The HBO series, Westworld is already in high gear with season 2 and its fast reeling in audiences. Much of the success of the series is down to the collaborative talents of showrunners and directors, Jonathan ‘Jonah’ Nolan and Lisa Joy. The duo are responsible for weaving the magic behind the camera of the HBO series and it’s a partnership that involves more than just directing as we find out in this interview.
One of the things you said before was that you wanted to devise a blueprint for the show from the start and sort of reset the world each season. How have you reset things this season?
Jonah Nolan: We tackled it from the approach of telling a large story in chapters, and then each of those chapters would really have their own identity. They might even have their own genre. It’s the question of what story methodology works – as Ford would say, what’s the right story for the moment these characters are in? If the first season is a slow-burn psychological investigation into the idea of what artificial identity would look like, the second season is a sort of bloody revolution.
Creatures who’ve been denied free will to this point, who get it, and then have to answer the question of, well now that you are self-determining, now that you’re in charge, what will you do? So, it has a different feeling and it has a different sensibility. And I think from the beginning, because we knew that we wouldn’t be able to make a season of this every year, that we wouldn’t be able to follow that familiar television pattern; we would need to answer most of the questions that we posed within a given season. And then hopefully find new fascinating questions and let a few key questions linger from one season to the next.
JN: One of the questions we don’t answer in the first season is what is Delos actually up to in this park? We understand that just like all these Silicon Valley companies, they have an ostensible business model and an actual business model. From the pilot we’ve established that Delos has an agenda within the park. So, that’s one of the few questions that lingered from the first season, and it’s one of the questions that we’ll answer. In an episode spectacularly directed by my wife and partner, Lisa Joy.
That’s quite an undertaking, on a show that’s this complex. We can imagine, Lisa that shooting was not a straightforward process either?Lisa Joy: Well, I had many advantages, the first and foremost being an incredible script written by Jonah and Gina Atwater. I just wanted to bring what they had on the page to life. I did a lot of work with Ed and Jeffrey on this episode, among others, and it was wonderful getting to explore their characters more and take them to new levels. They’re such generous performers, so incredibly nuanced and talented, you could not ask for better collaborators. And then, of course, we got to play in this crazy, beautiful world designed by our amazing crew. We get to see some new places and there are some really fantastic action sequences that were a hell of a lot of fun to direct.
Had you always wanted to direct?
LJ: I had always wanted to direct. Even as a writer, I’m very visual, I like to imagine myself in that world. And then, on Westworld, Jonah directed the pilot and the finale of the first season, but every step along the way we’ve worked with everything from costumes to casting and set dec – all the tiny nuances have been something that we’ve really tried to carefully craft.
So much of that I was already involved in and directing felt like a logical extension of it. And then I had a baby two months before I went in to prep… It was a lot at the time, but it’s really important to note that Jonah wanted to be as supportive a collaborator as ever. He helped me take care of the kids, and helped me by taking care of the show and the writing staff while I took this, took this leap – it was wonderful.
Your blueprint for the show – how far does that blueprint extend?
LJ: We’re in post right now, but I’m sure Jonah and I will start noodling on season three, soon. We’re married, so, I mean, what do you do? You can only talk about the weather for so long, once we’re through discussing the children, rather than sit there and stare at each other in silence over dinner, we’ll invariably start talking about AI.
JN: A lot of this stuff is fueled by the conversations we had making the pilot. We felt like we needed a blueprint, and we’ve largely stuck to it. The beauty of making television is that when you see what your actors are giving back to you, and you see what your incredible crew of designers and writers come up with, there’s an opportunity to take a little detour or to spend a little more time looking at a character or a moment. But the destination remains the same.
Catch the Emmy-winning drama series Westworld every Monday at 9am, with a same day primetime encore at 10pm, exclusively on HBO (Astro Ch 411/ HD 431). New episodes premiere every Monday at the same time. The series is also available on HBO On Demand (via Astro GO).