Westworld: 9 Symbolic Details About The Show
Westworld is one of our favorite TV shows; however, even we were surprised to dig up some of these facts! What secret meanings are decoded in the names of the Westworld characters? Why was James Marsden embarrassed to shoot scenes with Anthony Hopkins? Which real-life locations were used for the futuristic settings in Season 3?
Let’s have a closer look at the hugely symbolic details the Westworld creators have hidden in the story. But be careful! There are some major spoilers ahead, especially if you haven’t watched Season 3 of Westworld yet.
1. More metaphorical than you think
Westworld is full of metaphors, some are not that easy to see, but all of them create that unique atmosphere we love. And they start right with the intense and dynamic title sequence. The player piano first appears here and then becomes a recurring motif throughout the series.
The showrunner Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan, who we all know) revealed that this metaphor was chosen as “an expression of both art and beauty, yet automated”. In fact, the player piano can be considered to be the first robot!
So, its presence in Maeve’s saloon is pretty symbolic. But it also feels like a reference to Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, actually titled ‘Player Piano’, that presents a dystopian society, where machines do everything for humans. This gradually leads to unemployment, loss of purpose, and a class struggle.
And you probably remember Da Vinci's Vitruvian man in the opening credits... It turns out that here on the show it symbolizes both humans and hosts! “Both are lashed to the wheel of a machine they don’t fully understand, which controls their lives." as the showrunner Lisa Joy explains. The sequence is being slightly redesigned for each season so that it reflects the development of the story.
2. The prophetic meanings behind the characters' names
The very name of the company behind the parks, Delos Incorporated, comes straight from Ancient Greek Mythology. The Greek island of Delos was considered to be the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, the twin children of Zeus. The place was sacred, so it was illegal for anyone to die or be born on that island.
Apparently, this alludes to the fact that guests of the Westworld cannot die (or at least that was the plan). And there are many more prophetic names on the show. The name "Dolores" derives from Latin and Spanish, and means "sorrows, pain or grief". No one can argue that it’s an unsuitable name because her arcs as a host were filled with all these feelings.
Also, the name of a saloon run by Maeve, ‘Mariposa’, is a Spanish word for ‘butterfly’. This is a metaphor for Maeve’s transformation from host to a sentient being, just like a caterpillar eventually becomes a butterfly. Moreover, Bernard Lowe’s name has been a huge Easter egg all along, as it’s an anagram for Arnold Weber.
In Season 3, Bernard is using a fake name Armand Delgado, which is yet another anagram that reads as "Damaged Arnold". But what is much more significant is the name of the A.I. that controls the real world in the series, Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was a son and successor of Solomon – the biblical King of Israel and the wisest man of his time. This name might also hint at an upcoming event because, during Rehoboam's reign, the tribes of Israel rebelled and won their independence.
3. Surprising influences on Westworld
As the title of the series suggests, Westworld was inspired by Westerns. But don’t be misled by the name – the inspiration behind the show is much broader. According to Harpers Bazaar, the showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy were inspired by the consequence-free nature of Las Vegas.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! – the same can be said for the Delos parks, where you can get away with anything. And, of course, there are a lot of similarities with ‘Jurassic Park’, which is no surprise. The fact is that the Westworld series is based on the 1973 movie of the same name, created by none other than Michael Crichton.
In both ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Westworld’ we see how humans use - or should we say abuse - technology in a way that eventually brings more trouble that entertainment. Jonathan Nolan revealed that the logic and structure of Westworld's season one was inspired by video games.
The maze puzzle, the clues we got in each episode, the mysteries to decode, and even the timeline of the first season – everything was designed to entice the viewers into going deeper and deeper into the darker levels of a theme park.
4. Music matters
You must have been surprised and thrilled when you first heard the Westworld player piano in the saloon playing Paint It Black by Rolling Stones! The soundtrack of the series is full of contemporary classics! Rolling Stones, Soundgarden, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse – that is only the beginning of the perfect Westworld playlist. Performed by the player piano, they emphasize the clash of the two worlds.
The music intensifies the tension, and sometimes even tells whether we are in the park or not! According to the show’s composer Ramin Djawadi, there are two big sides to the score. The Western-inspired music is used when we are in the theme park, and the electronic music is heard in the scenes at the control room or when they are repairing the robots.
However, in the third season of Westworld, we hear more original versions of the songs – and even an opera piece! By the way, the Italian aria Dolores put on for Jerry in the premiere episode was chosen on purpose: Translated into English, its first line tells of the all-consuming "flames of terrible pyre". And the next thing Jerry realizes is that all of the fireplaces in his house have been turned on! But this is not the last hidden detail about the music on Westworld, so keep on watching!
5. Game of Thrones connections
The major connection between the two HBO hits is their composer. By the way, it’s Ramin Djawadi’s hands we see in the opening sequence – sort of. He was filmed playing the theme and the animators used it to create the unbuilt host's hands. Moreover, Djawadi made a cameo in season two, playing one of the hosts in the park who plays guitar.
And the visual part of the opening credits was created by Elastic Studios, the company behind the epic and iconic (!) Game of Thrones titles. And finally, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the showrunners of Game of Thrones, made a cameo appearance in Westworld Season 3 – together with Daenerys Targaryen’s beloved dragon!
