‘West­world’ stars won­der: If I could be a ro­bot ...

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - LIFE - Bill Keveney

West­world hosts truly have the most. The an­droid denizens of the fu­tur­is­tic Wild West theme park have men­tal and phys­i­cal skills su­pe­rior to those of mere mor­tals, but they’re also sub­ject to the whims — rang­ing from rude­ness to mur­der — of the hu­man guests who visit.

Ac­tors in HBO’s sci-fi hit, which re­turns for a sec­ond sea­son April 22 (9 ET/PT), might wish they could use su­pe­rior ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence when try­ing to keep up with the change­able per­son­al­i­ties of their life­like an­droid char­ac­ters, not to men­tion the vary­ing time­lines.

“I think we were all, after a while, just sur­ren­der­ing to the fact that we didn’t ex­actly know what was go­ing on at all times,” says Evan Rachel Wood, who tog­gles between two host per­son­al­i­ties, sweet Dolores and venge­ful Wyatt.

“Some­times, we were do­ing scenes from episodes we hadn’t even read. We shot out of or­der, and there are dif­fer­ent time­lines, so try­ing to keep up was one of the hard­est parts,” says Wood, who ex­plains that Sea­son 2 was even tougher to sort out than the com­plex first one.

“We would all come to set and I’d look at Jeffrey (Wright) and we’d be like, ‘What episode is this?’ … It’s un­like any way I’ve ever worked. It’s nerve-wrack­ing, but it’s also kind of ex­cit­ing.”

Be­cause the ac­tors have be­come so fa­mil­iar with an­droids, USA TO­DAY asked Wood and her West­world cast­mates which A.I. host trait they would most like to have.

Wood, who ca­pa­bly dragged Ed Harris’ Man in Black through a church in Sea­son 1, chooses phys­i­cal strength.

“I feel like some­times you can be at a slight dis­ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially as a woman, where peo­ple can just over­power you. I would love to have su­per­hu­man strength.”

Thandie New­ton, who plays brothel madam Maeve, ad­mires the or­ga­ni­za­tional abil­i­ties of the life­like com­put­ers, priz­ing their “con­trol, be­ing more or­dered in the way they think. I’m so scat­ter­shot, so that would be pretty cool.”

Wright wants to be a lit­tle like his char­ac­ter, Bernard, the park pro­gram­ming chief, who learned in Sea­son 1 that he’s a ro­bot. “Bernard is pretty em­pa­thetic. If there were a qual­ity of his I’d like to em­u­late, it’s … be­ing sen­si­tive to the ex­is­tence of oth­ers.”

James Mars­den, who plays cow­boy host Teddy, likes the robots’ mirac­u­lous abil­ity “to sus­tain lifeend­ing in­juries and (be) fixed up, put right back out there.” But he’d re­ally like an “off switch — that would be nice. Like when you’re ready to go to sleep,” he says, mak­ing a click­ing sound. “Done.”

Turn­ing the ta­bles, the ac­tors en­vi­sioned the fan­tasy nar­ra­tive they would choose as a park guest.

New­ton, tak­ing an egal­i­tar­ian per­spec­tive, be­lieves West­world would be so ex­pen­sive that only the wealthy could visit. “I wouldn’t want to go un­til it was af­ford­able for ev­ery­body.”

Mars­den would make it an ob­ser­va­tional test. “I’d want to see how ev­ery­one else is be­hav­ing there. … I think it’s go­ing to re­veal a lot about your char­ac­ter, how you be­have in this law­less world with no reper­cus­sions.”

Wood likens a West­world visit to Sleep No More, an im­mer­sive theater ex­pe­ri­ence where spec­ta­tors walk through the per­for­mance space, tak­ing in the pro­duc­tion at their own pace, choos­ing their own di­rec­tion and fo­cus.

“I was the one try­ing to open all the exit doors and find out what’s go­ing on be­hind the scenes. So I feel if I went to West­world, I’d be the one try­ing to find the un­der­belly and get into the labs and go be­hind the scenes and stir things up,” she says.

Hmm, that sounds a lit­tle like Harris’ Man in Black, a hu­man guest who spent Sea­son 1 search­ing for the cen­ter of the park’s mys­te­ri­ous maze. “Yeah,” Wood says. “I didn’t want to say that, but prob­a­bly.”

PHO­TOS BY JOHN P. JOHN­SON/HBO

Jeffrey Wright sees the hosts of West­world in much the same light that his char­ac­ter, park pro­gram­mer Bernard, does.

For Evan Rachel Wood and James Mars­den, there’s just some­thing about Dolores and Teddy.

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