‘Westworld’ Creators on Why HBO Drama Won’t Return Before 2018

'Westworld' Creators on Why HBO Drama
HBO

Westworld” ended its first season Sunday night. By the next morning, it was already reaping accolades. The big-budget sci-fi series from executive producers and creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy was one of five television dramas nominated for a 2017 Writers Guild Award Monday.

Nolan and Joy spoke to Variety about the finale, their plans for Season 2, and why the show won’t be back until 2018.

Spoiler alert: This article includes spoilers from the season finale of “Westworld.”

How dead is Ford?
Jonathan Nolan: Oh, he’s dead.

Is he “Anthony Hopkins is available for pilot season” dead?
Nolan: Working with Anthony Hopkins on this season of TV has been one of the greatest pleasures and privileges for Lisa and I in our careers. It’s been an incredible experience, and we’ll see where our story takes us.

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Did he know before signing on that Ford would die at the end of the season?
Nolan: Lisa and I doled out the information about the characters to the actors in moments, trying to keep the story as fresh and present for them as possible. Obviously sometimes you need to go a little bit further so that the actor is properly equipped. Here because so much of the season is about Ford’s intentionality and his plan for his new narrative, because this is a tragic figure here, it made sense for Lisa and I to engage with him from the beginning to engage with him in this conversation about how this is a scene of television that is in a sense a prologue to the larger story that we’re telling. In this narrative Ford is God. This is the death of God as the jumping off point for our story but also a full meal to itself. We were very straightforward with Tony from the beginning.

We’ve perceived Ford to be one type of person, and at the end he reveals himself to be a different type of person in terms of how he feels about his creations and how he feels about his own life’s work.
Lisa Joy: Only a titan like Anthony Hopkins could have done all the nuance that he embedded in this series. His character in my mind is always a little bit of Prospero in “The Tempest.” You think his plan involves one thing. You kind of underestimate him. Then you see this glimmer of malice and menace that you didn’t anticipate, so he goes to being the villain. Then by the end you realize that this is in some way about atonement for him and that he’s chosen this very difficult road because he believes it’s the only road in which he can atone for the mistakes of the past.

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We got confirmation in the finale that the show takes place on multiple timelines, which had been hinted at strongly in previous episodes. How did you settle on that structure?
Joy: I think the key is to let it grow organically from the concept and the characters. Even though it is a very complicated, twisty set of reveals, this is the one show in which it is totally organic to what they’re experiencing. You have a group of hosts who are basically immortal, and the fundamental thing that is holding them back is memory. Unlike humans, who have these imperfect memories — we can’t really conjure events in all the detail they occur — the hosts have a different problem. They’re able to bring back the exact replica of that memory so lifelike and engrossing in detail that it’s impossible to distinguish today from tomorrow or yesterday.

Nolan: This is not the first time I’ve written about amnesiac characters. I remember talking to my brother [Christopher Nolan] about “Memento” and how I was intending to structure that as a short story. I wanted to write it as a deck of cards and then shuffle that to make it completely, aggressively non-linear, because that was that character’s understanding of the world. Here we had the unique opportunity to try to illuminate some of the differences between how an artificial person might understand the world, and especially an artificial person who had been artificially held back in terms of their understanding of the world in order for us to facilitate us being able to do whatever the f–k we want to them.

At this point there aren’t many humans to kick around anymore. Most of them are either dead or missing or revealed to be hosts. Going into Season 2, will you be focusing even more on the hosts, with the humans relegated to either helper or adversary roles?
Nolan: Not necessarily. One of the great things about this omnibus, ensemble storytelling that HBO has mastered is the ability to shift that perspective and find empathy for different people, and that’s something that we want to continue to play with throughout.

Where are you at in terms of work on the second season?
Joy: We’ve started working on scripts and outlines. It’s looking good. It’s looking very ambitious. There’s some surprises and bits of it that you won’t see coming. I’m having fun.

Nolan: It’s an ambitious project, and HBO has encouraged us to take the time and resources that we need to work on each stage of that. I love television. One of the fun things about television is that sometimes you find yourself in this place where you have to wear all these hats at once. You have to write, shoot, and cut simultaneously. We wanted to in the second season spend some more time writing, then switch gears into production, then cut. So we’re not going to follow the annual year-on-year tradition of television. Television’s changing. And the ambition of the project is such that we’re going to take our time to get the second season right.

