Last year’s exciting, brutal “Westworld” season finale featured Maeve Millay’s (Thandie Newton) escape from the theme park.
Viewers thrilled to the prospect of Maeve, a “host” who figured out how her behavior was being masterminded by Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and his employees, turning the tables on her oppressors and getting out.
Then a strange thing happened. Maeve made it all the way to the “Westworld” exit — leaving several dead bodies in her wake — and boarded the train that would take her to freedom. And then she changed her mind, getting off and going back up the escalator to the entrance.
The British-born Newton explains what was going through Maeve’s mind at that pivotal moment. “She’s surrounded by humans [on the train]. She’s completely hypnotized by them,” she says. “It has nothing to do with the programming. She recognizes the first semblance of a feeling. She’s going back to find what she left … Her daughter (Jasmyn Rae). How long she stays there is anyone’s guess.”
Despite its large cast of regular and recurring characters, Maeve, a world-weary brothel madam at the theme-park’s Mariposa saloon, emerged as one of the series’ most intriguing characters. The role earned Newton, 45, her first Emmy and Golden Globe nominations (both as Best Supporting Actress). Although Maeve is ostensibly a robot, she’s one of the few on “Westworld” who was programmed with a sense of humor. She suffers no fools, even when Newton is made to perform scenes stark naked with a couple of chumps dressed in lab coats.
Surprisingly, the actress says she found the nudity on the show “empowering.
“I chose to be naked,” she says. “I’ve had people [in other productions] lie to me, saying where the shot will end on my [naked] body. So I was fine with playing a character who’s not titillating with her nudity. In one scene, Maeve’s lying on a table with her stomach cut open with two guys talking bullshit above her. A lot of the feedback I get has been gratitude for showing nudity as vulnerability.
“It’s there to show the degradation of the tech world.”
Newton has finished filming all of Season 2’s episodes, though she hasn’t seen any of the finished product yet. “We all worked really hard and we’re deeply proud of what we did, but we barely saw each other’s work,” she says. The biggest difference between the first and second seasons on the show is that the cast members no longer confide in Jeffrey Wright, who plays Bernard. “If anybody knew anything [about future storylines], you had to tell it,” Newton says. “So when Jeffrey knew [Bernard] was a host a long time before we all did, we were cross with him. No shares-ies anymore with Jeffrey.”
Newton may talk shop with her fellow “Westworld” actors but she follows HBO company guidelines about discretion about what may or may not transpire with Maeve when her storyline picks up again. For instance, she knows what was in the bag Maeve left on the theme-park train, but will not say what was inside. She will confirm that the park will get bigger and bigger, though.
“Characters you’ve grown to love are challenged to get where they need to be,” she says.
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