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‘Westworld’ Actor Leonardo Nam Talks Diversity Ahead of Season 2 Premiere

Consciousness is an underlying theme of season 2 of HBO’s Westworld, says Leonardo Nam who plays Felix Lutz in the Emmy-winning sci-fi drama series that returns to our screens over the weekend.

Speaking at an exclusive screening of the first episode in Atlanta, 38-year-old Nam talked some of the season’s themes and complex storylines. The discussion was moderated by Leland Melvin, engineer and former NASA astronaut, and hosted by HBO and the Multicultural Sci-Fi Organization.

In a teasing and tantalizing discussion, Nam said Season 2 touches on a myriad of issues from humanity to how technology shapes our ideas. Viewers just might get a dose of déjà vu, seeing a parallel of what we’re going through in society, he added.

Nam said he found himself watching the news and saying, “Hmm… that sounds like something that happened in episode three that we filmed six months ago.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is very much a part of the mainstream conversation and issues, as social media security and surveillance have dominated major headlines over the past few weeks.

Nam believes Westworld will be a tipping point for more conversation on AI.

Diversity in Westworld

Another thing viewers can look forward to is the portrayal of empowered women, even if they are robots. Some of the women were victims in season 1 like Dolores Abernathy and Maeve Millay, portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton respectively. But in the season 2 premiere, they’re in charge. We may see more agency from these characters as the new season progresses.

Alongside the stellar cast that also includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Shannon Woodward, people of color get meaty storylines, as well. Westworld gives the opportunity for racially diverse characters to take on central roles.

For Nam, who didn’t grow up seeing Asian role models on his television screen in his native hometown in Sydney, Australia, this is another powerful aspect of the show.

“Diversity and equality make us stronger,” he said. “It’s something that is… I have the benefit of surfing this wave that Westworld is really bringing to life, these themes. Because I think people want to talk about it. There is a need for that. And Westworld is amplifying those voices. And I really believe in amplifying the voices of those who are underrepresented.”

Season 2 opens with Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe and we see Newton as Maeve asserting her signature leading charge, albeit in vastly different circumstances. The season will certainly explore how these two and all characters navigate new terrain and a power shift.

Multicultural Sci-Fi

One of the major aims of Westworld may be to make viewers consider how society places conforming, repetitive narratives on individuals and how to break from them.

Supporting films in the genre with the same intentions is the mission of the Multicultural Sci-Fi Organization, who partnered with HBO for the reception, private screening, and chat with the star.

The event was the second instance of the partnership with the organization based in Georgia that seeks to promote diversity in the genre.

“When I started the Multicultural Sci-fi Organization, it was basically for the goal of making sure we have a platform to show our films that touch people of diverse backgrounds,” said Amanda Ray, founder and CEO of the organization. “There weren’t enough science fiction that was speaking to us, not only just people of color but people of all genders and disabilities. And so I wanted to make sure people are thinking about what do we look like in the future? What are our experiences in the future? We needed to start telling those stories.”

“It took off very quickly, straight out the gate, IMAX was the title sponsor,” Ray said. “And then HBO jumped on board. As part of the festival to kick it all off, we did a big reception and that was a huge success. Last year we worked with IMAX again.” The festival screened Sunspring, an experimental science fiction short film written by an artificial intelligence bot using neural networks.

The third annual festival will take place later this year. In the meantime, diehard fans can rejoice, Westworld Season 2 premieres Sunday, April 22 at 9 pm.

 

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