'Westworld' Producer Insists Violence in HBO Drama Is Handled 'With Dignity'


HBO’s upcoming star-studded thriller, Westworld, is ambitious.

Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film, the new 10-episode drama series takes place at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, and boasts an enviable cast led by Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright.

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Notably, Westworld -- executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan -- isn’t afraid to dig into the deep, dark tresses of the human psyche, including the worst parts of human nature. As had been the theme all morning on Saturday at the summer Television Critics Association press tour, Westworld producers were asked to address the show’s unapologetic take on violence and sexual violence, in particular.

“It was definitely something that was heavily discussed and heavily considered as we were working on the scenes,” executive producer Lisa Joy told reporters on Saturday. “Westworld is an examination of human nature, the best parts of human nature -- we explore eternal love, romantic love -- but also the basis parts of human nature, and that includes violence, that includes sexual violence. Violence and sexual violence has sadly been a fact of human history since the beginning of human history.”

“There’s something about us -- thankfully not the majority of us -- but there are people who engage in violence, people who are addicted to violence and that continues to this day. So when we were tackling a project about a park in which the hosts can come there and do whatever you want, whatever desire you have with impunity, without consequence, it seemed like it was an issue that we had to address,” she continued.

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“Now, when addressing it, there’s a lot of thinking that goes into it. Sexual violence, not only for me but for everybody, is an issue that we take very, very seriously and it’s extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying,” she added. “And so in its portrayal we really endeavored not to [portray] a fetishization of those acts, it is about exploring the crime and establishing the crime and the toll of the characters within this story and exploring their stories, hopefully with dignity and depth, and that’s what we endeavored to do.”

Viewers will have to wait at least two more months to make their own conclusions about Westworld, but it’s clear the creative team has embraced the conversation in a serious manner.

premieres Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.