LA Premiere of "Westworld" - ArrivalsWhen we first met actress Evan Rachel Wood in a prominent regular television role, she was 12 years old, playing a precocious, sensitive daughter of divorce on the cult-beloved drama "Once and Again."

Times change: Today, Wood's a 29-year-old single mother herself, with a knockout resume of prestigious TV and film projects to her credit, including "Across the Universe," "The Wrestler," "True Blood," and "Mildred Pierce," and her return to series television is as high-profile as it gets, playing a consciousness-gaining android "host" used and frequently abused in the artificial Old West setting of "Westworld," HBO's ambitious, lavishly produced reimagining of novelist and filmmaker Michael Crichton's increasingly prescient 1973 sci-fi film.

The role of Delores offers Wood an unparalleled acting opportunity, playing first the Old West reality -- and realities -- that the character experiences, then her experiences as an artificial being tended to in the futuristic behind-the-scenes environs, and at least the provocative middle ground, as Delores develops the beginnings of an awareness of who and what she really is. And the actress has enthusiastically embarked on the journey, with all of its promising and potentially frightening philosophical and existential implications, as she revealed to Moviefone in a candid conversation.

Moviefone: As an actress, when you get a role who is a synthetic creation but is also starting to feel real emotion, where do you start to try to get into the head of that type of really unique character, something that you don't encounter in everyday life?

Evan Rachel Wood: Actually, I'm really into Ray Kurzweil and read "The Singularity Is Near,"and that really just explores the inner workings of AI. I put a lot of that into play with how I approach Dolores, and watched every TED Talk and spoke to some futurists. Because it's just a completely new way of approaching a character. Especially because she's very much like almost three different characters at once, because she has many different modes.

So, in character, she's this very innocent prairie girl, this princess / damsel in distress, but underneath that, she's actually a very advanced, intelligent being, with kind of unlimited power. The question is: What would happen if she realized she had that power? I think that's something we're going to be kind of exploring as the show goes.

It was interesting not knowing what my character arc was going to be, and where the show was going, and finding out, episode by episode. It's a good thing that my role, for at least the first half, is very much in a state of confusion, because that's how I felt most of the time. She's my favorite character I've ever played thus far, for sure.

What was the first element of this project that initially got its hooks in you?

I met with Lisa [Joy] and Jonathan [Nolan] [the co-creators of the re-imagining], and they explained to me how the park worked, and the possibilities, and I realized that it was so much more than just a theme park gone awry and robots malfunctioning. They were taking it so much deeper than the original film, and it was a real exploration on humanity and how these technologies are actually real, and are being worked on right now. When film was originally made, it was a little more science fiction, and now it's unsettling because it can all very well happen.

So that intrigued me, and just the idea of having an immersive experience in a world where there were no rules and no consequences. With the incredible cast -- and I just knew that everyone working on it was at the top of their fields. Going into it, there's just this energy of, "This is going to be the one. This is going to be the one that everyone wants to be remembered for."

So I'm just grateful every day that I go to work that I'm a part of something that seems less like a TV show, and more like a revolution. So really everything about it. I knew when I signed on, I signed on to a really cool show, and that it was going to be good, but it wasn't until about Episode 4 that I started having a panic attack. I was overwhelmed by the quality and the writing, and realizing more and more the character they've entrusted me with was just kind of mind-blowing. So I'm just excited for people to really see what it's about.Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Harris in HBO's WESTWORLDAs the actor who puts on the wardrobe and gets to work in the show's different contexts, do you prefer the frontier element of it, or do you prefer the sci-fi world of it?

It's funny, I actually prefer the frontier! I was raised in the South, and I've been horseback riding my whole life, so it's a scene that I'm very comfortable in. So I like it. I'm a desert child.

With all the research you did, what are you excited about or intrigued about as far as the future of AI and what's right around the corner?

I was really terrified of it at first, and there were some theories of how, eventually, we will be obsolete and AI will surpass us. I thought, "What does that mean for the future of art and love and emotions? Will things be real anymore? Will they be sterile and cold?" There are some theories that they'll be so much better than we are. Better problem solvers, all the petty problems we get snagged on will be nothing to them, and the art that they'll create is so beyond our comprehension, and the empathy that they will feel will be so much bigger, and the capacity for love will be so much larger.

So that made me feel a little better, I was like, "Oh, okay -- actually the world is going to be a better place," but it also made me terrified as a human being, because that means we will eventually be apes to AI, and they're going to decide our fate. I feel like that's kind of where the show is picking up. It's a terrifying thought. I think that's why the show sticks with you a lot.

There's a common commentary about the generation who've grown up immersed in technology are in some way disconnected from people because of that technology. You've made the point that you're actually more connected to people, which I agree with: there are people in my life that 20 years ago I would have had to go to great effort to stay connected to. So tell me about what you see as the positives of the connectivity that the technology has provided us.

