'Westworld' Co-Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Talk Marriage and #MeToo
HBO’s future robot saga Westworld returns THIS SUNDAY PEOPLE, IT’S HAPPENING IT’S REALLY TRULY HAPPE — ahem. Where was I? Right, so, Westworld is about to launch its second season, which means co-creators and real life #marriagegoals Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are out there dishing on the show with the press (and not just Reddit). Fast Company interviewed with the pair, in a discussion ranging from role of artificial intelligence to the blurring of fiction and nonfiction in today’s world. And Lisa in particular had some insightful things to share about womanhood both onscreen and behind-the-scenes.
It’s turns out they are acutely aware of the fine line between showing gratuitous scenes of abuse toward women, and acknowledging that, frankly, women get abused quite often:
FC: When the show first aired, it was criticized for having a “woman problem” because the female hosts were so frequently abused by men visiting the park. By the end of the first season, the narrative shifted so that those same hosts were fighting back. Have your views about how you depict women changed since you started writing?
LJ: Well before #MeToo came and announced to the world, “Hey, we have a real problem here with sexual abuse and violence,” I would say most women knew that. You whisper it, you talk about it, you understand it, you live it. So those thoughts were in my mind [when I started writing the show]. The Western has so often been a tale about men and masculinity on the untamed frontier. I was hoping to imagine truthfully what I thought people would do in a theme park where you could do anything. And based on what I’d seen, the stories I’d heard, and the tales I knew, this was a truthful way of representing it.
At the same time, we care deeply about the manner in which we represent an actual act of sexual violence, which is why you don’t see it. You see a girl yelling as she’s dragged away, fully clothed, but we didn’t want to show nudity and sex.
Nolan and Joy also talk a bit about how their marriage impacts their working dynamic, which led to this lovely little exchange about her intimidating turn behind the camera this season:
FC: Lisa, after spending most of your career as a writer and a producer, you recently directed an episode for the first time. What was that like?
LJ: It’s a new angle. The world can feel very dark lately, but there are acts of everyday feminism, support, and generosity that I have been the beneficiary of in so many ways on this show. I had a baby and was still breastfeeding, and I had this mammoth, crazy episode [to direct], full of all the things you’re scared of as a first-time director. I thought, I can’t do this. It’s irresponsible right now. When I faltered, Jonathan pushed me out the door. He said, “You got this.” He took on this role at home so I could live a typically masculine dream.
JN: [Laughs] I also wanted to see our kids.
Look, I work from home and so does my husband. And even though we have very different, separate jobs, we are verrrry conscientious about not stepping on each other’s toes and respecting boundaries. And we don’t even have kids. I have so much respect for couples that can work together in any capacity — but this shit right here? Writing and producing a sprawling, big-budget prestige show, plus marriage, plus parenting, plus trying a little directing on top of all that and still finding time to trawl through Reddit? That’s some next-level shit right there. But as we’ve said before, supporting each other’s goals and growth is important to any relationship. Even, apparently, a workplace one!