We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Angela Sarafyan, who plays the role of Clementine Pennyfeather on HBO’s new hit sci-fi series Westworld. She gave us some great insight into the minds of the hosts.
Westworld, loosely based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name, explores the current human fascination and dependency on technology, while exposing what our deepest darkest desires would be without any consequence.
"The show really makes you use your brain, and asks serious questions that people might be too afraid to ask outloud," Sarafyan says.
The theme park is full of intelligent, human-like AI hosts, who are programmed to grant each human guest with whatever they wish. Although the hosts are locked into their own narrative loop, they are constantly abused, sexually assaulted, and brutally murdered by the guests.
Each evening their memories are wiped, reset, and put back in the park to start all over again, but as Angela said “I think just because those memories get erased doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain, fear, or sadness in the moment, they just wake up with a clean-slate from the day before.”
Angela Sarafyan’s character Clementine Pennyworth is an AI prostitute at the local brothel in the entry town of Sweetwater. She has a way of innocence about her - she is kind, caring, and doesn’t have a sinister “bone” in her body, making her the ideal woman for any visitor.
“What the host receives is what they are able to give. The guests that visit the park are all types of people seeking different things, but some guests can be dangerous and take advantage of the hosts in very savage ways,” she explains.
When William and Logan first get to the park, William stopped to help a host who had fallen off a horse. Clementine was instantly attracted to his kindness and approached him on her own without direction. When William rejects her in the bedroom, she simply says, “true love is worth waiting for.” Clementine eventually does fall in love with a guest!
Unlike the other hosts we have already met, Clementine doesn’t have a nightmarish backstory, but she does, in fact, have nightmares which are actually memories or slivers of past storylines.
“Clementine has nightmares, but they are a part of her past narrative. Even though the hosts have their daily memories erased and rebooted every night [by Delos employees], that doesn’t mean that everything is forgotten…those memories are still in there somewhere underneath all the layers. Like when you delete things off of your cell phone, where does it go? It has to go somewhere, right?”
She also explained the hosts in a way we haven’t thought of before:
“I think of the hosts as vulnerable innocent children, who wake up each day with no expectations and no idea what horrible things might to happen to them. Even though it’s off-camera or not shown, the hosts are learning from what they hear, see, and smell around them…all of their senses are alive. They are like sponges, soaking up everything in the present moment without anything else cluttering their brains…learning and evolving."
As far as what the hosts do with what they learn, "the information and pain they take in gets them to evolve outside of their programming, even if the traumatic things that happen to them are erased."
Sarafyan went on to explain that the hosts are highly-intelligent creatures who are only getting smarter.
“They are a lot smarter than anyone would ever think, they are evolving away from being controlled. It’s very possible that they become smarter than their creator...they are much more in control than we think. Like Dolores and Maeve have both been awakened and are no longer under the control of their programming…the first hint was Dolores killing the fly in the first episode and then how she lied straight to Dr. Ford’s face when he asked her if she was hearing voices in Episode 5."
In talking with Sarafyan, she told us what makes her the happiest about Westworld, “that the audience is sympathizing with the hosts.”
Westworld airs every Sunday evening at 8 p.m. on HBO