Rodrigo Santoro reveals meaning behind Westworld season 2’s full frontal male nudity (exclusive)

Sam Ashurst
Contributor

Westworld returns to NOW TV and Sky Atlantic this Monday for season 2 of the critically acclaimed series, and Yahoo Movies UK was lucky enough to see the first five episodes in advance of broadcast.

Even better, we were able to sit down with one of the stars, Rodrigo Santoro (who plays badass bandit Hector on the show) to get some exclusive insight on the new season.

Minor spoilers follow, so if you want to go in to season two completely fresh, bookmark this page and come back to it after you’ve seen the first five episodes. But if you don’t care, you can read about sex, violence and Shoguns below – welcome to Westworld!

Yahoo Movies UK: Early on in season two there’s a scene where a male character is forced to strip, and it features full frontal nudity – how do you feel about the balance of male and female nudity on the show?

Rodrigo Santoro: I think it’s both, you see Mauve (Thandie Newton) in the first season, she got naked many times, and Delores (Evan Rachel Wood) – I don’t think there’s a distinction between men and women in terms of anything on the show, but especially nudity.

Nudity on this show has a different meaning. We usually see nudity related to sex, related to sensuality, related to more than things connected to desire. We do have that on the show, but it’s only one aspect of it.

The whole atmosphere and idea is that if something’s naked, they’re just a creature. They’re bodies. In that way, it’s not exploitative.

The specific scene I’m talking about has a very weird energy…

You’re talking the scene in the second season with Simon (Quarterman)? And he did it, you saw it, he did a frontal. Why? Exactly because of that.

There was a little debate, and he said ‘No, no, no, I’ll do it.’ And I tell you what, I was there, in the scene, and I watched the scene and I don’t even look at him. I’m with him.

It’s the perfect example of what nudity is about on the show. You are with him in his agony in realising what a fool, what a selfish person he was, and now Mauve is giving it back, making him think. ‘Hey, what about everything you’ve done to us? Let me just make you feel like that.’

So it’s not that he’s ashamed to pull his pants down, he’s ashamed of what he’s done. It’s there in his eyes. Yes, he’s naked, but it’s part of the scene – inside the context.

How did you feel when you first read the Westworld season two scripts? It must be pretty exciting to see how where they’ve taken the story in terms of expanding the possibilities of the series…

Yeah, I felt excited because I knew there was a lot coming in terms of transformation for Hector. It’s very different from season one, from my point of view, not only in terms of the environment, but the character itself.

In the first season he’s very much an archetype, a type of programming of this ideal alpha male bandit. In season two, the hosts are in the process of self-discovery and awareness, and that will cause a transformation, because now they’re dealing with their own memories and emotions, things they’ve never dealt with before.

The AI are in the process of humanisation. That was extremely interesting for me, to be able to work with those nuances, those subtleties that can give life to Hector.

I’ll bet, because one of the things that really drives actors is that character arc, the journey. I’m really glad that’s happening for you in season two, but in season one your character had an amazing look, and he was so cool, but in terms of the arc, as you say, Hector was only an archetype…

I was concerned about the long-term commitment when my agents first approached me. I spend my life travelling a lot, I’m between Brazil and Europe and the States, so that was a bit of a threat to that dynamic.

But then my agent, very smartly, said why don’t you look at it and see how it feels. And my very first reaction was that I was fascinated by the writing of the show, it was surprising. I knew it was an HBO series, so it would be good material, but I didn’t expect that calibre of writing.

It’s next-level, isn’t it?

It is next-level. I am personally interested in the subject matter of the series, so that’s another element, then they started talking about the cast. Anthony Hopkins is going to play the creator, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, I’m like ‘No, how did they put all of these people together?’ You normally get one, two – but all of these guys?

It was a no-brainer, of course I want to be a part of it. And I really liked the idea of the character, they told me that as we move on through the seasons, the character would start to have his arc and start to develop. It’s a conversation that was had in the beginning. I didn’t know where it was going, I still don’t – we don’t know much at all.

Every Westworld season two episode feels like a finale, in terms of the scale, scope and the big cliffhangers, is that how you felt reading the scripts?

Yes, yes. And also we only got episode before we started shooting, we never got five episodes. ‘You’re going to shoot one, here’s one. You’re going to shoot two, here’s two.’ Which is actually working very much in our favour, especially playing the hosts. It’s about awareness, it’s about information.

