Westworld is tackling a problem that so often inhibits the progress of long-running television shows. As opposed to making up the story as they go along, Westworld showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have been overseeing the development of the coming HBO over the next five seasons. The process of getting so involved with the story this early on in Westworld‘s development has been especially challenging, because, unlike Game of Thrones, to which the new series has already been compared, Westworld doesn’t have a series of novels from which to draw inspiration. The only source material for this new HBO sci-fi series is the 1973 Michael Crichton-written film.
Westworld Boss Lisa Joy Says The Show Is “Complicated And Ambitious”
In speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Westworld showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan revealed that last January’s production hiatus wasn’t implemented just to catch up on writing the story arc for this first season. The executive producers also used the time to move forward with the story through the next five seasons, and Ms. Joy adds that taking that break also provided time to finesse the story. Overall, she says the Westworld writing team worked on fleshing out character arcs and getting a better grasp on the mythology of Westworld.
“It’s a really complex interlocking story. We knew where we wanted to go and we knew exactly how the season ended where the kind of character arcs ended, but weaving those scripts and writing the dialogue for all these brilliant actors, it takes time.”
In many series, writers and producers take things one season at a time, but the Westworld team wanted to get everything in order from the very beginning, using Season 1 to set the stage for the entire series. Getting deep into the story in this way will prevent most plot holes, a problem that often plagues other long-running shows, but it also helps to tell a better story by giving everyone a goal to work towards. James Marsden, who stars as Westworld character Teddy Wood, appreciates this unique method of television development, because he feels it has helped the Westworld showrunners to tell a much more believable tale.
“And it’s a testament to Jonah and Lisa and HBO that we got them right, especially the last three scripts,” Marsden adds. “They could have rushed them and get spread too thin. They got them right, and when they were right, we went and shot them.”
Westworld Bosses Created Their Own Source Material
Slash Film shares that, even from the beginning, Nolan and Joy already had an idea about where they wanted to take Westworld and they shared those ideas freely, when they pitched the series to HBO executives. Coming up with that plan and following that up with plotting out the next five-to-seven years has been no easy task, says Nolan, especially because, unlike Game of Thrones, there isn’t a source novel from which to draw up those plans. Nolan says the Westworld writers have had to basically write out a complete novel from Michael Crichton’s film and then adapt that into a series.
“We would joke that [we] don’t have George, we don’t have the novels,” Nolan says. “We have a fantastic original film, but that’s a little under two hours of storytelling. So our joke was we have to write the ‘novels’ first, and then adapt them and then go shoot them.”
So what story have they come up with for Westworld? Neither Nolan nor Joy could be compelled to spoil the experience, but they did share what Westworld will not be. Jonathan says he doesn’t want Westworld compared to Fantasy Island, where new guests are introduced each week, begetting entirely new story arcs for each episode. Instead, Westworld will tell one, epic story, exploring the introduction of a new species and how that will affect the complexities already existent in our society.
“The greatest work never comes easy, and in my opinion, that’s what we were dealing with,” Westworld actor Marsden adds. “This show is very ambitious and grand in scale and in themes and very expensive with a giant cast. And bigger than all of that is what this show wants to say.”
Westworld is set to premiere on Sunday, October 2, on HBO.
[Image by HBO]