Our deep-dive recap breaks down everything in “The Bicameral Mind.”
Later: Our finale edition of our Westworld: Analysis Mode podcast