I was totally blown away. You’ve seen five? Just wait. It only get worse – I mean better. By the end, you’re going to go ‘What. The. F**k.’ That’s what it is. They’re really pushing hard, that’s the idea. The creators are very ambitious, and they work hard to make the show broader. You get a broader view of Westworld, the company behind it, the characters… The development was everywhere, it’s a lot of work.

It reminds me of Game Of Thrones, in that it didn’t take off as much in the first season, people found it slightly hard work, it’s a lot to get your head around, then in season two it really started to pick up and become this huge thing, do you think Westworld has that potential?

Potential, certainly. It’s hard to compare, and if we knew what the formula was, networks would be swimming in money, everybody would be happy. But I certainly think that Westworld has the potential to have a long life.

It’s not a spoiler to say Shogun World is introduced in season two, it’s in the trailer and the showrunners have talked about it, and it’s beautifully done. Without going into spoilers, the Shogun World episode was my favourite…

Mine too!

…What was it like to shoot?

It was amazing. It was a very memorable experience. I can’t talk much, I’d go much deeper if I could talk about specifics, but basically the dive we made into this world was just so rich in every single aspect, because of the relationship we have with the other characters, how that relationship affects our characters, the world in itself – all the things we see and we learn and we question – everything about this episode, to me, is outstanding. I was very excited when I read it, and shooting it was beautiful – and long.

How long?

We did it in parts, everything was built, but I think 20 days, plus a little bit here and there, so it was a lot of work.

Being an actor, does it sometimes feel like you’re halfway between being a host and a guest?

Yeah, definitely. You’re playing parts.

You’re playing parts, but you’re also in these crazy environments…

That’s a great analogy. The hosts in the show are the ultimate method actors. What really, really intrigued me and stimulated me to become part of the show is when they said ‘You’re going to play a host.’ Okay, what is a host? ‘This is a host’ and they gave me an explanation. And I said ‘So does that mean I can be anything?’ ‘Yup!’ That’s a dream role, right there! Who knows where we’re going to go with these hosts…

I feel like Westworld doesn’t get enough credit for being such a diverse show – it is noticeably different to you in terms of diversity?

Yeah. Especially in terms of the episode you mention, we bring a whole new culture into it. It is very diverse, in terms of ethnicity, and in terms of how we’re trying to explore the nature of human beings – the themes are diverse.

I don’t think it’s a sci-fi show. I don’t think it’s a fair title. It has sci-fi elements to it, it has the western elements to it, but they’re just elements in the equation. Ultimately I think the show is trying to raise a lot of questions, maybe answer some of them, maybe don’t. It’s diverse in many ways.

“These violent delights have violent ends” – that was certainly true of season one’s finale, what do you think about the level of violence in season two? It feels more violent to me…

Yeah. Violence is something people talk about. But the idea of having violence on the show is not gratuitous, the idea is to explore the human appetite for violence. Why are we so violent? That’s also what the show’s about. It’s raising it, so you can talk to your friends and ask questions.

I don’t think the violence is there to entertain. There’s no act of violence that doesn’t have something underneath, even on a metaphorical level. There’s something being discussed that goes beyond the violence itself.

I agree, it’s something I find fascinating – the show punishes its guest characters for craving sex and violence and pushing it too far, but the show also delivers that to its audience, but in a nasty way. The audience craves this stuff, so we’re going to give it to you, show you what it’s really like, how gruesome it really is…

I think it resonates with people. The viewer wants to participate in the experience, the final result happens inside the viewer’s mind. We throw things there. The audience wants to participate, but that opinion and that understanding comes from a very complex human place. You’ll never be the same.

It’s provocative, it’s there for you to savour, if you want, but then think about why you’re savouring it. It puts you in the place of the guest. You’re there and you say ‘Woah, that was cool. That wasn’t cool, that’s actually not cool – that’s violent. That’s so violent… but it was kinda cool.’ It’s about the dualities that we have inside ourselves, that’s what it’s meant for.

Thank you so much for your time.

You’re welcome. I hope you enjoy the rest of it, it’ll blow your mind. By the eighth, ninth episode… you’ll see.

Westworld Season 2 premieres on streaming service NOW TV and Sky Atlantic on Monday 23rd April at 2am. Episodes will be available weekly on demand and repeated at 9pm the same day.


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