A show about human-like robots that break their programming may have seemed far-fetched when it first came out back in 2016, but as Westworld returns for a fourth series advances in driverless cars, body part printing, and even claims of sentient AI at Google suggest we’re catching up with the sci-fi.
Tessa Thompson who returns as the villainous Charlotte Hale – or at least a version of her – told Sky News’s Backstage Podcast one of the great things about the programme is that it’s relatable.
“It’s so nice to be able to make something that feels like it’s speaking to something that is really happening – that is both of its time and ahead of it in a way,” she said.
“And also that it’s sort of a postcard of this current cultural moment that we’re in – I really love things that speak to the zeitgeist in a real, honest way.”
And one of the things that does seem to be reflected in the new series is the pandemic.
Though showrunner Lisa Joy says because the programme is rooted in reality it’s always going to seem relevant to what’s happening in society.
“It’s been a very strange process where we just happened to coincide with certain things that are happening in history – I remember when the first season came out, everybody was like, were you inspired by MeToo? And it was like, we did this before MeToo and I think we were inspired by existing in a universe where sexism is rampant.”
“It’s just more kind of observing what’s in the water, and so we weren’t at all consciously making a pandemic season, but I think that there are different kinds of pandemics that are abrew in society today right.”
“One is the actual coronavirus, but there are synthetic viruses that are permeating the minds of people and I think social media is a really scary thing, and I think there are ways to injure people’s health through their minds as well as their bodies, and so that has very much been on my mind.”
For returning cast members, being in the show has certainly affected how they feel about new technology.
“I don’t have Alexa, social media frightens me to my very core, I don’t like any of the things in my house listening to me,” said Evan Rachel Wood who has played Dolores since the first episode but returns as another character in series four.
“I have a self-driving car though, you can’t really escape it, but it definitely is absolutely terrifying.
“And I definitely look at technology differently after being on the show – I don’t know how you could not.”
Aaron Paul who joined the show in series three agreed.
“It’s hard not to think: Wait, are we all just in a simulation right now? You know, is this all make believe?”
“It’s pretty fascinating, yeah it’s crazy”.
But Ed Harris, who is back as the man in black after going in a different direction in the third season, says while he doesn’t embrace new technology, it’s nothing to do with his role on the show.
“Things are moving fast, you know, and I’m not moving as fast as the world, I got to say,” Harris admitted.
“The show to me is unto itself, I don’t really think about it in terms of the world we live in, to tell you the truth.”
“It’s its own animal and I’ve got a role to play and I try to fulfil it to the best of my ability, but I don’t really spend a lot of time analysing what it is or what it means, I just don’t.”
The multi-award winning programme is obsessed over by its fans who hunt for clues and Easter eggs in every episode, but perhaps audiences should instead be asking just how close to our world Westworld really is.
Westworld is available from Monday on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW – hear our review in the latest episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News.