[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Westworld, Season 4, Episodes 1-6.]
The nature of Westworld‘s reality is ever-changing, and raising plenty of questions this season is returning favorite James Marsden as Teddy Flood.
Last seen two seasons ago, Teddy’s mysterious resurfacing has yet to be explained, but one thing is clear, and it’s that he’s drawn to Christina (Evan Rachel Wood). The new identity under which Dolores is functioning, Christina’s unaware of her past, her life as a host, and the role she’s playing in this new world as a story writer for humans under the control of Hale’s (Tessa Thompson) operation.
In Episode 5, “Zhuangzi,” Teddy helped Christina “wake up” to the world around her, what’s next for them moving forward? Marsden opens up about his return, Teddy and Christina’s dynamic, and what’s on the horizon.
It’s been quite a while since fans last saw you in Westworld. Does it feel like a return to Teddy or is it more of a rebirth?
James Marsden: I think it’s a bit of both, to be honest. He’s revealed picking up the lipstick like he used to pick up the milk cans. You see [Teddy and Christina] meeting each other much in the way they met at the beginning of their loop back in Westworld, where there’s an ease, a connection in the eyes between the two of them. Other than [the show] taking place in a contemporary world and Christina not having any clue who I am, the biggest difference, I think, is that the roles have been reversed.
Teddy was on his narrative and didn’t stray too much from it. Dolores was the one having the awakening in Season 1. There were limits to his self-questioning and there were none for her, whereas this time around, he seems to be the one that knows everything, whether or not he’s divulging it or not, and she’s the one in the dark. So I think that’s a fun thing to play this time around, and just to speak in a contemporary manner without any Southern cowboy draw.
It’s nice to be the one that’s slowly and gently unwinding her and ushering her into this existential awakening, I guess, whereas, at the beginning of Season 2, she was the one trying her best to do that to me. And also, it’s just nice to see them enjoying time together again. They’ve been through hell together and it’s nice to just get up there and on set with Evan and connect with her.
Is it fun playing the character that knows everything this time? Because it’s more than Christina/Dolores and Teddy swapping roles, hosts and humans have also changed positions.
Yes. The humans are the attractions in the park now. It’s turning a lot of things and ideas that we’ve explored in Westworld‘s previous seasons on their head and it’s quite fun as an actor to dive into that a bit. It’s great to actually allow Teddy to have some intellectual and emotional depth and some clarity and watch him want to protect Christina from her stalker. Going back to Season 1, the appeal of this show was all about taking these tropes and then reversing them. I was supposed to be the cowboy who saves the rancher’s daughter and then that didn’t last very long. She was the one who was saving me.
Evan is such a talent and you can just watch her eyes and they give you everything. She obviously has played her several different types of emotions and characters over the last couple of years, but I loved watching early Season 1 where she was just this vulnerable, bright-eyed, sweet rancher’s daughter, and then seeing that slowly get stripped away as she gained sentience. She’s a master of many things, but when you see her, she can speak without saying a word. Seeing her play this vulnerable character this season, where she’s constantly questioning what doesn’t feel right about this. It’s just so much fun to see her play all those notes again.
And towards the end of Episode 5, “Zhuangzi,” you have that moment where Christina finally sees the tower, and she asks, who did this. You tell her, “you did.” Is he referring to Hale? Is he referring to Dolores as this one, singular being? What’s the acknowledgment there?
This is where I get really good at not speaking in absolutes. It’s a tough one to talk about, for sure. We’re supposed to be asking the exact question that you’re asking and I don’t think we’re intended to entirely know at this point and a few more episodes later will probably reveal, with a little more clarity, what he means by that, but that’s your classic Westworld, speaking in riddles, right? I want to be careful not to say anything that I’m even off on quite a bit. So right now, it’s to be interpreted by whatever the audience thinks at the moment without spoiling anything.
Does Teddy’s presence serve to help Christina break those stories, loops, and paths that she’s created, or is it manipulation?
I can’t for sure say, but I feel like he’s there with the purpose to open her eyes and to open her eyes to all possibilities of who she is, what this world is, whether it’s real, whether it’s a simulation, and slowly and gently have this awakening for her. There is a purpose there and this is what I’m dancing around because I don’t want to reveal what that purpose is, but in my opinion, he’s not puppeteering her.
Sure, he’s like a guide, but it’s unclear what kind of guide he is yet.
Right. Let’s just say he’s opening doors for her, opening doors into her own consciousness and making her see something that she wasn’t ever really aware of. Maybe there was some confusion, but right when she discovers that she does have the power and she’s really reluctant at first. And then she realizes that she is a God in this world, that’s a pretty heavy thing to realize. And then finds herself in tricky situations, like when she’s sitting there with Hale and that’s her “college roommate” trying to get information out of her and reaffirming everything that Teddy was telling her about how “You can’t trust even the people you think you know. Any one of them could be one of us but stay on your loop for now and we’ll get through this one. We’ll figure this out.”
What should viewers look forward to as the season continues?
Teddy’s earned Christina’s trust at this point and whether or not any of it still makes sense to her or not, he’s got her trust moving forward and whatever happens with the path unfolding in front of her, they’re back by each other’s sides and trusting in one another.
Westworld, Season 4, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO