Editor’s note: This piece was originally published on July 13, 2017.
The 2017 Emmy nominations were announced in full today and the acting race is tighter than that feeling in 45’s chest (probably). I have a lot of favorites and I’m sure it’s no surprise(s) they’re mostly from Westworld, which — with 22 possible winners — tied with Saturday Night Live for most nods. The series is nominated for Leading Actor and Actress, Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood, Supporting Actor and Actress, Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton, as well as Best Drama Series, Jonathan Nolan for Director, Lisa Joy and Nolan for Writing, Production Design, Cinematography and Casting. If I had my way, all these actors would win their categories, and that’s not to say I don’t love Stranger Things, Fargo (Carrie Coon, David Thewlis), The Handmaid’s Tale, Homeland, Big Little Lies; they’re some of my favorite series, and the actors are all top notch. That quartet of Westworld leads, though? They blew away every single episode they were in.
Getting down to the finer points, I’d give up both Hopkins’ and Wood’s theoretical wins, despite their obvious talent. Jeffrey Wright is a close second, but narrowing down the whole competition, if I could pick only one actor out of all the Emmy nominations who deserves, who positively must win, without a doubt, it’s Thandie Newton. Her Maeve Millay came in almost as a secondary character, with little hints at what was yet to come, unfolding in unexpected ways and giving the actress a chance to shine. And my gods, did she ever shine. Many times (more than others) wearing not a stitch of clothing, Newton literally and figuratively ripped every emotion there is from the audience, with her perfect deadpan delivery of what would be (were she human) quite comical lines, through the veil of an emotionless (supposedly) android … who actually did seem to feel something, and with moments where she broke our hearts with her discoveries and remembrances (real and narrated).
The mindgame within a mindgame of possibly independently acting Hosts, possibly becoming self-aware, the when and how of discerning those moments gives Westworld‘s actors a maze (*cough*) of levels to plumb, and the hairlines they traverse as performers, trying not to give away anything, while maybe giving something away — or pretending to give something — well, you can see how convoluted it becomes even trying to explain what actors like Evans, Wright and Newton (and Hopkins, if you’re the theorist I am) have had to do. Against the many powerhouses involved in this series, Thandie Newton still shines above. With Maeve she was given the opportunity to leaves us wondering, in every scene, every moment, just how much awareness this particular being has and right up until the very second she takes what seems to be decisive action, it is difficult to discern exactly who/what is in control of her “mind” (I’m still not certain I agree with Nolan’s own take, and he’s the writer!).
Newton’s chemistry with every other player, her innate ability to reflect emotion without obvious emotion, and the way she took control of not only her character’s destiny, but how we perceived everything she did, propelled her to the series’ forefront. It made Maeve the most watchable, unpredictable character, the one we rooted for no matter which side she was on. As much as we love many of the Westworld characters, whichever actors are credited as leads, Thandie Newton stole the show — became symbolic of its entire premise. We can’t wait to see where she takes us next.
Westworld is currently in production; season 2 airs on HBO sometime in 2018.