“It was incredible. It was much more healing than I thought it was going to be,” Wood told PEOPLE at Los Angeles' PaleyFest tribute to the often violent but always thought-provoking sci-fi series

By Scott Huver
March 28, 2017 03:43 PM

Westworld hasn’t been especially kind to Evan Rachel Wood’s character Dolores Abernathy, but the actress reveals that addressing the HBO series’ tough issues and themes and their impact on her own life head on helped her find a new level of peace.

“It was incredible. It was much more healing than I thought it was going to be,” Wood told PEOPLE at Los Angeles’ PaleyFest tribute to the often violent but always thought-provoking sci-fi series.

The frequent brutality and sexual abuse her character — an artificial being at the mercy of futuristic human visitors playing out fantasies in a simulated Old West environment — experiences prompted Wood, 29, to speak publicly and frankly about two sexual assaults she herself has experienced, as well as revealing her own experiences coming to understand her bisexuality.

“It was terrifying at first and very overwhelming,” Wood conceded. “Then it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Honestly, playing this role was a real catalyst in that — and everything that she went through and her journey, and overcoming this trauma, and finding a strength she didn’t know was there. I think going on that journey with her by proxy kind of helped me with my own demons. So it was a real blessing.”

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“I’ve been in a good place for a while, for sure,” the actress, who since the series premiere last fall has shared her personal stories in hopes of helping others struggling with similar issues, continued. “A lot of it also has to do with my son. So yeah, I’m at a certain kind of peace, and I’m happy, and I’m doing what I love, and I’m on this awesome show that brings up conversations like that, and I have the opportunity to talk about it and hopefully make a dent.”

Wood shares a son with her former husband, actor Jamie Bell, and in January announced her engagement to Zach Villa, her bandmate in the electropop duo Rebel and a Basketcase. The couple is taking their time to bask in their engagement before diving into any ceremony planning.

“I think we’re enjoying it. I’m excited about it. We’re really happy,” she said, noting that at the moment their creative collaboration is front and center. “I’m definitely not planning any weddings yet. There’s way too much going on. We have to finish our album first!”

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