Yeah, there's so many possibilities. We have more power in the palm of our hand than the president of the United States had, maybe, 20 years ago. So the information and the knowledge out there at our fingertips is so vast and amazing, but yeah, with that comes also the dark side. Your kids are vulnerable, and also vulnerable to propaganda, and to just negativity, and all that's there. So the world that we're leaving for them is really interesting. It's hard to keep things from children and to protect them.

But at the same time, I do feel like it can be used for good, and it's kind of our job to steer them in the right direction. I don't think at this point we could keep it from them. I think we have to learn how to work with it and angle it the right way. But, as a mom, I think about that, because I think I stopped at around Nintendo 64, and that's as far as I got, and iPods and anything else was just too much. My three-year-old can already work my iPhone better than me. So I'm curious to see what they're going to do with that kind of power.

What do you like about the allegorical quality of science-fiction storytelling in this particular instance? The bigger things that you guys are saying about life and humanity and AI.

It's holding up such a mirror to who we are as a species and what we find entertaining, and why we are so broken and why we are so disconnected from each other. I think using this platform to explore that and to create beings that see humanity in an objective way, hopefully will make us look at ourselves in the same vein, and hopefully think about a few things.

Assuming there's not actual technological breakdown issues, would you want to visit a "Westworld" -style place? Not necessarily to like have carte blanche in your behavior, but to be in that immersive experience.

You know, it's part of the human blessing and curse, that curiosity. I went to that place, Sleep No More, which is an immersive choose-your-adventure theater experience, and I was obsessed. I went seven times. I ended up in the play, and I fell in love with the characters and the narratives, and something about it just took over and there was something so satisfying about being so immersed in a different world, and getting to leave yourself at the door.

So I think I would be drawn to it, but I think it would definitely terrify me. Especially after doing this show. It's that old Michael Crichton/Jeff Goldblum saying, "Life finds a way." There would be human error, and there's always cracks in codes. With some things as intelligent as these hosts, I just feel like you would always be kind of at risk.

Did you find any kind of parallel between the role of the hosts in this story and being an actor, being somebody who's in service of material?

What's so funny is, we were filming one day doing another scene where the hosts are being put through these horrific things, and people are being entertained by our pain and our emotions. Someone went, "How messed up is it that these people are getting pleasure out of watching you cry?" And I thought, "That's what I do. That's my job." Like, I know what it's like to be sort of like a doll and dressed up and told to do things. For entertainment, I put myself through these horrific experiences. So I certainly relate to it on a deep level, yes.

Having been in this business since you were a kid, and having been connected to so many high quality productions, what are you looking for now? What are the things that get you excited, professionally, as you sort through and try to figure out what the next project is going to be?

I want to say, I feel so spoiled after doing this show, because nothing is ever going to feel as good. I'm just looking for revolutionary, groundbreaking roles, and better roles for women. I've started writing. It's just kind of slim pickings out there. I just feel like you have to make your own things at this point and not wait for them to just come to fruition. So I'm hopefully going to start directing and making my own things. That's hopefully where this is headed.

Looking for projects that offer good roles for women -- I mean, I know that there's more now than there were --

Yes.

-- but it's still a struggle, and even this show is a commentary on that. You see the place of a woman in the historical context that "Westworld" is trying to recreate, but also the way that people treat the female hosts in that context. So where are you hoping to take material in what you generate for yourself?

Well, what's cool about the show is that it's a reimagining of the 1800s, so there is that element, but the men hosts are getting just as abused as the women, and women can also come to Westworld and change their story, and they can be Dirty Harry if they want. They can be in the saloon with the girls and at the poker table, you know. There's no rules. So there's something really interesting about that to me.

I feel like Westworld is one of the few places that it truly feels like an even playing field, and everything's very fluid, and there's gender equality. No one is safe, really. So all of that's there, but it is also very much there for the men. So I feel like we're already taking it a step in sort of changing that template. It doesn't feel like it's beating you over the head with it on the show either. It just is. It's just how the world is set up.

But it's also okay to acknowledge that it is a bit more of an epidemic when it comes to women, and I think that is another theme that we're showing on the show, and why that is, and why that's entertaining.

I'll close out with noting it's been a long time since you've been a regular on a TV show.

Yeah!

What did you love about it then, and what did you rediscover you loved about it now?

I love being able to get so involved with a character. When you're with a role like that for so long, you just know it inside and out. So I feel like I'm the best actor on TV because you have a chance to really sit with the material and dissect it, year by year, and tell -- you have the time to tell epic stories. So I love it. I really love it. And I love HBO. They've just been so good to me. They feel like family at this point. So it's great -- it's really great.
Westworld
HBOTVMA2016
Based on 43 critics

Westworld isn't your typical amusement park. Intended for rich vacationers, the futuristic park -- which is looked after by robotic "hosts" -- allows its visitors to live... Read More

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