NYCC ’16: ‘Westworld’ Showrunners & Cast Talk Video Game Inspiration, Season 2 Teased?

New York Comic-Con goers didn’t just get a Westworld panel. For a lucky some, they got to experience Westworld themselves. The pop culture bash ended today with a panel from HBO’s much-hyped sci-fi drama, which released its second episode online Friday after launching a week ago.

During days prior at the convention, HBO used a unique VR promotion titled “Westworld: A Delos Destination (Delos being the name of the company that owns Westworld, referred to as “Management” on the show) that allowed con attendees to “visit” Westworld. Mashable reporter Saba Hamedy experienced it for herself and you can read about it here.

Husband & wife showrunners JonathanNolan & Lisa Joy, Jeffrey Wright (lead scientist Bernard Lowe), Thandie Newton (host “madam” Maeve), Jimmi Simpson (new visitor William), and Ben Barnes (repeat visitor Logan) were on hand for the panel, which kicked off with a screening of the second episode “Chestnut,” which was released early by HBO on all its platforms on Friday, two days prior to its usual Sunday airing, due to the sure-to-be solar eclipse that is the second U.S. presidential election debate. My review of the episode (which still airs at 9 p.m. tonight) is here.

There was also a season 1 trailer featuring many new scenes from the remaining eight episode of the season, which according to The Hollywood Reporter, included “cannibalism, robots removing their own faces and experimenting with their circuitry, some of the hosts violently rebelling against humans (watch out for Maeve), and Ed Harris’ Man in Black declaring himself the “proper villain” of Westworld.”

That last line makes clear the Man in Black is the ultimate renegade RPG player and Westworld the ultimate open-world sandbox for role-playing. Nolan and Newton elaborated on Westworld‘s heavy video game influence, citing Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption and BioShock as research.

Nolan: “We played some as research for making this show, as when (Michael) Crichton first wrote his movie, video games literally didn’t exist except for PONG, I’m happy to report my wife is the world’s most boring Grand Theft Auto player.”

Newton: “The way they crafted some of the shots is to mimic a video game. The way we are there is not the way we are in the real world.”

Nolan also spoke about how fascinated he is in A.I., as his first job as showrunner was creating another sci-fi drama featuring sentient technology, CBS’ Person of Interest, which ended last summer.

“It feels like I’ve found my subject, the thing that I’m most interested in. The concept of Person of Interest, distributed A.I., will appear first. But anthropomorphic A.I., artificial intelligence hobbled to have to look and act like us, was fascinating to me.”

Anthony Hopkins (park creator Dr. Robert Ford) may have been absent but his presence was felt, with Wright talking about his character’s relationship with Ford.

“He deeply respects Ford. He’s kind of the Walt Disney / Colonel Kurtz grandfather of the park and of the science. At the same time, Bernard is a little more… maybe because of certain things going on in his world, he’s a bit more sensitive and empathetic toward the hosts, and curious about the possibilities the science represents in terms of sentience. Ford sees them as tools and that’s it. We send them out, bring them back, the guests use them for their indulgence, and that’s it. Ford is obviously a very isolated guy, maybe a bit misanthropic. His relationship to these things lacks the elements of empathy and sensitivity that Bernard brings to it. There’s a tension there we’ll explore as we go forward.

Apparently, Nolan also let slip that he and his wife are currently “breaking Season 2,” which may be news to HBO as they haven’t technically ordered it yet. However, given its $100+ million investment, its utter lack of buzzy dramas and the fact the show shut down for two months specifically to write and plot the next 5-6 seasons, I’d say a renewal is a formality.

As for what we’ll potentially see in them, Nolan & Joy were tight-lipped. Nolan laughed off a question about seeing the Roman and Medieval worlds with a “No” before adding that he almost never answers a question directly at conventions.

For all this and more, check out the source links as well as the Facebook Live stream recorded with the panel and moderated by The Atlantic‘s Christopher Orr. See you next week for episode 3!

SOURCE: Deadline, THR & Mashable

Sam Flynn

Sam Flynn

Sam is a writer and journalist whose passion for pop culture burns with the fire of a thousand suns and at least three LED lamps.