The women of “Westworld” don’t want audiences to call the show a testosterone-driven Western.
At a panel for the HBO series at SXSW on Saturday, series stars Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood were asked what it was like to play two powerful female characters in a traditionally male-dominated genre.
“Normal! It felt normal,” Newton yelled into the microphone, to a rousing burst of applause from the crowd. “Sigourney Weaver in ‘Alien,’ that was ages ago. I named my kid Ripley because that’s a woman I recognize.”
Wood added that she didn’t “feel confined” or try to make herself “smaller” in the role of Dolores, who started the first season as an android host of the show’s titular theme park and only later gained awareness and a sense of control over her own life.
“Last season was a trip because life was imitating art in kind of a big way. That’s why I love working with Jon and Lisa,” Wood said of showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. “Everyone’s heart is in the right place. We’re doing this for a reason, and it became glaringly obvious why last year.”
Wood, who wore a locket with a picture of her character, Delores, when testifying to Congress last month, also spoke frankly about how much she identified with her character.
“I’ve always said playing this role completely changed my life and transformed me, and it’s hard not to go through this same evolutionary shifts as the characters because you’re on the journey with them. And you don’t get to know what happens to them, and you don’t get to mentally prepare, and the existential crisis there is very real,” she said.
Newton drew on her 30 years of experience as an actor to note that she has often found it interesting, when working with men, that it can be hard for them in “an environment where a woman is taking any kind of control in any kind of position of authority.”
“I just want to play truth, and very often the truth of the characters I play as a woman is that she’s powerful, she’s intelligent, [and] she’s able to multitask. So I want to give it up massively to the f–ing men on our show to have the generosity of spirit, to have the sophistication, the progressiveness to put a platform up for women,” Newton said.
“Westworld” season 2 premieres April 22 on HBO.