EXCLUSIVE: 'Westworld' Star Leonardo Nam Talks Thandie Newton, On-Set Secrets and Hopes for Season 2
By Jennifer Drysdale
Photo: Paul Smith Photography
Leonardo Nam might have been at the center of Maeve's (Thandie Newton) escape attempt in season one of Westworld, but according to the actor, he was in the dark just as much as the audience was.
ET hopped on the phone with Nam ahead of Sunday's SAG Awards (the cast of Westworld is nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series), where he dished all about the show's shocking twists -- "It really took me a minute to pick up my jaw off the floor" -- spending hours with Newton in the nude -- "She really gave all to this performance" -- and his hopes for season two -- "the creators have been very hush hush."
"There is a thing called a happy dance, and that's exactly what came out of me," the 37-year-old actor said of his reaction to the SAG nomination. "I was dancing in my living room like, 'Aw yeah!' so it's so wonderful of course to have that nomination, but then there's a little bit of the 'Ugh, what? We've got to be up against them?'"
The "them" Nam is referring to is fellow nominated ensembles The Crown, Downton Abbey, Stranger Things and Game of Thrones -- but Nam insisted he thinks Westworld has "a very good chance," despite his "old crush" on Winona Ryder.
"I am really looking forward to seeing [Ryder]," he confessed. "And then Lily Tomlin, she is an absolute god to me. I'm really just going to geek out, honestly. My head's just going to explode."
"I'm starting to get excited... I'm now starting to kick into SAG Awards gear, and getting my stylist ready," he shared. "I really enjoy fashion, so I'm excited to be a part of how this all comes together. We're gonna bang it out, girl."
Also nominated for a SAG Award is Nam's co-star and frequent scene partner, Newton, for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, and though Nam's character, Felix, literally helped bring her to life, he's not looking for any recognition.
"I really gotta give it to her. She really gave her all to this performance, and it really shows. People have really responded to her character and our storyline, so I'm just really grateful to be part of it," he said.
"It was super nerve-wracking for me an an actor [to work with Newton], but when I was working with her, it was just so wonderful, because not only is she an ultimate professional, but always so loving and so caring, not only about the work, but about us and our relationship," he added. "She was just so wonderful, just so darling and really took me under her wing."
The two definitely got to know each other well during the season, and not just because Newton performed most of her scenes in the nude.
"The themes and the whole show is so intense... and then on top of that, you had the reality of [working with your co-stars] in the nude, and having to work in those confines," Nam admitted. "But it was great. Absolutely wonderful."
Another challenge of shooting the HBO drama was the series' several-month hiatus before filming the last four episodes, which Nam says didn't change his character so much as it did the atmosphere on set.
"It was actually a blessing in a way, because shooting-wise for the whole production was so intense because there was so much secretive things kept under wraps. It kind of helped us have a little bit of breathing room," he revealed, adding that he, very much like his character, went though the series blind to most of the twists and turns.
"I feel like my character is so much like the audience. My character only sees things as they are revealed," Nam described. "Production was very good at keeping things hush-hush and people only saw their storyline. Even when I was watching it, I had no idea at all."
"There's that scene in the finale where I discover that [Bernard] (Jeffrey Wright) is a host, and I remember so clearly reading that and being like, 'What? What is going on?' and it really took me a minute to pick up my jaw off the floor," he laughed. "And [series co-creator] Jonah [Nolan] had to say, 'Right, Leo, let's get this going.' I was like, 'What is going on?' so that reaction [on screen] was real."
"The funny thing is [when] watching the show, I knew in my head, of course, that Bernard was a host because I had shot that scene, and I kept thinking, 'Oh, you know, that's the big reveal in the finale,' and then yet when he says, 'I don't see a door. What door?' in episode seven, my jaw dropped," Nam recalled. "Even I was floored by that."
Though Nam appreciates the many scenes he shared with Newton, Wright is among many of his co-stars he wished he spent more time with, in addition to Rodrigo Santoro, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Evan Rachel Wood and Anthony Hopkins. Someone he bonded with right away, however, was fellow Australian Luke Hemsworth.
"As soon as I knew he was Aussie, I'd make the Australia call ("Aussie Aussie Aussie") and then he'd make the call back, 'Oi Oi Oi!' so we bonded," Nam explained. "His birthday, ironically enough, is the same birthday as me, so we're twins. So I gave him an Aussie flag koozie."
As for what season two holds for Nam, he says he's just as "interested to find out what they're going to do" as the audience.
"The creators have been very hush-hush about that," he said. "I got a little teary-eyed thinking about [Maeve's decision to return to the park in the season finale], but my feeling is that Felix is just like crapping his pants at that point."
"I hope [in season two], Felix finds a way to freedom. He's a very brave character, and I think you were starting to see glimpses of that," he added. "I would love to see that bravery and that courageous heart come out more in the park."