Westworld actresses Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood are defending the sexual violence depicted in their new show

By Dave Quinn
Updated October 01, 2016 02:05 PM
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Credit: Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Actresses Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood are defending the controversial sexual violence depicted in HBO’s sci-fi series Westworld.

A remake of the 1973 film of the same name, the show takes place in a futuristic pleasure park where men pay to interact with 3D-printed robots – many of them female – built to do their bidding. That often includes acts of violence, rape and murder.

The robots, called “hosts,” are not allowed to harm humans and have their memories wiped at the end of each day. The show begins when an error in a programming update provide the bots with flashes of their previous trauma.

At a roundtable discussion at the Four Seasons Hotel in Silicon Valley on Thursday reported on by BuzzFeed, Newton and Wood – who both play “hosts” in the show – argued Westworld‘s depiction of rape is both sensitive and responsible.

A victim of sexual abuse herself, Newton promised, “we get to see the consequence and ramifications of this violence, the cost of this violence.”

“We’re looking at it from so many different points of view,” she continued. “The perpetrator, the person who has been affected by it, the people who are complicit by being around it. I mean, when do you ever really get a narrative where you get to see it from those different points of view? I think that’s incredibly valuable. But the only way we can really look at it is by showing it.”

Wood agreed: “You have an obligation as a storyteller to raise awareness and to show the horrors of that so that people aren’t desensitized to it,” she explained. “I don’t think there’s anything titillating about what we’re doing. It’s all horrific, as it should be.”

While the rapes are not depicted on screen in the first four episodes that have been released to press, Wood said that doesn’t stop the viewer from understanding the horrors of the assaults. “You never see a scene of like rape or anything, but you know it’s going to happen,” she said.

Newton also stressed the sexual violence on the show is never played for a rise and never ignored.

“It’s not like we’ll show you this, then we’ll distract you and show you something else so you forgot that you’ve seen something so f—ing disgusting and that you don’t even have time to really sit with it and process it and challenge it in your own mind,” she said.

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She added, “I think it’s hugely responsible and sensitive filmmaking to be brave enough to put this stuff out there, frankly. Because it’s the opposite of what we want to promote as a team.”

Executive producer J.J. Abrams and married series showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have previously defended the sexual assaults in the show.

Westworld is an examination of human nature,” Joy told the Television Critics Association, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “The best parts of human nature – paternal love, romantic love, finding oneself – but also the basis for parts of human nature – violence and sexual violence. When we were tackling a project about a park with a premise where you can come there and do whatever desire you want with impunity and without consequence, it seemed like an issue we had to address.”

“Sexual violence is an issue we take seriously,” she said. “It’s extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying. And in its portrayal, we endeavored for it to not be about the fetishization of those acts. It’s about exploring the crime, establishing the crime and the torment of the characters within this story and exploring their stories hopefully with dignity and depth and that’s what what we endeavored to do.”

Said Abrams, according to BuzzFeed: “You can’t tell a story about oppression without depicting the oppressed.”

Westworld premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.