So a longer gap than viewers might be expecting between seasons.
Nolan: We won’t be on the air until 2018. We started that conversation with the network when were shooting Episode 2 and we realized the complexity of trying to write and produce the show at the same time. We both work in the movie business as well, and in the movie business the best that you can possibly hope for with a film franchise is to turn around another installment in two or three years. So really on that schedule, we’re doing great.

Joy: We’re racing ahead.

Finally, “SW” stands for Samurai World, right?
Nolan: Stay tuned.

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  1. Glen Malo says:

    Damnit! I was really looking forward to the new season this year! I’m very disappointed!!!!

  2. Eduardo A Salgado says:

    Let’s get Walter out of the freezer, renewed and recurring! He was the meanest host and set the tone from the first episode of Season 1. He can do it again in Season 2.

  3. kirk hall says:

    Good show and really enjoyed it. But if you think I am waiting two years in anticipation for season two? Nope.
    I well wager that the numbers well be down. Not smart to loose Hopkins and than wait two years. The show has now lost my interest.

  4. Muad'Dib Atreides says:

    While I applaud the writers and actors for an excellent first season I also agree that a 2018 Season 2 will kill this show. I have confidence that Season 2 will be dynamic and engaging, though I feel HBO, Nolan, and Joy severely underestimate the attention span of their audience. Look at the drivel that continues year after year in reality television and other mindless programming from the major networks. I truly believe that Nielsen boxes are only given to the lowest common denominator, and the networks cannot see past the ratings extrapolated from the idiocy of America. I also realize HBO metrics for success are different, however, there is a modicum of truth to the idea that stupid people enjoy stupid programming. How else can one explain the continuing popularity of worthless sacks of crap like the Kardashians, Bruce Jenner (yes, he’s still a man), and Real Housewives? Westworld is too complex for the general public, and while I see that as a good thing, a massive break between seasons will lead to a disconnect that will be difficult to overcome. If HBO has any sense, they will offer the first season on HBO On Demand for free to HBO subscribers starting about 2 months before the release of Season 2. They may get enough of the buzz back to keep viewership high, but I definitely would not count on it. The directors believe the extra time is warranted to produce a quality show, and I respect that, but given the complexities of the story lines they are most likely just shooting themselves in the foot. This is disappointing really, as the show has the makings of becoming a truly great staple of engaging television were it not for the short sighted viewpoint of the directors.

    • Ron Williams says:

      I agree 100%. Network TV lost me on a few shows by showing 6-8 episodes then taking a hiatus for 8 weeks before returning. By then I had settled into a different show and didn’t return. Case in point “Hero’s”. They restarted it on the same date and time as the “24” Premier. I never watched Hero’s again. Sometimes these network executives are too “smart” for their own good.

      • Lucas Balaminut says:

        not stupid*

      • Lucas Balaminut says:

        If you believe ” stupid people enjoy stupid programming”, and you also believe Westworld is too stupid, then logic follows that stupid people will not self-select into enjoying Westworld, which makes the show free from the type of pressure you imply. Your comment tells me more about you than about the ways audiences enjoy television series.

  5. DS says:

    “We both work in the movie business as well, and in the movie business the best that you can possibly hope for with a film franchise is to turn around another installment in two or three years. So really on that schedule, we’re doing great.”

    Right…only Westworld isn’t a MOVIE…it’s a TELEVISION show. Seems like a lot of excuses made for people who aren’t willing to get shit done on a reasonable schedule. Almost every other complex, high budget HBO series is able to put out the new season within a year. Seems strange.

  6. Vincent C. Xenakis says:

    I liked the pilot series. With that said, I hope people are willing to stay locked in with a blank year between the 2nd season. I for one could loose interest. The actors were good with the exception of Hopkins who was great and now hes gone? As movie producers as you say you are, You know as well as I,the movie goer, the sequel usually sucks and now your waiting 2 years to air????

