Confirmed: That Really Is Simon Quarterman's Penis on 'Westworld'
Note: This article contains major spoilers from Westworld's Season 2 premiere, "Journey Into Night."
Change is afoot at Westworld. The hosts are no longer taking orders. Now, the automata rule, while their old human overlords clamor for safety, control, and, in some cases, their clothes.
We're referring, of course, to Lee Sizemore, the nebbish head of narrative played by Simon Quarterman, who spent much of the Season 2 premiere bargaining for his life -- when he wasn't being made to strip naked. Now in tentative cahoots with Thandie Newton's Maeve, Lee will set off on an uncertain adventure through the park, while no doubt remaining as fun to hate-watch as when he peed on that holographic map.
"I've had such a blast playing him," Quarterman tells Thrillist in a phone interview ahead of the premiere. "It's been a lot of fun to delve into that little part of me that's thankfully a lot quieter than Lee's. I get to jump in and just turn everything up to 11."
Read on to hear Quarterman weigh in about the host-guest role reversal, the difference between Dolores and Maeve this season, the importance of his full-frontal nudity, and what lies ahead.
Thrillist: The last time we saw Lee, he was mainly concerned with securing Peter Abernathy so he could get a job promotion. What's the primary thing driving your character this season?
Simon Quarterman: His career aspirations have flown very quickly out the window. All he's concerned about now is his own skin. That's where we pick him up from Season 1: He's about to be eaten by one of the characters he created. Then we see him finding Maeve, and his mind is blown because she's sentient and awake: How is she like a human? I don't think he even gives Abernathy a second thought. The shift in Lee is seismic this season, right from the get-go.
I think that shift you're talking about is best represented in the scene near the end of the premiere, when Maeve forces Lee to take off his clothes. What's going through his head?
Quarterman: He's got no choice. He's been forced to do it, and I think within him, there's a little defiance. I tried to play it like, Alright, I'm gonna strip for you, but I'm gonna stand here and try to be defiant. Then Maeve just turns away and completely destroys that. Even in that moment, Lee is still trying to establish some type of control, and she just destroys it with a look. Not even looking at him, but looking away from him!
"I'm full-blown doing that, brother! That's all me."
How was shooting that scene?
Quarterman: We discussed this scene like months before. Co-creators Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy talked to me and asked me if I would be comfortable taking off my clothes. I immediately said, "Yes, of course, let's do it." So I'm full-blown doing that, brother! That's all me. [Laughs.] There was a little part of me, of course, that was nervous about doing that. I didn't know exactly why I was going to be taking my clothes off at first. All I knew was I just got asked if I would be comfortable in doing it. But knowing Jonah and Lisa, I knew that this would be important in terms of the story. Then I read the script, and it all made complete sense to me. It was wild doing it. I actually recommend it to anyone.
Quarterman: I didn't think I'd ever say that, you know, but after watching the premiere, everything's leading up to that moment, and you're sitting there going, All right, I'm about to take my clothes off in front of everyone right now. Then it happens, and, Thandie actually touched on this last season, it's enormously liberating. It's a funny little fear that I think we all have in some respect, judging our own bodies or whatever. But once it's out of the way, it's like, Well, that's it. I don't have to worry about that piece again. It's quite something, actually. It's pretty cool. I was very happy with the way the scene came across, too. It's a mirror of everything else that's going on in the park. There's this complete role reversal, where the hosts found themselves being stripped bare for all of Season 1. So it's kind of fun to see one of their creators being stripped down naked. I also think it's important for Lee in terms of character development -- his ego is being stripped down, too. It's like the beginning of this breaking down of who he thinks he is.
How much of the strip scene was pre-planned and how much of it was improvised?
Quarterman: I was naked the whole day, and it took hours to shoot. But I mean, after you did it once, that was it. It was like, Well, the cat's out of the bag, so to speak. As with a lot of the work on the show, it has a lot to do with exploring in the moment -- that's what I really love about it. It's like a joint exploration, not only with the director, but with us too, and finding the best way to navigate a scene. This one found its footing quite quickly, though one of the lines -- "all of it" -- wasn't written. Initially, it was just "Strip!" I can't remember who suggested it. It might have been me. I'm not too sure. But we realized we needed another prompt because otherwise Lee, of course, would have just been like, Alright, I'm just gonna put the trousers on over my boxer shorts. So it was important to say, "No, all of it. Take it all off." Maeve wanted to create that whole "This is what you've done to us all this time, and this is gonna happen to you now because the tables have turned." Interestingly, in terms of the difference between Dolores and Maeve this season, that's Maeve's much softer way of dealing with retribution, I suppose. Her revenge is gentle enough just to say, "Take your clothes off." She's not gonna murder him or kill him, like Dolores would. There's a real difference between those two characters there.
Maeve also needs Lee for her own goals, ostensibly. I've been wondering how necessary he really is to Maeve -- is he just bullshitting her? How trustworthy is he?
Quarterman: I can't dive into this one too deeply. But Maeve does need Lee because Lee has knowledge of the park and how it's structured. He knows how to get to where she needs to go. In those terms, he's really useful, and she needs him for that.
Maeve and Lee's new relationship has assured me that no matter the situation Lee is always going to be a sycophant, but he also always kind of sucks at gaining any sort of advantage.
Quarterman: [Laughs.] Yes, so true. I think a lot of his behavior comes from a deep-seated feeling of insecurity. I think that's where all his bluster comes from, an innate fragility. I think you see that across the board, just in life. Often those really difficult men who seem to have it all, and all that big ego nonsense, are actually the neediest ones. That's Lee. So he constantly finds himself in these situations where he's playing second fiddle. I think that causes a great deal of discomfort for him, particularly in the workplace. This has become a little different because he knows really the only person that's going to help him survive in this whole situation is Maeve. So he needs to stick by her. At this moment, anyway.
Anthony Hopkins was an enormous presence last season. What has his absence felt like on set this season?
Quarterman: Well, because of my arc, you kind of never, it's not something that -- um, agh, this is difficult to answer. He's never in the mix, and he never would be in the mix. So you wouldn't miss that character because of that. I'll just keep it like that, really [laughs]. He was an extraordinary presence. I just did one scene with him last season, and that was just magical, just a dream come true.
Did you learn anything or pick up anything from him?
Quarterman: Just his ease. I really enjoyed watching him discover what he wanted in scenes. He's like a child in that respect, just playing. He would find his way in such a beautiful manner. It was quite wonderful. There was nothing structured about his acting. It was just a constant voyage of discovery -- fascinating to watch. I tried to pick up as much as I possibly could from that. As for Lee, I think he's got this really mad respect for Ford. But there's the other part of him that just can't bear the fact that he has mad respect for Ford.
If Lee were ever to be in Ford's position, what would be his dream creation?
Quarterman: He would just be a little puppet. Delos would get him to do whatever they wanted, and he'd be along for the ride because that's who he is. Even though he's in control, he wouldn't be really [laughs]. It's just the title to him, I think, that's most important. And power.
What else can we expect from Lee this season?
Quarterman: All I'll tell you is this season is a lot of fun. And you might see a different side of Lee.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.