Jeffrey Wright is just as obsessed with Westworld as you are. "I love the mystery of the writing and the numerous trippy rabbit holes," says the Hunger Games alum, who co-stars as the morally ambiguous Bernard Lowe, head of the theme park's programming division. "What's thrilling for me is I finally get to share my obsession with an audience. We're just trying to flesh out the writing in the most multi-dimensional way possible." To help flesh out his character, we peppered Wright with our pressing Bernard questions.
This show lends itself to numerous theories online. Do you pay attention to them?
Jeffrey Wright: Yeah, sure, I'm checking them out. It's fantastic that people are making that type of emotional and intellectual investment in the show. It's everything we could hope for.
Do you know the answers to questions like, "Is Bernard a robot?"
Wright: Well, I'm taking in all the theories, and it's the next level of storytelling, right? There's the story we know, and then there's story that's imagined by audiences. It adds an extra dimension to everything.
In Westworld terms, is Bernard a black hat or a white hat? Or is he a gray hat?
Wright: I guess to steal from [co-star] Jimmi Simpson, maybe Bernard wears a houndstooth hat. Maybe he's inspired by [football coach] Bear Bryant, if that reference is understood. He's definitely in some respect the primary looking glass through which the audience is perceiving where we are, where we've been, and where we're heading. For that reason, a lot of narrative flows through him.
He's got a sweet apartment. Might he have been seduced by the rewards he's gotten from the company? And does his affair with Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen), the steely head of operations, mean he's sleeping with the enemy?
Wright: He's taking it all in. The idea is the commitment to working for the place is a pretty full-on one. So that comes with amenities, but also, because of the nature of his story, he's committed to the place on a more personal level. He's looking for solace in his work and through Theresa's company.
What's your personal relationship with tech? Have you always been into robots?
Wright: Yeah, I loved Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots when I was a kid. And Pong! Two dashes and a dot careening across a 19-inch black-and-white TV. I've always been intrigued by technology as much as the average person.
Are you a sci-fi fan?
Wright: I wouldn't say I'm a massive sci-fi head, although I was a big fan of Isaac Asimov as a kid. My career began to touch on sci-fi through The Hunger Games, and that was a different experience. It was a franchise that had already been developed, and this wonderful ride had begun absent me. With this, the idea of being at the beginning of the journey and taking that risk of helping to craft something that was asking audiences to suspend disbelief in such an intense way was compelling for me. The idea of working on a sci-fi piece in this way was new territory for me to explore. I look for things that keep me awake as an actor, and I've certainly found it in this.
I know from your Twitter feed you're interested in politics, and you were at the last debate in Las Vegas. How do you think Donald Trump would do in Westworld?
Wright: He would be the first one placed into cold storage. Although we would probably, for the sake of our eyes and our sensibility, wrap him up in duct tape rather than have to usher him down there in the nude.
You've got a lot of fans from BoJack Horseman, too. What would your character, Mr. Cuddlywhiskers, think of Westworld?
Wright: Oh, Cuddlywhiskers is disconnected. He's probably smashed his flat-screen TV and burned his home theater. He views Westworld only through his cuddly, whiskered navel.
You've always kind of flown under the radar as an actor. How has being on a show like Westworld that has such heat changed your life?
Wright: I like to fly under the radar. I have an audience that knows me from certain films, but there's an audience that knows me from other films. Sometimes they don't put two and two together, which was the plan. They don't realize that Dr. Narcisse from Boardwalk Empire also played Basquiat and played Belize in Angels in America. Maybe people will start to figure that out. With Westworld, collaborating in a dream setting with people at the top of their craft is really gratifying and will probably introduce me to some folks who maybe haven't fully gotten it. That's cool.
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