Tessa Thompson Interview: ‘Westworld’
“As an actor you’re always trying to fill in the blanks,” describes Tessa Thompson who plays Charlotte Hale on“Westworld,” “This season was discovering all the things about her that I did not know.” Season 3 of HBO’s science fiction epic pushed Thompson’s role into the spotlight as she grappled with major questions of identity. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
While most actors would be finding some sense of “comfortability” three seasons into a season and settling into their roles a bit, Thompson jokes “that is just never the case on this show… I think it requires dexterity.” Her role is a prime example of this. Charlotte Hale was actually killed off in Season 2, but the android Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is inhabiting a copy of her body in Season 3. The tug of war between her Dolores programming and the embedded memories of Hale essentially produce a compelling new character for Thompson to sink her teeth into. The actress praises creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for the complicated and challenging ideas that they ask her to play, noting that diving in “requires a tremendous amount of trust.’
“There’s delicious fun to be had in playing with Evan’s tonality of Dolores,” reveals Thompson. The pair worked closely together to ensure that elements of Dolores would resonate in Thompson’s performance. This process included sharing voice memos of line readings to get a feel for Wood’s vocal style, and studying her physical performance and mannerisms. Thompson admits to being grateful to Wood for sharing “how the sausage is made” and being willing to divulge a few acting secrets.
The two actors share an intimate moment in a hotel during Episode 3, where Hale is confused by conflicting personas living inside her and is comforted by the original Dolores model. Thompson calls the moment one of her “favorite things to shoot all season” because it is an example of Nolan and Joy “asking very human questions but inside of a landscape that isn’t entirely the world as we know it.” The stage direction for their moment together stood out for the performer because it stated that there is “no human corollary” for their experience. “I feel so lucky to play inside of frames that are that well constructed,” gushes Thompson. The series constantly asks her to play with new concepts and ideas. “I find it endlessly challenging and fascinating.”