When Exactly Does 'Westworld' Season 3 Take Place? 20 Tidbits From the SDCC Panel

Michael Maloney
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, Thandie Newton, Aaron Paul, Tessa Thompson and Luke Hemsworth

It’s not returning till sometime in 2020, but fans of Westworld got a Season 3 sneak preview in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend!

Attendees at the HBO series' panel got insights from show runners/creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy and cast members Evan Rachel Wood (Delores), Jeffrey Wright (Bernard), Thandie Newton (Maeve), Tessa Thompson (Charlotte), and new cast member Aaron Paul (Caleb) — as well as a surprise cast addition!

Read on for the highlights.

On if the Man In Black (Ed Harris) will be coming back: “He has a big gun,” says Nolan. “I’m not going to call Ed and tell him he’s not coming back!”

Ed Harris as the Man in Black (John P. Johnson/HBO)

On killing off beloved characters: “There’s a difficult part to this,” Nolan said. “Let’s face it — we have the best cast on TV. The highest form of praise on our show is if we kill you off. Lisa [Joy] and I drew a blueprint for the show when we were making the pilot. Everyone becomes family. Sometimes those calls [you make to let someone know they’re not coming back] are easy – like with [Luke] Hemsworth [Ashley]. Terrific actor, but [he’s] somewhat of a destructive personality.”

And, then, as if on cue, Hemsworth came bounding out onto the stage, a late addition to the panel, to a round of applause. “Sorry, I’m late,” the actor jovially said.

Aaron Paul and Luke Hemsworth  (CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images)

On what year the story takes place: Nolan deflects by taking a sip of water. Paul suggests that the sizzle reel for Season 3 be shown. After some back and forth between him and Nolan, the preview is indeed screened and fans in the hall respond positively and with great applause.

On a name for Season 3: “The New World,” says Nolan. So, is it safe to say they’ve left the Park? “I didn’t say that,” Nolan responded.

On the locale for Season 3 looking, frankly, gorgeous, and not dystopian: “I grew up with my brother [Inception director Christopher Nolan] making me watch Blade Runner once a week. It’s a phenomenal movie, so brilliantly designed to look what the future would be like. We wanted to find something different. The thing about dystopia is that it can look pretty beautiful. Just because the world is corrupt on the inside doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty and all smoothed over on the outside. Rather than build it, we went on a plane and found some pretty [great] stuff.”

'Westworld' Reintroduces Familiar Faces & Welcomes New Ones in Season 3 Trailer (VIDEO)

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Dolores is leading the way as the hosts infiltrate the real-world.

On joining the show as Caleb, who works in construction: “First, I have to say I’m tripping out that I’m here right now,” says Paul, a self-proclaimed of the show. “I’m having an out of body experience right now watching everyone answer these questions. When I walked out onto the set for the first time, I was shell-shocked. It was exciting.”

On the show taking place (possibly) between the years 2050 to 2060 and how is construction different: “I have a robot. His name is ‘George,’” says Paul. “[Construction in the future] is the same, but we have robots. [George] is great and I love him.”

Aaron Paul and Luke Hemsworth (CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images)

On if Caleb wears a white hat or a dark one: “You’ll see very early on in the season that Caleb has a complicated past as we all do, so there’s a little bit of both [to him]," Paul teases.

On why Stubbs might not be the best at his job: “Maybe he’s constantly stoned?” quips Hemsworth.

On themes that will be found in Season 3: “As we’ve been making the show, I like to say that when we created it, Westworld was dystopian. Season 3, in a best-case scenario, we’re entering the age of ‘artificial stupidity.’ We’re a low-grade dumb algorithmic world. We’re trying to figure out what the rest of the world looks like. HBO won’t like this, but it’s the Netflix effect. Netflix tells you what you want to watch next and decides you’re going to watch [a particular film] the rest of the night. Picture that applied to every part of your life.”

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On the show not being so much science fiction but rather closer to what’s really going on in the world: “Everything in the show is a bit heightened but it’s based on something we’re seeing in the real world,” says Nolan.

On playing Charlotte: “There are so many things about playing Charlotte [that I love] and now I get to play some new version of her,” Thompson said. “There’s a mystery as to who she took with her when she left the park. One of the things so daring was [asking] what does power look like in the future? Can she be a young woman of color?”

On tips Wood gave Thompson over sharing the same character: “There were little physicalities — things that Delores always does like when she sits her right hand always [rests] in her left. I passed that on to Tessa,” says Wood.

Evan Rachel Wood (Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

On going through significant transformations in Season 2 such as becoming emphatic — or was it programmed into him? “That’s the question of this show to some extent,” Wright offers. “Is it live — or is it Memorex?”

On how to play certain scenes given the show’s complexity: “When you’re playing a character that has to emote yet also be restrained, the question is how do you do that? We have a real-life gift in this gig and that’s our bosses,” Wright says. “We have two of the most incredibly generous and also engaging and challenging leaders you could ask for [in Nolan and Joy]. I read the script and I bombard them with questions and then I try to transform it into a performance. They don’t tell me everything off the bat.”

Jeffrey Wright (CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images)

On what Newton brings from her own experiences in life to play her role: “That’s that hard part,” says Newton. “I’ve never gone through anything like it [in real-life] so it’s pure imagination. The setup we’ve been given is extraordinary. We’re A.I. [Artificial Intelligence]. That can’t be forgotten.”

On the show being violent: “Yes, the show is violent,” Joy says, hastening to add, “but nowhere near as violent as the world at large. We’re looking at isolated incidents [on the show]. If you look at statistics on violence against women, we’re not showing an outsized amount of violence. We’re putting a lens on it.”

Thandie Newton (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

How Seasons 1 and 2 helped put perspectives on automation: “I see the world a bit differently,” says Paul. “I saw the story the show was telling [and it] made me look at the world through a more focused lens. It makes me feel like we’re living in a simulation. No joke.”

On shooting a difficult scene in Season 2: “I consider myself a non-violent person,” says Thompson. “Last season there was as scene where [I’m] shooting some guards. They were stuntmen. One went down on the floor and I stepped on this man to walk through him. Later in the day, I had a gun to Jeffrey’s [character’s] head. When we were done with that scene, I was really upset. I felt very emotional having a gun to someone I’m close to. The violence felt challenging to me.”

Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson (Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

On how this revelation makes Wright feel: “You never told me that Tessa. That makes me feel good,” says Wright, who circles back to an early question from the panel. “[It was asked] ‘When does this story take place?’ It takes place now.”

Westworld, Season 3 Premiere, 2020, HBO