Jeffrey Wright Interview: ‘Westworld’
“Season 2 of ‘Westworld’ was one of the most challenging exercises I’ve taken in my career,” declares Jeffrey Wright in an exclusive chat with Gold Derby (watch our video interview above). “We put a lot of film in the can. We probably shot the equivalent of seven full length movies over the course of six months. It’s kind of like having a baby; they say ‘long days, short years.’ In our case it’s long days, short months.”
For its first two seasons, “Westworld” has scored 43 Emmy nominations, with Wright being nominated as a supporting actor last time and as a lead actor in 2018. He plays Bernard, the head of the programming division at a futuristic theme park, who was shockingly revealed as a robotic host himself. In the most recent season on HBO, Bernard is navigating his way through a robotic revolution. Wright reveals, “What has emerged for him is a new sense of self and sense of freedom. Ultimately the journey for him is one toward agency and one toward self-determination. For that reason, Bernard’s story is a metaphor for the existences we all enjoy or don’t enjoy right now. The construct allows us a lot of deep exploration into the human experience.”
For the Emmy voters, Wright chose to submit the final episode of the season, “Passengers.” In this non-linear episode Bernard has to make choices about which side he aides in the revolution. He says, “Trying to manage that math of his dysfunction and his awakening was pretty tough. Obviously this show is a huge logistical challenge. But it is for us actors too; trying to digest all the bread crumbs we’re given along this journey, when we’re doing it in a completely non-linear way. It was a challenge but deeply fulfilling. I call it benevolent chaos. There is definitely method to the madness. But it certainly is a pretty mad way of going about things.” Other cast members nominated this time are Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton and Jimmi Simpson.
Wright believes the show is fueled by valuing collaboration over competition. “A lot of people think when two actors work together it can be a boxing match. And it can be, when you’re with assholes. But it’s best when you are two actors working together and you are fighting like hell to tell the story together. It’s not about playing ego against ego. It’s about, ‘how do we craft this scene together in the most unique and fully developed way that we possibly can?’ I find that is pretty much the common theme on our show — mutual support and digging down deep. We appreciate the scale and vision. We’re fans like everyone else who’s taken to the show. We want to see it done well, and a lot of that is in our hands.”