6. Dolores' intriguing secrets
For the lead actress, Evan Rachel Wood, Dolores is her favorite character she's ever played. Dolores' look, with her long, blonde curls and blue-and-white dress, was inspired by fairytale princesses. But she’s definitely not the classic damsel in distress! Wood says that she realized that her character was special during the fifth episode of Season 1. In that episode, when William tells her to run, Dolores does the opposite.
“I’ve never been asked to stay and save the day.” – the actress revealed. – “I got a little teary-eyed, and I thought, 'Wow. This character is really important.'"
Taking part in Westworld was so challenging, that Evan Rachel Wood even compared it to “acting Olympics”! Why? Because the hosts are extremely difficult to play, as it involves doing the “shifts of energy” very quickly: The actor must go from a panic attack to a state of calm instantaneously, and then back into character mode, and then back to half-character half-analysis mode.
“Sometimes I have an accent and sometimes I don't. And sometimes I have to be completely deadpan, but in the script once it said, 'no facial expression, but crying through the eyes.'" – Wood explained in an interview with Seth Meyers.
By the way, the actress herself is very special: Evan Rachel Wood is not just a super-professional performer, she also has a black belt in Taekwondo! And she is totally happy that being a part of the Westworld team finally let her showcase these skills. Luke Hemsworth told Insider how impressed he was to find that out, as both actors did their own stunt work for the fight:
"I'm constantly in awe," he said. "She was kicking me in the face and she was slamming me against the wall!"
7. Secret plotlines
We love Westworld for its mind-bending plot twists, but did you know that at the beginning of shooting the actors also didn’t know anything about who their characters really were? Even the major characters didn’t know any specific details - sometimes until the very moment of filming, because the showrunners wanted to capture the natural reaction from the actors (and to prevent spoilers, of course).
"After work, I would just sit and think about the show and try to figure it out," - Evan Rachel Wood recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
However, she managed to correctly guess a few major plot twists. And one of those moments was the scene in episode 2 of the first season, where Jimmi Simpson was picking up the can, which in fact mirrored her other scene with Ed Harris.
“I just had a déjà vu. I could just tell the energy on set was very specific, and they were being very specific about how we were shooting, … and I just went, 'Oh, that would be messed up. Which means, that's what it is,’” Evan recalls.
And it’s just incredible how Jimmi Simpson figured out his character’s major twist! - It was all in the eyebrows!
"I was with an amazing makeup artist, and he was looking at my face too much, and then he said 'Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?'" the actor told Vanity Fair.
So the actor started to think, which of his co-stars would match his character’s look and dialect, and finally decided to ask Lisa Joy if it was Ed Harris. “She just froze,” – the actor reveals. – “And said, 'I can‘t say anything, but I will say you have a hell of an arc this season.'” And that is absolutely true, don’t you agree?
But Jeffrey Wright was among those few who knew the truth about their characters earlier than many other actors. He revealed didn’t know when he signed on and he didn’t know it when they shot the pilot. But, when they came back to full production for Season 1, Lisa Joy pulled him aside and dropped the bomb on his robot head.
8. Costume problems
Did you know that the period costumes for the show were 3D-printed? It’s almost the same technology that manufactures the hosts! The Westworld costume designer decided to use 3D printing to create authentic-looking, vintage fabrics. This kind of fabric is not easy to find, and the show’s designers needed a whole lot of it because most of the costumes had to be duplicated for stunt work.
“We were using actual period fabrics to make these clothes, and there’s only so much of it! So we had to find ways to recreate it.” - she told Racked.
But, Westworld is well-known for the scenes where the actors just go in their birthday suits to represent their doll-like robotic nature. For some of the actors it was more uncomfortable than others.
For example, James Marsden was very nervous about being completely naked in front of Anthony Hopkins. The fact is that the very first scene they were in together was a three-page dialogue scene, and Marsden’s Teddy is fully naked!
“It was like ‘Hello, sir, nice to meet you…’ But I would have rather had my first scene with Anthony Hopkins at least in a pair of shorts.” – revealed the actor.
However, Thandie Newton preferred the nude scenes instead of those where she had to wear her Mariposa costume. The actress just couldn’t wait to get out of that corset! But some of the dresses were not only very comfortable but also incredibly stylish.
Many fans were quick to notice that Meghan Markle’s stunning second dress for the Royal Wedding resembled the dresses worn by hosts on Westworld – particularly, by Evan Rachel Wood! And Season 3's futuristic outfits are definitely made to impress us - not only with how they look – but also with their hidden properties, like Dolores’ now-iconic dress from the season’s premiere.
9. Not that futuristic locations
Although the events of Season 3 of Westworld take place in the 2050s, the shooting locations are surprisingly not that far from our times. And they are definitely less CGI than you would expect from a sci-fi show. For example, the scenes set in the World War II era park were filmed in Spain, in the totally real-life medieval village of Besalú.
The Delos headquarters exterior scenes were also filmed in Spain - at the City of Arts and Sciences building in Valencia. The elements of the city skyline are usually a combination of San Francisco and Los Angeles, with skyscrapers from Singapore and other modern cities.
And have a look at this picture from Jeffrey Wright’s Instagram page – this hotel is perfect for illustrating how nature and technology mix in Westworld’s reality. Even the mesmerizing ribbon-like structure of Incite company is, in fact, real – it’s Singapore’s residential tower Marina One.