Men in Black: William’s Tell.
Jimmi Simpson on traversing Westworld and the did-that-really-happen jaw-dropper that rocked his world.

Like most unions in the sprawling, primal land of Westworld, the relationship between newbie park visitor William (Jimmi Simpson, above) and robot host Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) fell somewhere between the romantic and the tragic. But their end proved even messier: Dolores’s accidental rejection of William – due to a reboot on her part – pushed him to morph into the villainous Man in Black (played in the narrative’s future timeline by Ed Harris, inset). We spoke with Simpson about the love story and discovering his character’s shocking place in the show’s twisty mythology.

What was your first impression about Westworld?
I thought I was auditioning for some tongue-in-cheek update of the 1970s movie [written and directed by Michael Crichton]. Then I got the first script and I realized the profundity of what creators Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy were attempting to accomplish. Just knowing that I was going to be part of a story that was so well-crafted, I was really awestruck.

Establishing your dynamic with costar Evan Rachel Wood was key to the success of your characters’ chemistry and lifelong connection-especially since William had to continually remind himself Dolores wasn’t human.
Evan has the same work ethic that I do. We would meet the day before a big scene and quite often work for hours. [Dolores’s] humanity was so much more real and honest than the humans’ behavior William is around. She opened his eyes to anything being possible.

How did you find out that William was actually a younger version of the Man in Black?
Christien Tinsley, our genius makeup designer, was staring at my eyebrows in a very strange way: He asked “Do you mind if we change them?” I said, “Sure, what are you changing them for?” He started stammering, I walked out thinking, “Of they’re trying to make me look like someone, who is it?” I narrowed it down to Ed. I saw Lisa and said, “I was just with Christien-I’m not Ed, am I?” Her face absolutely fell flat. Her mouth was agape, she looked around, shook her head quickly and said, “Don’t tell Jonah!” [laughs] She wanted to keep it under wraps as much as possible. And I did.

Did working on this show change your acting perspective?
I was allowed to play a three-dimensional human being who falls, as opposed to someone who has already fallen. That was a new experience for me. It’s helped me more than any schooling could have.

What should we hope to see from William if we revisit him in Season 2?

If William was to return, I imagine there will be very pertinent information regarding the takeover of [smarmy coworker and ex-pal] Logan’s [Ben Barnes] company. Also, I don’t think you get your heart broken and then all of a sudden you’re the Man in Black. You get your heart broken and then the world’s a little less predictable. I think that is probably William’s trajectory after what you last saw.


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