  7. Moore Wworld says:

    Happy people don’t go to Westworld. Only people who are angry, damaged, and so cannot be authentic, in the real world, go. When they get there, visitors learn that standing up for themselves means inflicting violence on characters who can’t – or won’t, defend themselves from abusive people. Which means the characters in Westworld behave like the visitors behave in the real world. There are no realms within the park in which positive aspects of humanity are rewarded. Love is miscast as a self-centered tool to inflict suffering while compassion only identifies the gullable. Westworld justifys and promotes abusive behaviors as a means to success in the park – and so enables abusive people in both worlds.

    I can see why powerful people in the entertainment industry love the program as much as I do and we will always want to see more whenever it returns.

  8. Max Baxter says:

    So if William, the man in black, is a majority share holder and has access to all areas of the park and the computer system why does he mess around playing a game to get the answer to his question? If he wanted Deloris he could’ve bought her from the corporation and taken her home.
    You can bet if Sir Anthony Hopkins decided he wanted to come back they would find a way to bring Ford back, maybe the Ford she shot was a host.

    • captainviggo says:

      “why does he mess around playing a game to get the answer to his question?”

      You’ve just answered your own question. He wants to play, he wants to get the answers the hard way and by the rules of the game, at least from his point of view as he doesn’t know that the maze is not a riddle for the guests.

  9. Bill B. says:

    This show has many fascinating aspects and some great performances (hello, Thandie Newton!), but it is somewhat of a mess that will be hard to be jump into again if it’s going to be off for a year or more as I have heard mentioned. People move on in this media drenched world.

  10. Melissa Wood says:

    I like how we get a glimpse of who the characters really are based on who they PRETEND to be in their wildest fantasies. That’s a smart angle to tell a story. I love writers who think outside the box. I’m going to go through Westworld withdrawal until 2018. Can barely stand it!! UGH! I have found this book called Avalon, which is Rusty Coats’s new book. It’s got a similar vibe to Westworld, only all virtual and similarly addictive. There’s an underground, seedy – not entirely socially sanctioned – aspect to it that adds an interesting edge.

  11. Shane Bryan says:

    How dead is Ford?
    Jonathan Nolan: Oh, he’s dead.

    UNLESS HE WAS ALWAYS DEAD!

    ;-)

  12. David St Hubbins says:

    Anyone who was surprised by the “reveals” in this finale probably also voted for Trump. It didn’t take great intelligence to see all of this coming.

    As for where it’s (eventually, maybe) going, it seems a new park/narrative in ancient Japan. Maybe they can get Ed Harris to play the Missionary in Black. Different hat, no LeMat.

  13. Dustin says:

    Aww poor babies have to wait til 2018 for season 2. I’m getting really tired of the “I want it now crowd” who thinks they are owed something by TV shows. If you can’t wait for great TV there are plenty of shows that pump out episode after episode with no real substances.

  14. Joel says:

    Westworld (Season 1) was brilliant. If they need another year to make Season 2 as good as Season 1 then so be it.

  15. Rick says:

    Stupid to wait until 2018. The Nolan’s in general are just idiots when it comes to scheduling.

  16. 071670 says:

    Anthony Hopkins IS a God…I tuned in because of him. All the actors were amazing, though. But 2018??? And btw…you couldn’t get Hopkins on TV for 2 years if you tried!! But maybe he will show up now and then…I hope.

  17. sparkie says:

    2018 for the return. Good luck with that. does anybody care about game of tits any more. time moves on so do new shows. you think that this show is so good people will wait?

    • Renan Almeida says:

      game of thrones is only one of the most watched shows on hbo, with its ratings growing every season, so yeah.

      • sparkie says:

        this the last season of the game. so who cares if is the most watched show on hbo.is that the only channel you watch. there is more out there than hbo. and how can it be the most watched when it is not there until next year, it’s final short season again.

  18. Doug says:

    Sorry, not waiting that long. I’ll watch the finale and kiss HBO and the show goodbye.

  19. these folks are killing the show’s momentum with a 1+ year wait for season 2. HBO can’t afford WW and GoT at the same time.

  20. former reader says:

    Are you f* morons? where is the warning about spoiler?!
    what the hell does it have to do with the headline? amateurs.

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