Viewers eagerly awaiting the arrival of HBO’s Westworld found themselves concerned earlier this year when production on the sci-fi series was halted – in most cases, that tends to be a strong indication that something is amiss. But in this case, it turns out that showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy has requested additional time from the network to craft the final episodes of the first season, in order to make sure that it lives up to their own standards – not to mention those of the cable giant itself.
But during that downtime, it looks like Nolan and Joy were able to accomplish another goal as well, creating a road map that charts the course of Westworld from its debut next month, all the way to the eventual series finale. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, series star James Marden offered some details on the creative process that led to the team locking down the future of the show’s mythology:
“It wasn’t about getting the first 10 [episodes] done, it was about mapping out what the next 5 or 6 years are going to be. We wanted everything in line so that when the very last episode airs and we have our show finale, five or seven years down the line, we knew how it was going to end the first season – that’s the way Jonah and [executive producer J.J. Abrams] operate. They’re making sure all the ducks are in the row. And it’s a testament to Jonah and Lisa and HBO that we got them right, especially the last three scripts. They could have rushed them and get spread too thin. They got them right, and when they were right, we went and shot them.”
Nolan and Joy’s original pitch was for three or four seasons, but based on these comments it sounds like they’ve expanded on some of their original ideas. In fact, Nolan draws some comparisons to another HBO series, Game of Thrones, and points out that while that show has the benefit of George R.R. Martin’s sprawling novels to draw inspiration, the existing Westworld lore is limited:
“We would joke that don’t have George, we don’t have the novels,” he says. “We have a fantastic original film, but that’s a little under two hours of storytelling. So our joke was we have to write the ‘novels’ first, and then adapt them and then go shoot them.”
But the fact that Nolan and Joy are being forced to create an entire world around the series also affords them tremendous creative opportunity, and Nolan promises that newer seasons will not be a rehash of the first:
“We didn’t want the Fantasy Island version of this [where new guests arrive at the park every season]. We wanted a big story. We wanted the story of the origin of a new species and how that would play out in its complexity.”
Personally, I love the idea of a series being envisioned with a definitive endpoint – I think it allows the creative teams to keep their eye on the prize and tell stories that ultimately lead toward that goal, rather than trying to artificially extend a show simply because it’s popular. It sounds like Nolan and Joy know exactly where they want to go with Westworld, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.
Westworld is scheduled to premiere on October 2, exclusively on HBO.
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