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Jeffrey Wright on Sunday Night’s Big Westworld Reveal

Hang in there, Jeffrey.

Spoilers for tonight’s episode of Westworld below.

Time to bust out the old “REDDIT WAS RIGHT” T-shirt: It turns out that gentle, curious Bernard Lowe is — [Inception noise] — a host! And, like all the hosts, the poor dude was programmed to have no clue about his true nature. Once Ford flicked a proverbial switch, our man B went full Ash in Alien on Theresa (RIP), dashing the dreams of all the BerResa shippers out there. Just another day in the dystopian garbage dump that is the Westworld theme park! We caught up with the man behind the unwitting monster, veteran character actor Jeffrey Wright, to talk about learning the secret after he’d already built the character, talking Trump with Anthony Hopkins, and, of course, surfing.

Let’s talk about the big reveal.
What reveal? Tell me!

Har har.
That was my host self. Sorry, okay, enough silliness.

How and when did you find out about the twist?
I found out after we shot the pilot and had returned for the beginning of the second episode. I didn’t know prior to that. Although [co-creator] Lisa Joy, from time to time as we were gearing up to go back into production, would say cryptically that Bernard is very complicated. And finally, I guess time forced her to reveal to me what, exactly, she was referring to. So she pulled me into her office one day as we were rehearsing and spilled all the cyber-beans.

And what did you think? Were you surprised?
I was, yeah. I momentarily went into glitch mode. And then I just thought it was pretty damn cool. But when I was trading emails with [co-creator] Jonah [Nolan], after deciding that I wanted to do the show, I expressed to him that I was really looking forward to going on this journey with him in which we discover that Ford is actually a creation of Bernard Lowe and he responded to me, “Close, Colonel, but no cigar.” [Laughs.] Obviously, there are these fan theories out there and I think it kind of validates the logic of it all, because to make it so no one else has an inkling that this might be the case would make it a pretty irrational decision. It’s, hopefully, embedded in the structure of the narrative.

Once you found out, how did it affect your performance, if at all?
It didn’t affect my performance so much as it affected my awareness of certain moments and certain elements of it. For example, the realization that Bernard has this discovery of the origin of problems with the hosts and of the park itself, to some extent, was equally a journey of self-discovery. So just that added dimension and added level of reflection was useful.

Does anyone else in the park know that Bernard is a host?
Well, there’s one. Clearly.

Other than Ford.
[Long pause.] I think it’s safe to say that that’s where we are in episode seven.

Were you allowed to tell anyone else in the cast?
No, I wouldn’t. Why would I? [Laughs.] That would’ve spoiled some of the trippy fun. So no, I played my secrets pretty close, but there was a flurry of freaked-out text messages flying back and forth when the script for episode seven was finally distributed to everyone else in the cast. Actually, there are still some cast members who are not aware. The core cast members know, but it’ll be fun, because I think there are others who will only be on the inside once they see it with everyone else on Sunday.

Are there any cast members you’re particularly excited to see find out?
I’m excited for everyone’s response. We shot the pilot for this show almost as long ago as Westworld itself has been open. It’s been a long time getting to the point where we could share this with an audience, and frankly, we love being a part of this thing. The final layer is inviting an audience to share our fairly mild obsession. Anthony Hopkins would show up on set on days he wasn’t working because we, despite all the ill-construed rumors about what was happening when we were filming, we enjoyed the process immensely. Obviously, we were frustrated when we had to pause, but we really loved working on the show and working together.

That dovetails into the next question. You get a ton of screen time with Anthony Hopkins, and other cast members I’ve interviewed have lamented that they don’t get as much as time as they would like. You’re a lucky man. What was your first conversation with him like?
When I know that I have to work with another actor for an extensive amount of time, my primary concern is whether or not we’ll work well together. It has less to do with the concern of engaging on camera as it does off camera. [Laughs.] So I was just curious about that, and I don’t recall the details of our first conversation, but I realized that he’s a wonderful guy and a fascinating thinker. Half the joy for me of working with him was talking to him when the camera wasn’t rolling. Largely about politics and the social disaster that is Donald Trump’s campaign and Trump himself.

Shooting the breeze with Anthony Hopkins about Donald Trump. That’s a rare pleasure.
Well, yeah. He’s a guy who survived World War II as a kid. He takes such movements very seriously.

On the other hand, what’s a lighthearted memory you have of conversing with him?
Oh, that is lighthearted for us. [Laughs.] He’s got a very healthy perspective on our business, and some of the trappings and superficialities of certain aspects of Hollywood that I quite appreciate.

A fellow cynic?
Well, a cynic about things that deserve cynicism. He sees with relatively clear eyes, which is not a presumption that is healthy to make of all folks in our line of work.

I recently interviewed one of your other off-camera buddies, Luke Hemsworth. He told me you’ve taken up surfing.
[Laughs.] Oh, yeah. I started surfing when I was working on The Hunger Games, out on the north shore of Oahu, so about four years ago. I used to skateboard as a kid, kind of religiously, until I broke my leg riding in a pool when I was about 14 and I couldn’t play football that fall. It was the first week after school ended, so I parked my boards from that point on. So when I discovered surfing, it was like being reintroduced to the big brother of an old friend, you know? And yeah, then, when we started filming the series last July, I’d bought a board out in Hawaii. I came back to New York and I kind of parked that, and then when we started filming the series and I was going out to L.A. regularly, I was on my way to a water addiction. Like Luke, I can’t not do it. Although he does it smoother than I do, but we still hang together and we have a good time out in the water together. He’s a bad ass out there.

He said when you’re on set, you’re the teacher and he’s the student, but in the water, it’s reversed.
Yeah, well, I would say that’s fair. Yeah, I mean, he’s Australian. He’s part dolphin.

Here’s an extremely important question. I told my colleagues I’d be interviewing you and solicited questions they might have. One of them told me to ask you why Bernard always has his glasses so low on his nose. So: Why is that?
Can I ask you a question?

How old is your colleague?

About 30.
When your colleague hits his or her late 40s, he or she will understand how reading glasses work. Thankfully, they’ve not reached that point yet.

That’s the angle that reading glasses have to have?
You know, Bernard’s looking at that tablet throughout the whole day. Rather than pull glasses out, he wears them down there so he can look at the tablet and also see that he’s not walking into the glass walls in the laboratory.

There’s nothing on the tablets when you’re acting with them, right?
Yeah, that’s the magic of modern filmmaking.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Jeffrey Wright on Westworld’s Big Reveal