The titular park in HBO’s glossy cavalcade of ethical dilemmas, Westworld, features an array of hotties for guests to ogle. The same is true for viewers of the show — and one can make a reasonable argument that the hottest of the hot is Luke Hemsworth. The oldest of the Hemsworth Brother franchise, he’s making his biggest splash yet in the American entertainment market by playing Westworld security officer Ashley Stubbs. We caught up with Hemsworth to talk about inventing character traits when you know basically nothing about the world of the show you’re on, being too scared to eat with Anthony Hopkins, and going surfing with Jeffrey Wright.
How were the show and your character presented to you when you signed on?
I mean, this project has been going for so long. I think I auditioned way back at the start, and I auditioned for James Marsden’s character. As did 5,000 other people. It then went away and morphed and did all of its bits and pieces, and then it came back, and [casting director] John Papsidera suggested I come in for the role of Stubbs. It was a no-brainer to me. I was absolutely going to jump onboard.
What did they tell you about Stubbs? I’ve heard from other cast members that you guys are kept in the dark about a lot.
They didn’t release a whole lot. Really, all they were saying was that it was a reconfiguration of the movie Westworld but from a new, fresh angle. They’ve been very cagey, very secretive. It’s kind of cool — you mine stuff to make up a whole lot of things.
What do you mean by “mining stuff”?
Just, as an actor, if you’re given very little information about what’s going on, then you’re forced to make it up. To think about where you’re coming from, where you’re going. It’s a chance for you to use your imagination because you have no information. Which is motivating, really.
So, what backstory did you make up for Stubbs?
That he was probably ex-military, crossing over into a corporate world, and the kind of guy that’s been everywhere and done everything. He’s seen the darkest of the dark, and that comes across in his demeanor and his attitude toward these things that happen in the park. There’s a lot of things that he feels are inevitable.
Does he see it as just a paycheck or does he believe that the park is a noble project?
He cares a lot about the human aspect of the world. He’s charged with the protection of the people who are the customers, and that’s his forte: protecting and serving. He’s quite happy to be pretty ruthless with everyone who isn’t a guest.
If that’s the case, do you think that he gets off a little bit on the fact that the hosts aren’t human and therefore he can be kind of rough with them?
I don’t think he gets off on it. It’s just a truth. The fact is that they’re not human and, in his eyes, they don’t require the emotional attention that humans do. He’s a lot like me: He’s a little bit cynical, a little bit sardonic, a little bit irate.
I hope you’re not as much of a hard-ass as Stubbs is.
No, I’m a pussycat.
What cast members did you get most buddy-buddy with?
Me and Jeffrey Wright were hanging out a lot. We go surfing a fair bit when he’s on the West Coast. He’s a legend.
Wait, wait, wait. Surfing? With Jeffrey Wright?
Yeah! Yeah, surfing! Yeah.
Oh, yeah, he’s well into it. He’s like a 10-year-old grown-up, frothing. So every chance he can, he’ll head down this way, down to Malibu, when he’s on this side. He surfs a lot on the East Coast, too, when there’s swells.
Is he a decent surfer?
Yeah, no, he’s good. He’s only been surfing for a little while, but he’s good. He’s cruising along, he’s having fun.
Are you a better surfer than him?
Yeah, well, yeah. [Laughs.] Look, I’ve been surfing since I was a kid. I’m a little bit better than him. [Laughs.]
He’s been acting longer than you, but when you’re in the waves, you’re the teacher and he’s the student.
That’s right. He’s my teacher on set and I’m his teacher in the water.
What do you two talk about when you’re not surfing?
We talk about heaps of dumb shit, heaps of interesting shit. He’s a very smart guy. He’s much smarter than me. So sometimes I just sit back and let him talk. He has a degree in political science or something like that. Once you get him started on politics, I tend to go cross-eyed.
Did you get to hang out much with Anthony Hopkins?
I get to do a few things with Anthony, and I wouldn’t say I was hanging out with him, but yeah, he’s a lovely, lovely gentlemen. He’s quite happy to have a chat. I’ve met him before, so it definitely makes it a little bit easier and helped me calm down my nerves a little bit that’s for sure. The first thing he says to me is, “How’s Chris?” [Laughs.]
I was talking to your castmate, Evan Rachel Wood, the other day, and she said she broke down weeping after shooting her first scene with Anthony Hopkins. She was so overwhelmed with joy.
Yeah, I mean, he actually invited me to have breakfast with him and I just couldn’t do it because … I just … it’s too scary! It’s exactly that reaction of like, “I can’t go and have breakfast — you’re Tony Hopkins! What am I going to talk about?”
You said no to breakfast with Anthony Hopkins? What a waste!
Oh, it just hasn’t come to fruition yet. I’m still working myself up to it.
The latest episode features a lot with you and Shannon Woodward’s character wandering around outdoors, looking for a stray host. How long did it take to shoot that?
It was over a few weeks, probably two weeks. Maybe a little bit more here and there. The location stuff, they try to get it all in one or two days just because it’s a logistical nightmare.
In what way was it a logistical nightmare?
It’s always a logistical nightmare on location, getting that amount of people into one place. And they’ve got multiple things going on at that location, and you’ve got no set, so you’ve got to bring everything, all your lights and all your power. I find it hard enough to get myself to one place!
Was it grueling to be out in the extreme heat and extreme cold of the desert?
I think it’s actually good. It just adds another element you don’t have to think about. Usually, in a studio, when it’s supposed to look cold, it’s boiling hot. And then, the hot scenes, you’re freezing. Outside, it’s something you don’t have to think about. The scenes where we were rappelling into the crevice were pretty challenging. It’s something I’ve actually done a lot of. I’ve done a lot of rock climbing and rappelling in high school, so I’m fairly confident. But it’s just the repetition of jumping down and bashing yourself around over and over again. That’s really the hardest part.
Evan told me the actors would toss around fan theories about what the hell’s going on in the show.
Yeah, for sure. Me and Shannon would quite often [talk about that]. The mind boggles because you’re given very little in terms of where the show is headed. But the fun part is actually being involved and reading each episode to find out what’s going on. I’d rather do that than just flipping through each episode with me going, “Where’s my line? Bullshit, bullshit … my line!”
Do you and your brothers talk out acting strategies these days?
Not really, no. The guys are very busy and occasionally, if I need help with an audition, putting an audition down or working a scene, I’ll ask for help and vice versa. But most of the time, we’re pretty independent. We don’t get into it much anymore.
This interview has been edited and condensed.