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The WESTWORLD Panel Saddled up for Some Creepy Cowboy Comic-Con Fun

HBO’s fightin’ Crichton adaptation brought a whole lot of guests to talk up the “hosts,” with Reggie Watts moderating. In a broad fake Texas accent, he introduced what began as a Westworld highlight reel, but was interspersed with bloopers: Evan Rachel Wood stuck in a door, Ed Harris forgetting a line, Anthony Hopkins dancing a jig, Wood again flipping the camera off, and one of the horses taking a big dump mid-scene.

Shannon Woodward, Ben Barnes, Jimmi Simpson, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, and pretty much everyone else except Anthony Hopkins made it; this may be the most people onstage since the days of Twilight panels.

Westworld Another HBO series (hey: we can't help it that they're good at this) inspired by the 1973 film of the same name, Westworld is sure to twists skulls and mess with minds when it dives into Michael Crichton's futuristic theme park. Featuring an impressive who's-who of everyone amazing in acting today (we're talking Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ben Barnes, Jimmi Simpson, and so many more), the series is sure to shove us down an existential rabbit hole as we ponder the meaning of life—both real and artificial. We don't want to give too much away about the actual premise of the series itself (you can use Google for that), because it's better to go into it knowing as little as possible and letting the story surprise you. (Robot stuff!) Needless to say, this heady bit o' business is sure to take up primo real estate in our brains when it premieres in 2016 (date TBD, but probably not nearly soon enough).

Simpson broke the ice by saying that if he could change one thing about himself at the touch of a button, he would like to like the taste of mushrooms.

Jonathan Nolan made Lisa Joy play Red Dead Redemption with him to get the feel of a video game; when she played Grand Theft Auto for comparison, she actually obeyed the traffic signals. Westworld as a movie was something J.J. Abrams had wanted to do a movie for years, but ultimately thought there could be something longer, noting that very few stories like this tell things from the point of view of the robots. Nolan’s perception of reality has shifted since doing the show and said he now believes we live in a simulation, because how else could he have just done a tequila shot in a parking garage with Ed Harris at Comic-Con? The sets for the who are so vast that Wood compared it to feeling like they are in a simulation.

Westworld Ed Harris and Evan Rachel Wood

The player piano is a metaphor for the whole show, mixing old and new, authentic and simulated, and using newer music in old-timey fashion is part of that. Nolan said that familiar tunes bypass the intellect and hit people emotionally, and it’s all part of his master plan to subtly reprogram the entire population.

While the actors weren’t told their arcs in advance, some, like Wood, figured out spoilers in advance, while others, like Newton, appreciated not knowing, and called it an altruistic choice by not giving them too much to wrap their heads around. Wright claims to have just gone on Reddit; he initially thought he was an everyman character, but starting with episode 2 he was told he was a host (although not necessarily which specific one). Simpson thought it kept them very much in the moment, and now he wants to cut off the endings to all his scripts. He likes the notion that the hosts will never quite understand the way weaknesses of an ego-broken human make you want to cover things up and claw your way out of that.


Harris compared the show to Game of Thrones, saying, “I don’t know everything that’s going on, but I enjoy watching it.” Asked if going back for her daughter was the first conscious thought for Maeve, Newton replied, cryptically, “WAS she going back for her daughter?” Nolan reacted that she’d better be, because that’s how he wrote it. Newton self-describes as a control freak, but feels like for the first time in her professional life she has complete faith in her writers, and is excited to be able to surrender and trust.

Wood remarked that actresses so often have their wings clipped, metaphorically, in one-note roles, but Dolores was so transformative it was like getting condor wings. Going in, knowing that she wouldn’t stay a damsel in distress was what sold her, but as it went along, she’d come home bruised and bloody and loving every moment. James Marsden thinks of Teddy and Dolores as representing the best of humanity, sometimes more human than the humans who visit the park. And he’s tired of dying a lot, because the fake blood stays in your ears for days. He can’t pick out a favorite death scene, describing them all as his “children.”


Ben Barnes got quote of the night with “Gentlemen, until you’ve ridden a horse balls-to-the-wind, as it were, you will not know true terror or true joy.” Tessa Thompson dreaded the nudity in cold storage, worried she’d always end up looking down, without knowing which bodies were real actors and which weren’t. Wood described hearing somebody yell “Cease all motor function!” at her at Target as the moment she knew the show was catching on.

Nolan brushed off a question about samurai in season 2, first asking how much the audience wanted it, then saying “Doesn’t look like anything to me!”

We closed with a quick montage of season 2: no samurai, but Mad Max-style armed dune buggies, Dolores being badass on horseback blowing people away with a shotgun, Jeffrey Wright finding a dead tiger, and finally, Ed Harris looking angry with his face all scratched up.

Images: HBO

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