Created for television by Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy, the dark odyssey Westworld is about what happens when the artificial consciousness that you’ve programmed begins to develop a plan of its own. Its strong, compelling, violent and provocative first season made it HBO’s most-watched freshman series ever, and its 10-episode second season is sure to be even more mind-blowing, with twists and turns that you won’t see coming.
At a press day for the launch of the new season, Collider (along with a small handful of other outlets) participated in a roundtable interview with actor Luke Hemsworth to chat about his role as Stubbs, how Season 2 felt compared to Season 1, working on a TV series where he never knows what’s coming next, learning more about just who’s behind the theme park, why he loves Shogun world, keeping secrets from his friends and family, and the tagline he’d give Season 2. He also talked about how much fun he had on Thor: Ragnarok, and how he’s trying to convince them to let him return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Question: So, what kind of challenges will the head of park security face, in Season 2?
LUKE HEMSWORTH: The challenge of losing control. It’s really cool. I get to do some great stuff. I get to pull Stubbs apart again and go deeper into where he is and where he comes from, and stand opposite some of the greatest actors. It’s awesome!
What was the atmosphere on set for Season 2, as opposed to Season 1?
HEMSWORTH: It was a lot of work and long hours, and no information, ever, about anything and things changing, at the last minute, all the time. You surrender, a little bit. You can complain about it until the cows come home, but nothing changes, so you just let go and learn to deal with it. You have to learn to be fluid and go where you’re needed, when you’re needed. You’ve gotta be flexible. I think that’s what acting is. You’ve just gotta be ready, all the time.
How do you psych yourself up to be on a set where you don’t know what’s going happen or what material you’re going to be getting?
HEMSWORTH: I don’t know. It’s hard because actors are quite controlling. We feel that we need as much information about everything, always, all the time. I think maybe it’s a little ego-driven. It’s also liberating to let go. I think everyone felt like that, this season. There was this resignation about how there’s just nothing else you can do. Your hands are tied. But we know the material so good and we’re getting great stuff, so we have nothing to complain about. We’re there a long time, but the crew is there for hours before us and hours after us, and they never complain. They’re troopers. They just hang in there and keep on going. I think they’re actually robots.
Did they ramp up the secrecy from Season 1 to Season 2?
HEMSWORTH: A little. They’re pretty consistent with drip feeding you the information and telling you nothing. They told us nothing this season. That’s part of the surrender. You know that they’re doing things on purpose, and you can ask Jonah [Nolan] and Lisa [Joy] questions, all day long, but they’ll skirt around and change the subject. By the end, Jonah was just like, “Okay, that’s your one question,” and then would walk off. You’d be like, “Hey, what about . . .,” and he’d be like, “Nope, see you tomorrow!”
Do you feel like you know more or less about what’s going on, at this point, than your character knows about what’s going on?
HEMSWORTH: I know my character definitely knows less than I do. Poor little Stubbs. He’s constantly peeking over people’s shoulders and saying, “Hey, what’s happening? Can I be in this conversation?” It’s good fun. If Jonah and Lisa weren’t such amazing human beings, who are a wealth of knowledge and very open with everything that they do, I think it would be a different story. There would be a lot more angst on set, and a lot more chagrin. But, they’re amazing. They are like encyclopedias of film. They’re encyclopedias of the show, so surrendering that control is easy when you’re in those hands. If it was anyone else, then it would be tough.
Does it feel safer that your character doesn’t know as much as some of the others because it seems like when you know too much on this show, you end up dead?
HEMSWORTH: Yeah, for sure! I’m a little character. I have my little journey, which is interesting in Stubbs’ world, but compared to the incredible transformations that the hosts are going through, it’s minuscule. So, there’s a little comfort.
Since your character doesn’t know too much, how does that affect your arc, over the course of the season?
HEMSWORTH: Stubbs is always just one step behind. But, I can’t say how it affects my arc.
In the first season, we learned that the theme park isn’t necessarily a huge money driver, and that there’s something larger at play. Does your character factor in on that?
HEMSWORTH: Yeah. That’s a question we played with, right from the beginning. Who does Stubbs actually work for? Who does he owe his allegiance to? What is this Delos Corporation? Who does he call, at the end of the day? So, yeah, we do delve deeply into that. Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and his team coming in is another point of friction. Stubbs will say that he has authority over Strand, and Strand will say that he has authority over Stubbs. Plus, he’s a Gustaf Skarsgård, and the Skarsgårds and Hemsworths are gonna throw down.
What do you like most about Season 2?
HEMSWORTH: I love Shogun world. It’s so beautiful. The performances are beautiful. It’s like classic Japanese cinema, with a little Westworld twist. It’s so cool. I think people will be blown away by that, and a few other things. It’s so hard to pick one thing. It’s so good.
Do your friends and family try to get show secrets from you?
HEMSWORTH: Part of the strength of the show is that it’s nice to not know. It’s like having a baby and not finding out what sex it is. It’s the last true surprise. I don’t want to give anything away because it makes watching more enjoyable. So, I keep all of the secrets closely guarded. I enjoy watching it with my wife because I don’t tell her anything, throughout the season, when I’m shooting. I barely even get her to run lines with me anymore, just because it would give too much away. So, it’s great to watch it with her and rediscover all of those little things that you forget. You can read those scripts three times and still be going, “I don’t get it,” and then watch it and go, “Oh, that’s what that means!” It’s cool. You rediscover the storylines, as well.
Do you have any particularly memorable funny moments on set?
HEMSWORTH: Me and Fares Fares probably laughed more than I’ve ever laughed on set with anyone. He has a tattoo on his arm, which basically says, “Bugs suck.” He is really, really afraid of insects, so I would go out of my way to make sure that there were always insects and various creatures around. He hates bugs. That’s so weird. Whereas I, ironically, take a lot of photos of bugs, for some reason.