'Westworld' Star Katja Herbers on That Shocking Family Twist and Playing 'Westworld Royalty' (Exclusive)


The 37-year-old Dutch actress tells ET she knew 'nothing' about her character's arc -- or big surprise -- before stepping onto set.

"Hi, Dad."

Those were the two words that changed the game on Sunday’s episode of Westworld, revealing that the Man in Black’s (Ed Harris) daughter, Emily (Katja Herbers), is in the park -- and has some unfinished business to attend to.

Viewers were first introduced to the character last week, watching a stunning and equally cunning brunette maneuver her way in and out of Delos’ colonial India-inspired park, The Raj. With the help of her trusty (and secret-filled?) notebook, she was able to realize the park was off-script, outchase a tiger, survive a huge fall, and escape a pack of rogue Native American hosts in order to encounter her father at the end of Sunday’s episode.

Emily, of course, made an appearance as a little girl at her grandfather’s retirement party in season two, episode two. But according to Herbers -- who won the role after sending in a taped audition from Holland without seeing the first season -- this Emily’s a little less innocent and a lot more determined.

“She's kind of Westworld royalty, in a way, her father being the Man in Black, her grandfather being [James] Delos (Peter Mullan), Logan (Ben Barnes) being her uncle,” Herbers described in an interview with ET. “She grew up in this really, really wealthy family. She's been to the park many, many times.”

“She's very good at the game but she does come to the park in a moment of complete chaos, and she's there on a personal mission to talk to her dad,” she said.

So, what’s in store for the character? Read on to find out.

ET: Your character was billed as “Grace” when we first met her in episode three, but her line at the end of episode four suggests she’s actually Emily, the Man in Black’s daughter. When did you find out about the twist?

I didn't know anything before signing on. I knew that I was there on a mission and that I was going to the park. In my audition, [I read] fake sides, because it's all so secretive, but it did involve somebody going to the park and trying to talk to someone who she had something to talk about with, So, I got the general gist of the type of character they wanted, and then on my first day, Lisa Joy said, 'Do you have a second to talk? I might have to tell you a few things about your character.' And she sort of laid my whole storyline out, and then I was very, very excited to work with Ed Harris, and it was a dream come true.

ET: We saw Emily tell Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) that she’s “not looking to get out of here." What is her endgame?

I think what we can take from that is that it's serious. She's not leaving until she's talked to her dad. She's there on a mission and even though it might be life-threatening to stay, she's not going to leave. She's brave and she thinks she can handle it, and she has a bigger fish to fry.

ET: From what we’ve already seen, Emily is smart, cunning and confident. How would you describe her?

We know from the first season that the Man in Black mentions to Teddy (James Marsden), she mentions his daughter, and says, “She's angry with me. Her mother, my wife, died in the bathtub, and she says it has to do with me.” That's sort of what I had in the back of my head, and my father being the Man in Black, you can imagine that he's probably not someone who was around very much growing up, so I think she has some stuff to clear up with him.

ET: How will we see them interact with each other?

I mean, you'll have to see. I can't spoil anything, but it's a very rich relationship. He only has one daughter, I only have one father. They care about each other. They've gone through a huge trauma, and he's in this park, and the person who he is in this park is a monster. So, there's a lot to talk about.


ET: What was it like working with Ed Harris? I hear he’s a great scene partner.

Oh my god, that was really, really the high point of my career. He was just so incredibly sweet and so caring and there for me in the scenes, and I immediately felt a great connection to him. It was strange because I wasn't too nervous, but that's because he treated me in such a sweet way and it was a very profound connection, if that makes any sense.

ET: Do you find it hard working on a project where you can’t necessarily see the end game?

I come from the theater, and I do kind of like to know the arc of a story and be able to build my character in that way, but I just went with what they wanted. It's different from anything I've done, and I wouldn't want to change anything about it. Jonah and Lisa are such geniuses and I just went with how they wanted to do it, and it's a really wild ride. There's a lot to be shot in a short period of time.

ET: Do you know how everything plays out this season?

I read all the episodes that I'm in, but because I didn't get the scripts when I wasn't in an episode, I had to piece stuff together, so I'm really excited to find out watching. I have to say, I had to watch the first season three times to fully grasp the depth of it and to really see that there's really not a single detail in that show that isn't connected to something else, so I in no way think that because I'm in the show, I understand what the second season is going to bring. It's going to be a lot more than what I imagine.

ET: We’re almost halfway through the season. What can you tell us about Emily’s journey?

It’s a reckoning of sorts.

ET: What do you hope viewers take away from Emily’s presence on the show?

I hope they're invested in her and are rooting for her, maybe find her strange or complicated or intrigued by her. I just hope that they're on board with her storyline and they want to see where she's going to go. I just love how complicated she is, and how in the first introduction we see her starting to have sex with a guy who she first shoots. She's a little different.

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