'Westworld': How That 'Key' Cameo Could Change the Game for Season 2 (Exclusive)

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HBO

There’s a new El Lazo in town.

Sunday’s episode of Westworld saw the Man in Black (Ed Harris) reunite with his old partner in crime, Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), on his hunt for Ford’s door, but this time, Lawrence was just Lawrence -- and Giancarlo Esposito was El Lazo… and also kind of Ford.

“This game was meant for you, William. But you must play it alone,” he cryptically told the Man in Black as a message from the park's deceased creator. “I’ll see you in the valley beyond, William.”

It was a delightful cameo before El Lazo and his men blew their brains out -- but according to Esposito, the scene could hold more value than we realize.

“Somewhere in that character is the key to the game," he told ET. "He may be the key to Ford, he may be the key to the Man in Black, but somewhere in this relationship is the key to what it's all about, and I like that. I like that I can be a part of that puzzle piece.”

Find out more on Esposito’s cameo and what it means for the season below.

ET: Were you a big Westworld fan from season one? How did this cameo come to be?

Giancarlo Esposito: I was familiar with the show. I was more familiar with the original movie, which I loved the concept of completely. And I loved how it was adapted. I had seen maybe one or two episodes of season one and thought, 'Wow, what a great creative team behind it,' but never expressed to anyone that it was something that I would want to do. I've been doing another show called Better Call Saul, and as it turns out, Lisa Joy and Melissa Bernstein over at Saul, I think know each other, and I get a call saying they want to send you some Westworld scripts, or at least talk to you about doing a cameo on the show. And then I get an email from my folks at Saul just in support of that particular creative team.

So it came with strong support, and then once I looked at the outlines for what they were trying to do with the character El Lazo, I got excited, and it was at that point in time that I got on the phone with them and from our conversation, got me even more excited about the possibilities. And I said, 'Hey, why not?' It's a quality show with quality writing and really, really, a great production team at HBO behind it, so I decided to do it. I've been a longtime fan of that Western genre, and certainly a genre that captures the ferocity of the old Western with the intellectual, contemporary ideas of our contemporary, modern world, with something that really captivated and got my attention.

So you only saw a few episodes of season one -- how did they pitch El Lazo’s arc to you?

I really wasn't familiar with the character, but they were very explicit in their explanation that Clifton was El Lazo before, which I love Clifton as an actor, and I love Ed. That just ripened my appetite, and in this particular scene, I don't think he realizes it. And also the connection to Ford who is dead, but in our timeline, could be anywhere within this alternate reality, this alternate world. And the fact that he's sending a message to the Man in Black through me is also very interesting. There are secrets here which we're going to find out later. But they were very clear about how they explained it to me, even though it was a little bit hard to follow. I kind of unraveled it and understood what they wanted me to understand, but I know that there's more. But it certainly envibed the scene with a great amount of urgency and also a great amount of mystery as to where they might be going in this season, which I like this trajectory. I think it's great.

How long after the call did you start filming?

I think it was about two weeks later. And we shot it in two nights. We just kept going and just got it. So it was a quick in and out, and I certainly was sad for that, but I always like it when we are able to be satisfied in what we did achieve in the timing we achieved it. And we really, we were able to keep it a secret, which was great, so I'm excited for Sunday.

El Lazo dies in this episode, but death isn’t always finite in Westworld, especially with the hosts. Could we see you coming back?

I think it's very, very possible. I know I had such a good chemistry with Ed, who again, I've known for a while, and we are really great acting, sparring partners. It doesn't at all surprise me that I'd come into a role for a brief moment and die, but the possibility of me coming back in a completely different incarnation, for me, is very, very exciting.

You had a similarly awesome death on Breaking Bad. Which one was the coolest to film?

Well, it's hard to top our Breaking Bad death. You know, when you go through four and a half hours of makeup and you don't recognize yourself when you turn around in the mirror, that says something. So I have to say that still reverberates in my consciousness as one of the best deaths ever. Just ever. But you never know. Westworld is still going, and there could be some fantastic things that happen there as well. But certainly, I'd have to say that Breaking Bad death -- Gustavo Fring is still with me.

What stood out to you from filming that scene with Ed and Clifton?

I stayed quiet on the set most of the time because -- especially if it’s such a short period of time that you're there, and television shoots so quickly -- I want to be able to access all the different vibrations and emotions that I could possibly put into the scene, even in an alternate way, that's not talked about or expected. You get a few takes where you have the opportunity to do something that you don't really expect to do.

Ed and I both walked away from each other constantly, because we both upped each other's game. We just made great music together. And that's what acting is, you know, it's not trying to overcome. It's trying to be present in the moment. And in one take, he slammed me with this huge fricking pistol that he carries, and when he smacked me with this gun and I didn't stop, I think it amazed him. You know, his instinct was to stop, and I whispered to him, 'OK. go,’ and he just kept going.

That must have been fun.

When you get an actor who really is about playing, not trying to slay you, kill you, be better than you, but trying to make the music of the words feel and sound like poetry, coupled with the visual, physicality that we have to orchestrate as actors, there's nothing like it. So I would come back a million times over to experience that, with the creativity of the writing and the explanations of the director and our creators, who really have a vision for this show. This makes television better, and it's the reason that we're in this golden age.

I look for the deepening of our humanity through our entertainment, through the stories we tell and how we tell them. And I love shows that do that, and I think Westworld really, really supports that and exemplifies that model of top notch storytelling with ideas that move us forward, that we can apply to our lives. And yet, in the end, we can still have fun and be entertained.

The cast is always trying to put together the puzzle pieces on the show. How much of season two have you figured out?

You know, I haven't figured out much. It's really interesting because I don't get those scripts I'm not in, so now having been a part of this whole, very, very secretive operation, I have to wait just like all the other fans to sort of look at it and go, 'Oh!' And I'm sure it's going to be a great illumination on my part in terms of my character, too, down the road, after the reverberation of me actually being there and participated and gone. So I'm reverting back to my fandom of the show, and now I'm truly hooked, because I'm in it. So, I'll have to watch it like everyone else and start to figure it out. 

What’s it like to work on a show with so much secrecy, hype and speculation? I’m assuming it’s a much different level than Breaking Bad.

It is a different level. When I went back to Breaking Bad in season four and no one knew I was coming back, I had to keep that a secret for maybe four months. Going in and out of Albuquerque, they asked me if I could not look like myself. For me, it's a bigger operation, though. Everything today is watermarked with my name, all scripts, everything else, they don't want to send me anything that's not blacked out. They'll call me and explain it to me and tell me what the lines are when I can't really see them on paper. It's become that kind of world, but in a way, I like it. I've always loved James Bond as a kid, so I feel like, 'Oh now I've really become that James Bond character who has so many secrets and so many ways out of those secrets into other secrets,’ that I feel like the International Man of Mystery. So, it's been fun.

Westworld airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

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