Thandie Newton likens ‘Westworld’ character to coronavirus
LOS ANGELES—“I know, sorry, I shouldn’t even say it,” said Thandie Newton, who plays Maeve Millay in the popular sci-fi drama “Westworld,” and then compares a character to the coronavirus.
Returning amid the coronavirus pandemic, HBO’s “Westworld” takes place this time in neo-Los Angeles in 2058. But we encounter Thandie’s Maeve in fascist Italy in World War II.
Thandie, wearing an orange dress, quipped, “You know Gucci, that little brand?”
After nearly two years, “Westworld,” created by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, once again messes with viewers’ minds. Aside from Maeve, among the robot hosts who are back are Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright).
Actors who play new characters include Lena Waithe, Aaron Paul, Vincent Cassel and Marshawn Lynch.
Read the following excerpts from our chat with Thandie to find out which character she likens to the dreaded virus plaguing the world, and more:
In Season 3, the hosts and guests are changing. Sometimes, they’re connecting. Does it mean that the hosts are in their revenge phase, taking the power?
Well, it’s funny. It’s one host, Dolores, to begin with. She has five pearls, yeah. We don’t know which of the hosts she’s brought with her, but it is she as an individual. I don’t think Dolores represents all artificial intelligence. That’s just not the case because Maeve has always questioned Dolores’ motives and her modus operandi.
It’s an interesting question, but I think it’s the fact that it’s Dolores and Maeve. Of course, we’re going to discover who else is populating the real world, but it is Dolores’ singular journey. It’s like, well, the coronavirus. I know, sorry, I shouldn’t even say it, but Dolores is a virus.
Dolores is a fly in the ointment and there’s Bernard, as well. So even the hosts have varying opinions about humanity. Much like in the second season, Dolores was waging war against all humanity, but not all the hosts wanted to follow her. So, it leaves that question open, which is important, if it was just all robots hating all humans. That sounds like just idiotic racism, and it’s far more complex than that.
Can you talk about your character, Maeve, in Season 3?
As you know, in the end of Season 2, Maeve manages to release her little girl into the Valley Beyond. It’s a virtual reality where their code is free, and they’re safe. Then, she’s destroyed by the war that has been going on in Westworld between Dolores, the robots and the human beings who have come in because these robots are running wild.
At the end of Season 2, it’s a choice for Maeve to be destroyed. She sacrifices her existence such as it is because she has done what she set out to do, which is to liberate her child. So, at the beginning of Season 3, and I love this, she doesn’t give a shit about anything. She has no purpose. She’s not looking for a purpose. She doesn’t want to be reanimated as a robot.
She’s absolutely not interested in humanity and what humanity intends to do with Westworld. So that’s where we find her.
She wakes up in this crazy new park. It’s funny. I’ve just recently realized that Maeve is an escape artist. That as soon as she realizes she’s in a situation that isn’t of her own choosing, she will use her intelligence to break out. She’s a codebreaker. What is she going to do? How is she going to get out? That’s where we begin.
The show is no longer in the Wild West theme park. Can you talk about the time setting in Season 3?
It’s definitely a surprise. I watched the first episode last night. I’d never seen it before. It so successfully achieves a version of a future that is quite possible, where you have robots and humans working alongside each other. And with Aaron Paul’s character (Caleb) and George the robot.
And, of course, Dolores is now in the human world, completely reversing what we’ve been used to, which is that humans are in the robot world now. And Maeve is still in a park, and it’s a mystery as to what she’s doing there.
We know Westworld has been destroyed. So, clearly there are other parks. What it’s doing is it’s giving you the scope that Westworld isn’t just about the Western town. Anyway, some of the creators of “Game of Thrones” came and did a little cameo. So that’s suggesting there are many worlds.
I couldn’t say any more than that because that would give too much away. So how many places has Maeve been? She has no idea. It’s a conundrum. But what I love about Maeve is that she does not pity herself.
I relished her attitude of not giving a f**k. She needs convincing. And Vincent Cassel (Serac) is probably the best person who can do that convincing. He’s been one of my acting heroes for decades. He joined the show because he loves it. It was a dream come true. We have Maeve and Serac. Neither one dominates the other. It’s a negotiation at every point. They’re set on an equal playing field in many ways.
In terms of their intelligence and power, they’re equally matched, which is fascinating because he’s a human and she’s a robot.
If you had the ability to create Westworld, what would it look like?
All children. Just children. Perfect little beings. If I could spend all my time nurturing and caring for children, that would be a very happy place for me. What other kind of world? That would be no factory farms. There would be smaller communities. We’d live outside a lot.
People would know one another. Be accountable. There’d be transparency. Maybe there’d be no money? Yeah, no money—how about that? So, it’s just about reciprocating skills. It sounds achievable.
This season touches ideas on redistributive justice, and on consequences for the powerful. Did you talk about any of the show’s new aspects with the creators, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan?
I always knew it was coming. I guessed that we would find ourselves in the human world at some point and a picture of the future as we see in countless movies, where we’re imagining the future.
That dystopia—it’s like the life has been sucked out of everything. Literally, resources are dwindling. It’s quite a bleak picture.
Jon and Lisa didn’t talk specifically about the bigger picture because even though it’s an interesting and convincing look at the future—for me, anyway—it’s a fantasy. For me, it’s there to encourage us to think about how we treat each other now. The robots are a metaphor for the disappeared, the silenced in the world.
I don’t take the show literally, but I enjoy what it makes me feel about afterward.
Do you imagine robots’ artificial intelligence leading to consciousness someday?
Not human consciousness—certainly not. One of the things that I love about playing the character, or any character, is that it turns off the static in my head. I have one thought, one direction, one experience, which is the one I’m having. It’s almost a kind of meditation. My consciousness otherwise is just brain chatter, with the stimuli from social media.
We all have that brain chatter, and trying to turn it off. And consciousness is a state of real peace and acceptance, where no words apply.
So, playing Maeve, particularly, taught me about the simplicity of sentience and the connection to all beings.
Obviously, Maeve is connected to the electronic world but, ironically, through playing this robot, I learned more about my own consciousness. And just the simplicity or the economy of thought, the clarity of vision, is something that I certainly want to achieve.
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