'Westworld's Jeffrey Wright on Bernard's Emotional Finale Moments & His Charity 'Brooklyn for Life'
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 3, Episode 8 of Westworld, "Crisis Theory."]
Telling Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) that he's looking for what comes after the "end of the world," fans saw Bernard enter the Sublime only to awaken dust-coated in a post-credits scene. And few details were given about what he found there, but Wright believes it's some kind of "clarity."
We caught up with the actor following the finale, and he's opening up about Bernard's mysterious Season 3 ending, that emotional exchange with Arnold's wife Lauren (Gina Torres), his on and offscreen buddy dynamic with Hemsworth and much more. The star has also been busy with his charity Brooklyn for Life! which he organized with local friends to help support small restaurant businesses and health care workers on the front lines in the New York City borough.
Below, Wright breaks down Bernard's Season 3 journey in Westworld and discusses his work with Brooklyn for Life!
The last time we see Bernard, waking up covered in dust — should we expect a "waking up on the beach" in Season 2 level of confusion for him as the story continues into Season 4?
Jeffrey Wright: [Laughs] Well, Bernard has come back — from what we can see — [from the sublime] with a new clarity. We don't have source material for our show beyond the initial Michael Crichton film and I do not believe that the writers room has been assembled yet, so where we go next has still not been presented to the page. Of course, [creators] Jonah [Nolan] and Lisa [Joy] have very detailed arcs going forward but I'm certain they haven't fully fleshed it out yet. I couldn't tell you anymore than you could tell me about where we're going.
Bernard makes amends and peace with Arnold's wife Lauren (Gina Torres). Was that more for Bernard or Arnold's family?
I would say that is probably part of Bernard's journey more so than it was the family's journey, although, of course, they merge. For me it was a really stunning idea that he find himself with this person in the flesh that had only existed for him in programming and also in the exchanges with her or some version of her via Westworldian Face Time. [The fact] that he was able to have the programming in his head manifest in the flesh was such an exciting idea and really awakened so many different thoughts and emotions in me as I was considering it and playing it and thinking about the implications of that experience for Bernard.
So it becomes this crucible that he squeezes himself into with Dolores' (Evan Rachel Wood) invitation and emerges out of with a type of clarity and also a sense of groundedness that he really hasn't had before. In the coming together, she almost forgives him and gives him license to carry on but in a way that's more resigned to these experiences that he has or that he's been programmed to have and that he calls his own. She teaches him something about humanity that is very profound for him. So it was a really wonderful idea to take him on that pit stop from the show's perspective. And out of that he begins finally to become reborn.
Dolores was one of Bernard's main tethers to the real world as they balanced each other out. With her no longer around, what do you think will keep him tied to reality?
One never knows what he discovered in the sublime and what he's come back with but let's stay tuned!
We've seen the more aggressive side of Bernard in past seasons but always under control of Ford (Anthony Hopkins). What was it like getting to see Bernard reclaim that for himself when he'd flip the switch into "fight mode"?
I'll borrow from one of my castmates and call it "beast mode," and yeah, [it was] super fun, even though those were moments when I think there's a catharsis for him and a freeing up. Although he doesn't experience it emotionally, certainly I think the audience does and it felt good that he was finally getting out what he and the hosts too often take. Who doesn't want to slap the man in black around a little bit here and there [Laughs]?
Most of the season Bernard's paired up in action with Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth). What was it like getting to foster that buddy dynamic between your characters?
Well, pretty much every day at the end of filming, Luke and I would look at each other and laugh at how much fun we were having. I really enjoy and I have enjoyed that relationship because there's so much mistrust but also there has been a sense of kinship from the start. And so as we explored that, it was just good fun and I enjoy Luke's company offscreen as well as on. It's always good to spend time with Luke whether it's on land or in the water.
The show expanded the setting fans have come to know as Season 3 entered the real world. How many locations did you get to shoot in and how did that impact your filming experience?
That's one of the best parts about being on a project like this and doing this type of work is that we get to see the world as we're working. So, I filmed outside of Los Angeles only in Singapore— we were there for about 10 days and it was my first time in Southeast Asia. So it was just a fascinating cityscape to explore, with a really interesting history and a pretty unique presence. The architecture obviously lent itself to the futuristic esthetic. What I found really wonderful to see as I watched the season was the absolutely ingenious way that locations were used by Jonah and Lisa. Very often if you're notating, a scene would begin "exterior Singapore, interior Downtown L.A." [Laughs]. It's just mind-blowing to have a little backstage glimpse as to where we were during [each part] of the storytelling.
Going more local, you've started a charity called Brooklyn for Life. What should people know about it?
Brooklyn for Life! was an initiative that I started with two friends of mine with a very modest objective to help them drive business to their restaurants and at the same time support our front line health care workers here in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I've been friends with Michael Thompson who owns a place called the Brooklyn Moon — the Moon has been in our neighborhood for 25 years. At one point it was the epicenter for the spoken word scene in the borough and Chris Rock had performed there and Erykah Badu gave her first New York City performance in the place, so it's a local institution. And Vito Randazzo owns an Italian joint here called Graziella's and my kids and I order pizzas and lasagnas and everything else from there with a pretty significant amount of regularity. So the impulse for me was to see if I could help them and make sure when this thing is over I can go over to Mike's at Brooklyn Moon and have some jerk wings and a whiskey and go over to Vito's and grab a pie and a Peroni.
But it expanded from that initial objective to a Brooklyn-wide outreach by which we just surpassed 120,000 meals delivered to 10 medical facilities and all 11 FDNY stations in Brooklyn. That's being done through a partnership with 52 local restaurants – all mom and pop joints – because these are the types of businesses that define Brooklyn and our culture and distinguish us from any other place, [and] they're vital to the local economy. The donors who are contributing to this are pretty exciting — we just had our first corporate sponsor join us, AT&T. WarnerMedia is contributing $250,000 to the more than $500,000 that we've raised prior to that, and we raised that $500,000 through individual donors almost at an even split between big dollar and small dollar donors. We have a GoFundMe page for five and ten dollar donations, however much people would like to give.
Some of my more well-known Brooklynite friends stepped-up and contributed in bigger amounts directly to Brooklyn NY for Life!, Inc, people like Daniel Craig who I reached out to initially asking if he'd support. It hasn't been a very difficult sell because when Jay-Z and Spike Lee heard this story, they got it, they're Brooklyn folks and they knew this was very much about our community and about helping small business and helping our front lines, so the great majority of people stepped in willingly and gladly to support us.
Find out how you can support by visiting Brooklyn for Life!'s website and stay tuned for Season 4 of Westworld on HBO.
Westworld, Season 4, TBA, HBO