As the tough, no-nonsense yet decidedly not brutal head of security on Westworld, Ashley Stubbs is in an unenviable position when the Old West amusement park populated by lifelike androids faces an unexpected revolt from it’s increasingly sentient hosts as HBO’s sci-fi sensation returns for a second season.
What may have been an even bigger struggle for actor Luke Hemsworth was making it through a roundtable interview, attended by ComicBook.com, without spilling too many of the show’s closely guarded secrets, but he did offer up a few juicy tidbits -- plus some insight on which real-life acting clan will ultimately rule Hollywood.
ComicBook.com: Did you feel like you, from Season One, had a handle on who Stubbs was, and did that get upended with the work that you got in Season Two?
Luke Hemsworth: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it's constantly evolving, up until the night before you're shooting, so to say you have a handle on it is kind of true, but not really as well. I think you've got to be very flexible and just know your shit, basically. But yeah, I get to do a lot of really cool stuff. It's a progression. There's a definite through-path there, and I'm trying not to say too much.
Where is Stubbs now, in the aftermath of this huge event? Because it does seem like comparing him to the new people to whom we're introduced, the Delos folks, they seem really sadistic and all about just shooting these hosts in the head. Where is Stubbs in all of that?
Stubbs has always been… The way I always played him, it was very humane, and that he was not a torturer and did not enjoy any of the sadistic stuff. He was a worker, and he would get stuff done, but didn't take any pleasure in any of the pain. Very empathetic, I think. Empathetic. Yeah, I played him with a lot of empathy. Because I found it more interesting, you know? Because I feel like every other human in the park is a complete asshole, so there's got to be a ray of sunshine here somewhere and some hope for our species. Hopefully, Stubbs is that hope.
You said once, though, that Stubbs doesn't mind getting physical with the hosts. It almost implied that he does have a bit of a sadistic streak. Is the fact that the tables have turned perhaps what's giving him more of an empathetic outlook?
Yes, I think so. I don't know why I said that, but thank you for calling it out… No, I always had it in my head that he was a guy with a military background, and if something needed to be done, he would do it. He would take no pleasure in it, but get the job done. I think the evolution, I think, comes from seeing the suffering. I hope the empathy for, not just the other humans but the hosts as well, comes through. I think it does. I get to play with some good stuff, yeah.
This show dives into the ideas of identity and humanity and what the human condition really is. How has that made you question maybe your own humanity or identity in this world?
Definitely. I question it every day. It's funny, because I think I'm quite a positive person, and the show examines the human race's propensity towards violence. I think that was jarring for me: something that people really respond to is violence. Then, we have an innate nature to be able to hurt things.
The point of view of these people -– the people who are holidaying there are mainly doing horrendous things to these creatures who are able to simulate emotion or pain: just because they're simulated, does that mean that it's not real? If you're knowing that, and you still do it, then what does that say about you? It raises a whole lot of dark questions, I think, about what we do when there's no consequences.
Yeah, it's depressing. I mean, we examine a lot of dark things, and we shine the light at ourselves. It is dark. We are dark. Sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But maybe by shining a light on the dark stuff, we are evolving. We can evolve. I don't know.
Do you see him as somebody who was there hoping to just get his job done thoughtfully, despite all the palace intrigue going on inside the behind-the-scenes world -- was he trying to avoid that? Does he now inevitably have to deal with it, now that the shit's hit the fan?
Yeah, there was always a question of who does Stubbs actually work for, I think. That was a really interesting part in the first series. Yeah, what's his agenda? Yeah, I mean, I guess I can just say that that aspect of Stubbs is explored. We pull that apart, definitely, where he comes from and where he's going.
What can you tell us, if anything, about Stubbs's concern, if any, about Elsie?
Yeah, that's addressed as well, for sure. We shot a whole lot of stuff last year which never made the cut with me and Elsie. And I think we're kind of destined to cross paths in more ways than one. That will be explored in the second season. This feels so boring, because I can't say anything. Is it? [laughs]
We're in this era where everybody really wants to protect the surprises on a show, and you're an actor who's supposed to talk to the press, but there's this level of secrecy that's always inherent – and Westworld's at the top of that food chain. What's that experience like for you to have? I'm sure your scripts are handled in a certain way, and you're told what you can and can't say. What's the interesting side of that for you?
It's frustrating, for sure. Like I said, whether they do it on purpose or not, there are things that change at the last moment. There are things that they're holding back. Definitely, as an actor, you want all the information you can, I think. Sometimes, you get a little bit drip-fed with what's happening. But there's method to the madness, and I think it's worked. Who am I to say do it differently? But you've got to be flexible, so when that stuff happens, you just knuckle down. You get your stuff done. You make sure you know your lines, where your coming from, where you're going to, as best you can.
Is it a bit of a thrill as an actor, to not know?
I think so. I think it is. Letting go of control, trusting the directors. I think if Jonah [Nolan] wasn't as good as he is and as articulate and smart as he is, then it would be another question, but he's just a wealth of knowledge. He answers your questions until he gets tired of them, and he walks away. But he's a very precise, as well, so he's open to interpretation, but he knows exactly what he wants. I think when you're in the hands of someone like that, then it's much easier to let go and say, "All right, cool. You give me what you need to give me when you need to give it to me."
I mean, I'm a minor character, and the stuff that I'm given, I'm sure, is very different to what Evan [Rachel Wood] and Jeffrey [Wright] and everyone else is given, I think. The level and secrecy and underhanded tricks that they play on each other is, yeah, a lot more exciting.
Westworld is probably one of the most ambitious shows that's running on TV from a production standpoint, in terms of the effects and the story being told in this world. We saw a lot of what Westworld is in the first season. Are we going to see a lot more from this season? Can you tease how much bigger this all gets?
Yeah, it's huge. I mean, I never realized how huge it was. They definitely delve into that a lot deeper. The Shogun World is one part of the park. Yeah, I think everything's massive. I mean, the scope of the park is explored. Then, the scope of each character, I think, is then, just is so much deeper. Everyone gets so much good stuff.
Other than what's going on with your character, what's a storyline in Season Two that you're excited for fans to see, that excited you maybe, as a fan of the show? What character should we be following or paying attention to?
I love Maeve. I think she's awesome. Also, Lee Sizemore. I love him. I think he comes into his own in this season. He's exciting to watch, and it's really hard to pick a favorite. There's not one person in this cast that I want to fight. They're all amazing human beings, but it's a master class in acting every time you go, as well. It's a master class when you're there, and then, it's a master class when you actually watch it, and you go, "Oh, there's so much more in those moments in Diagnostics when people would… How are they doing that?" It's so good. I mean, that's what I love. I love watching the performances.
With the arrival of the Delos Corporation, there's a new character, Strand, played by Gustaf Skarsgard. His title is also head of security, is it not? Is this setting up a big problem?
Oh, yeah. In more ways than one, because he's also a Skarsgard, and Skarsgard/Hemsworth [clash]…[laughs]
Does he outrank you?
Stubbs would say no. Yeah, there's some really cool stuff for me and Gustaf. Yeah, Strand's a bit of a dark horse. But I think it's along the same lines of who are these guys. Who do they answer to? Does Stubbs answer to Strand? Stubbs would say no. Who does Strand answer to? There's good stuff coming. There's good stuff coming.
And the outcome will determine the Skarsgard/Hemsworth rivalry and which clan is dominant in Hollywood?
I mean, the Hemsworths will smack the shit out of the Skarsgards!0comments
Westworld Season Two premieres on HBO on April 22nd at 9/8c.