TCA: HBO’s ‘Westworld’ Producer Defends Show Against Misogyny Charges

Star-studded cast explores robot logic and updating a genre classic from pre-internet, early-videogame era
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Complete Coverage: TCA Summer 2016

Beverly Hills, Calif. -- The star-studded panel for HBO's Westworld, the sci-fi Western premiering this fall covered a lot of ground—artificial intelligence, videogames, social media, human nature. But what stood out was an ardent defense by producers of the show’s handling of violence against women, a major theme that confronted the network’s new programming chief, Casey Bloys, during his executive session earlier in the day.

“It’s an issue that was heavily discussed and heavily considered,” said Lisa Joy, an executive producer and writer on the show. “Westworld is an examination of human nature, the best parts of human nature—eternal love, romantic love—but also the basest parts of human nature, and that includes violence and sexual violence. Violence and sexual violence have been a part of human history since the beginning of human history. … When we were tackling a project about a park whose premise is that you can go there and do whatever you want and satisfy any desire you have, with impunity, without consequence, it seemed like an issue that we had to address.” She added, “We endeavored for it not to be about fetishization. It is about exploring the crime and establishing the crime and exploring the torment of the characters within this story and exploring the characters with dignity and depth.”

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Exec producer Jonathan Nolan, who also writes and directs, said the show had long marinated as numerous attempts were made to crack it as a feature remake of the 1973 Yul Brynner genre classic. Producer JJ Abrams first considered it 20 years ago and kept it afloat as a feature possibility before eventually deciding it needed to be a series.

“When Michael Crichton wrote the original film, the state of the videogame business was Pong,” Nolan said. “In the 40 years since then, that entire industry has grown up and evolved into something that’s bigger than the film business, bigger than the TV business. So our narrative had to account for that more sophisticated understanding we have of gaming.”

The show, which stars Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, James Marsden and Thandie Newton, premieres Oct. 2.

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