Remote Controlled: ‘Westworld’ Creators and Star Evan Rachel Wood Tease ‘Ambitious’ Season 2

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with “Westworld” co-creators and executive producers Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy about what they learned from the first season, the one question fans should be asking, and what’s ahead for Season 2. Plus, star Evan Rachel Wood (who plays Dolores) reveals what mysteries she figured out — and what she still wants answers to.

“When you’re working on a show like this where there are layers and there are details and you try to make every piece count, you’re hoping that people will engage on that level,” says Nolan. “In our wildest dreams, we didn’t expect the level of fan engagement and dialogue, which is why you do it.” He singles out with a laugh “that moment when they figured out the plot twist for episode 10 42 minutes into episode two.”

Evan Rachel Wood photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Explains Joy, “It wasn’t like there were surprises that we’re trying to keep from the audience consciously; we were trying to lead a path of breadcrumbs. We anticipated that a small group of the audience might discover it, that that will be part of the game that we were playing with these die-hard fans. What we didn’t anticipate was that they would go to social media and talk about it and they would get circulated so that it hit a wider base of people who have an online presence and pick that up. There were also people who were still in for the surprise like my parents — I managed to surprise them.”

Heading into the second season, they’ve learned from the experience, but say it’s ultimately up to the fans how much they want to engage with online chatter. “For us, even though we’re creating it as we go along, we feel like we owe it to the fans to be bold and also to play this game with them where we’re like, ‘Do you want to figure it out? Do you want to play with us here?’,” says Joy. “Hopefully now, because of the first season, the people who want to have this purist interpretation of the series, they’ll just develop their own theories in a vacuum — and maybe don’t log on to Reddit.”

But they’re careful to not give too much away about Season 2, which starts shooting in July. “It’s an ambitious season,” says Nolan. “We always knew that we wanted the stakes and the scope to increase dramatically and that means the scale of production increases as well. We have an amazingly talented group of writers, directors, and crew coming back and gearing up for what I think and what I hope will prove to be a season twice as ambitious as the first one.”

The one question fans should be asking? “What’s really happening in this place,” says Nolan. “We’ve hinted at that a little bit in the first season and we’re going to go a little deeper with that in the second season.”

They did confirm that Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is dead: “I think the sacrifice he makes at the end of the first season is very real,” says Nolan, but he adds, “I think there will be an opportunity to explore a little bit more of the backstory of how this park came to be, a little more of that story. We’ll see the character’s presence will be felt in that sense in terms of filling in a few more of the gaps about the early history of this place.”

Evan Rachel Wood photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

In the second half of the podcast, series star Evan Rachel Wood weighs in with her take on the hit series. She says the actors were kept in the dark as much as the fans were. “We were kind of the pioneers in the theories on the set,” she says. “It was thrilling to know that it was resonating with people in the same way.”

She did figure out some of the twists along the way — that William was the Man in Black, for example — but the finale she didn’t see coming. “I was still pretty floored and shocked when I got episode 10. When I read the final page, I just threw the script down and kind of walked away, couldn’t handle it,” she says.

“Killing Ford, I did not see coming, not in the way that they did it. I didn’t know it was going to be me, I didn’t know that’s how this show was going to end, I was just in absolute shock and I couldn’t believe that it was me. I couldn’t believe that I had to actually hold a real gun to Anthony Hopkins’ head and pull the trigger. That was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life.”

You can listen to today’s episode here:

New episodes of Remote Controlled are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes of Remote Controlled here.

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