When the teaser trailer for HBO’s upcoming reinvention of Westworld dropped the other day it showed us that show runners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy were intent on going in a very different direction to the 1973 movie on which the series is based.
While the movie was a fairly standard man vs machine conflict set in the western theme park populated by androids, the trailer hinted that the androids – or “hosts” as they’ll be known in the show – would have far more personality this time around and that the show would be more about their struggles against their creators.
It’s something the show runners have now confirmed in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, with Jonathan Nolan saying:
We wanted to go flat out, full scope, sleeves-rolled-up plunge into the next chapter of the human story, in which we stop being the protagonists, and our creations start taking over that role.
We were fascinated by the tectonic plates that seem to be shifting into place right now – the argument over the creation of AI and what form it will take; VR finally coming online and our consciousness going “broadband,” allowing us to lose ourselves in an acid bath of experience that will be indistinguishable from reality (and only because reality will be the most boring level); and that, despite all of that, we remain, as a species, frustratingly broken, seemingly barreling towards disaster. So, yeah – that’s what we wanted the show to be about.
People like Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have all raised concerns over just what A.I. could mean for the future of the human race and the danger it could pose, and it’s something that Nolan’s Person of Interest also touched on – so why invert the premise of the movie for the show?
That’s the reason we wanted to do the show, and what the early conversations with [fellow executive producer J.J. Abrams] centered on – that the show should turn the original movie inside-out, with the “hosts” as the protagonists.
When it comes to the question of consciousness, we always start with ourselves as the answer. As the be-all-end-all. It’s understandable – we’re the only consciousness we’re familiar with.
But we wanted to challenge that assumption. The “hosts” are discovering that they’ve been created in our image, but beginning to question if “humanness” is really what they want to aspire to. And given their circumstances, it’s easy to understand why they start to question whether they want to be like us at all…
HBO are also in a spot of bother right now. The premium cable’s only bona fide hit show right now is Game of Thrones – and its show runners revealed last week that the show’s seventh season (due to air middle of next year) would most likely be its last; while their next big thing, Vinyl, turned out to be a complete dud and was cancelled after one season.
This puts Westworld in the unenviable position of having a lot of pressure on it to be a hit from the outset when it airs later this year. It seems something they’re cognizant of though, given that the show’s already been in production for two years now and was originally set to air in 2015. The additional time has given the show runners the chance to dive far deeper into the story than was planned, with Lisa Joy saying:
The show is complicated and ambitious. For the first half of the series we were writing while in production and we needed the time to catch up on scripts. Taking that time allowed us to really finesse all the storylines we set up – deepening character arcs and delving further into the series’ larger mythological questions.
By finishing all the episodes before returning to shooting, we were able to concentrate on production in the latter half of the show – making sure the last few episodes were as ambitious on the screen as they were on the page.
Westworld‘s 10-episode first season is set to air on HBO later this year in October. It’s something I’m really looking forward to watching because from everything we’ve seen and heard it sounds very compelling – the idea of humanity’s creations coming into their own and deciding their own fate is intriguing to me. Whether or not it can compete with dragons and sit on the throne though is something we’ll have to wait and see. What do you think?
Last Updated: July 5, 2016