Jeffrey Wright on Playing Two Characters in ‘Westworld’

Wright speaks about the distinction between playing two characters in Westworld and how that also involves how he works with co-star, Evan Rachel Wood.

Actor Jeffrey Wright

“One of my mantras in working on anything is to take what I’m given within the writing.” – Jeffrey Wright

Jeffrey Wright has been nominated for two Emmys for playing the host Bernard Lowe on Westworld. However, Wright actually also plays another character on Westworld in flashbacks — the scientist Arnold Weber, the human that Bernard was created in the image of. Speaking with Gold Derby, Wright speaks about the distinction between playing the two characters — and how that also involves how he works with co-star Evan Rachel Wood.

When asked how he changes his approach when playing Arnold versus playing Bernard, Wright reveals:

One of my mantras in working on anything is to take what I’m given within the writing. There are pretty distinct differences between Bernard and Arnold and they relate particularly to Arnold’s relationship with Dolores. Bernard doesn’t really have that type of relationship in his existence. That relationship with Dolores, particularly in the first season for Arnold, is a very paternal one. It’s a very, by nature, nurturing one. There’s a warmth there. There’s an idealized warmth there that he expresses toward her that Bernard doesn’t have. There’s no one within his circle, no entity within his circle that he expresses that toward. That brings out a different element for Arnold. He’s a bit more human in that regard, so that’s all on the page. That’s all in the relationships that he’s given as a character. That shapes the way that I portray him. Bernard is a facsimile of Arnold, so he’s not quite as fully fleshed out, in a literal sense. That comes into play in the way I portray him. He’s a little more reserved and a little more mysterious in some ways, and just slightly less blood-filled. Again, it’s a function of what’s written on the page.

Wright was also asked about working with his co-star Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Dolores, the oldest host in Westworld, who shares scenes with both Bernard and Arnold. On how that affects their working dynamic, Wright explains:

Evan is really funny. I remember when we did one of the first scenes Season 2 she was like, “Oh wow, this is the first scene I’ve ever had with Bernard.” It had all been Arnold up to that point and she was like, “Oh my god, it’s a totally different thing here.” But Evan brings so much out of me. She’s just a dream to work with, a dream partner. We were able to find this common space together and this common intent, just the two of us staring into each other’s eyes and I’ve said it before, but the intimacy that we’re able to find and the nuance that we’re able to find and the push and pull and her generosity as an actor is so supportive, so beneficial, and I just try to give the same to her. A lot of people think when two actors work together, and it can be sometimes, when you’re with assholes, it can be a bit of a bout. It can be a bit of a boxing match and sometimes it can be really annoying, but the best boxing matches are when you’re two actors working together and you’re fighting like hell to tell the story together and it’s not about playing ego against ego, ego that exists outside the character. It’s about how do we craft this scene together and this story that we’re telling in the most unique and fully developed way that we possibly can, and that’s what Evan and I do together. Like so much of what we do on this show, it’s just a wonderful gift. If you’re in this profession, it’s the kind of work that you wanna do. So thank you, Evan!

More: Jeffrey Wright: “At the most base level, what an actor represents to the film industry is an investment”

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