Thandie Newton Explains Why Westworld's Violence Against Women Is Part Of The Solution, Not The Problem

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Like HBO's anchor show, Game of Thrones, the new sci-fi drama Westworld drew controversy for its frequent and graphic portrayal of violence and sexual assault against women. While that element of the fascinating show — about an immersive theme park populated with human-like robots and frequented by rich vice and thrill-seekers — was difficult for some viewers to come to terms with, it's something the show's cast had to deal with too. But for Thandie Newton, who plays brothel madam Maeve, her role on the show unexpectedly became another outlet for her off-the-clock work as an women's activist.
"When I go to work [on non-Westworld jobs], I have to just be the actor, do what I have to do," Newton said during a Westworld panel at this weekend's PaleyFest in Los Angeles, reports Paste Magazine. "But the work that I do with my life, about trying to empower women — about trying to empower women, and men, by extension — that I have to leave behind. I was an activist every single day that I went to work [on Westworld]. I felt part of the solution every single day that I went to work."
The actress explained how the showrunners approached her about her character being put in sexually degrading situations on the show. "When I spoke to [co-creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan] and they said, 'So, you’re going to play a madam in a brothel and you’re going to do it a lot of it naked. Is that cool with you?' I was thinking, 'Do you know that I fight violence against women, like, that’s what I do in my spare time?'" She continued, "I’d like to feel that it’s not gratuitous — without clothes on — in the show. And then they told me why the setup for the series had to be as extreme it is."
Indeed, that starting point of oppression and abuse was crucial to Maeve's dramatic character arc towards becoming a being with total awareness and free will. So for Newton, Westworld illustrates the liberation of a repressed and marginalized woman, an onscreen journey reflecting the goal in today's movement for women's equality. "Here we are right now at a crossroads, and I think that Westworld is going to be part of the solution, not the problem," Newton said, per TV Guide. "That's what excited me about this character."
Unfortunately, we'll have to wait quite a while to see Maeve's next steps as a free woman, now that she's appeared to gain complete consciousness: Westworld season 2 won't premiere until 2018.

More from TV

R29 Original Series