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Westworld - Simon Quarterman discusses Lee's development, his compassion, and that nude scene

Note: Major spoilers follow from Sunday night's episode of Westworld, "Kiksuya".

On Sunday night, Westworld aired its most focused — and perhaps its best — episode to date with “Kiksuya”, an hour told almost entirely in flashback as the Ghost Nation’s Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) recounts his history of sentience.

By the time the credits roll, it is revealed that he has been communicating this story to Maeve (Thandie Newton) through her daughter (Jasmyn Rae) in a thrilling twist of what had appeared to be just a simple but emotional story.

Maeve sees all of this from an operating table beneath the park as technicians attempt to discover just what makes her so important, thanks to a push from the park’s narrative director, Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman).

His teary comments to a dying Maeve mark a major moment in his development throughout season two, and Quarterman spoke to SpoilerTV on Monday morning to discuss the episode, Lee’s progression from the comic relief to a compassionate man, his full-frontal scene, and more.

SpoilerTV: “Kiksuya” isn't that big an episode for you in terms of screentime, but in terms of your character and what his emotional state at this moment is, it was pretty revealing.

Simon Quarterman: Yeah, he's been going through a kind of radical change, Lee over this season. I think in episode five, Maeve has a line where she says she's finding a new voice and I can almost say the same thing for Lee. He's been finding a new voice himself. I think we see a glimmer of hope for humanity coming through from Lee — who would probably be the last person you'd imagine seeing that come from — but I think that's certainly a very exciting thing for me to explore and we're seeing a side of a more compassionate and loving man coming through.

SpoilerTV: You mention that Lee's going through some changes, but most of that's been geared towards his stance on the hosts. Is that potentially going to be him being more compassionate to humans as well now?

Quarterman: We'll have to see. I think it's a general shift in him, yeah.

SpoilerTV: The relationship between Lee and the hosts is so complex. How do you see it?

Quarterman: I think Lee's always seen the hosts purely as plot to his stories. He's had no emotional connection whatsoever. They have just been there to facilitate his vision and the park, and that's it. They're just a bunch of wires and code to him, so this relationship that's been burgeoning with Maeve throughout the season has been kind of fascinating to explore for me, and I think kind of fun for everyone else to witness this change in Lee.

SpoilerTV: He designed the hosts, but now that they've gone off script, beyond seeing them less as code, now has he got any other feelings? We saw earlier in the season that he was so aghast at the idea that his characters were doing something he hadn't told them to do.

Quarterman: I think that's a source of real confusion for him, and we see that in episode three with the relationship that Hector and Maeve have developed, that's a source of real difficulty for him actually because as we learn in that scene, he's putting a lot of his trauma into his characters and the fact that he lost someone, a woman, and his way of dealing with it is to basically kill off this woman in Hector's story but have him completely hung up on her. I think what we're also seeing is that there's a lot of Lee in the characters. You're getting to see parts of himself through these characters that I don't think he was necessarily aware of, and Maeve being one. We're seeing Maeve growing into a more compassionate space as well as Lee, so they're kind of living together in a-- there's a lot of parallels between the two characters, I feel.

SpoilerTV: You're sort of coming from opposite places but finding the same middle ground.

Quarterman: Yeah, that's it. Just that.

SpoilerTV: And obviously Maeve's daughter, Lee makes the point that she's not real, she's scripted, she's not actually her daughter, but then Maeve has got this big connection to her and actually by the time we come to “Kiksuya”, Lee's come around on the fact that actually there is a reason for Maeve to care about her.

Quarterman: I think for him, he's understanding that this is all going beyond the code now. He's seeing that Maeve is becoming sentient and alive, I guess. She's just growing into an awakened being and he's kind of surrendered to that fact. He's now accepted that and with it I think he's seen way past her being a robot. She's no longer a host to him. She's something way more than he once thought.

SpoilerTV: And now that she's been shot, he's going to be quite guilty — and we see in this episode that he is very remorseful for calling in the reinforcements and getting her shot. From the more compassionate side that he's developed, he's not going to just brush this aside.

Quarterman: This is a major turning point for Lee, and it's been one that started-- the process kind of started in the first episode with Maeve stripping him naked. It was the beginning of the breaking down of all of his own stories and loops that he's been in. That's the other thing I think is really interesting with this show is that all these hosts have been living in these patterns and these stories that characters like Lee have developed for them, but so too do we, I think, as humans, and Lee in particular. We see the breaking down of his own stories and loops and everything that he's been in, so there's a wonderful parallel there too, and that was the beginning of that breaking down. And he's learning something quite deeply about himself.

SpoilerTV: It was such a staggering moment for the audience to see that nudity — the way that season one played out, you perhaps wouldn't expect one of the main male characters to be shown like that but it's obviously such a big moment for the character as well that actually that jolt for the audience is portrayed in the way he's developed.

Quarterman: The shoe is certainly on the other foot, so to speak. And the power has just been shifted over to the hosts. But not only that, we're also seeing the male ego being broken down at that point as well, so there's a lot going on in that scene, and it was really exciting to explore for all of us.

SpoilerTV: Now, where do you see Lee's role at the moment? Last season, he was seen as the comic relief, and this season there have been suggestions that he's perhaps the most important character in the show. It's a real step for Lee. Where do you see him?

Quarterman: There's a lot of growth in this character. It's an extraordinary arc. For the first season, he was just an unbridled ego, just rampaging through life, filled with entitlement and arrogance and everything else that the ego might involve. This season, we're seeing the breaking down of that and then what's underneath all of that, what's underneath all of those stories. So, in a lot of ways, it's been a very bleak look at humanity in this show and he feels like the crack of light in what we all actually are beneath all of our shit, if you're allowed to dig deep enough. So it's been really wonderful to explore an arc I wasn't entirely expecting when I started this season.

SpoilerTV: So you didn't know where it was going to go when you started this season?

Quarterman: No, I had no clue. I'll be honest with you, after that scene where I strip naked, I had an inkling that's where we were going because it just felt such a moment for Lee to be going through that. My feeling was, when I got a couple of breadcrumbs from Jonah [Nolan, the showrunner] -- but, like, I'm talking breadcrumbs -- that was where we were headed, but I didn't envisage this.

SpoilerTV: And speaking of breadcrumbs, you're not going to be able to give any, are you?

Quarterman: [Laughing] Not really, no. As much as I'd like to.

SpoilerTV: Well then, let me ask you this. The suggestions I mentioned previously about Lee being one of the most important characters - he knows so much information about the park. This is almost like looking at the back of his hand to him. Does he know too much that Maeve can't lose him?

Quarterman: Yes, very much so. We find that in episode three when she says to Hector, "I need him." It's very clear to her that he's going to be an important part of her finding her daughter, but there's another little moment where you start seeing the chipping down again, she just turns to him and says, "Thank you." And you can see that touches Lee deeply, and it's another little moment of that breaking down of how he feels about these characters that he's created. But, more than that, I think it's a breaking down of how he feels about himself too. It goes both ways. They're both guiding one another, Lee and Maeve, to a similar state as we were discussing before.


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