Grace, Westworld

Westworld's Katja Herbers on Grace, the mysteries of Raj World, and working with real elephants

Contributed by
May 14, 2018

Finally, we learn the identity of Westworld's mystery Raj World woman — she's none other than the Man in Black's daughter. For now, we're going to call her Grace because that's what HBO lists as her character's name, and it's what actress Katja Herbers calls her, as well. But it's okay if you can't help but think of her as Emily, as that was the name given during a previous scene featuring the not-so-happy Delos family.

Grace (aka Emily) has suffered quite a bit during her latest trip to the park during its robot uprising — attacked by a robot valet, slashed by a robot tiger, taken captive by Ghost Nation robots — and yet she always keeps her wits about her. If anyone's going to survive this season, our bets are on her. Herbers chatted with SYFY WIRE about her character's resourcefulness and respect for the hosts, as well as a deleted scene from Episode 3.

Grace, Westworld, Katja Herbers

Credit: HBO

You come from a musical family – your mother is a violinist your father is a conductor. So what did you make of the sitar version of "Seven Nation Army"?

I love the music! It's not the classical music I grew up with, but it's great. My dad, who has perfect pitch, came to the premiere and he really appreciated that in the show's opening titles, the hands are all actually not only on the right notes but also in the right key. That got his approval. [Laughs]

When your character shoots Nicholas, that was the best Turing test ever.

Ah, yeah! That was my first day, and I was very excited to get that kind of an opening. That was quite something.

It was just a fun moment because people have so many questions about how the guns and ammunition work in Westworld. Some are answered on the ancillary websites, but it's nice to have it explained in the show, too.

Exactly! I've gotten numerous texts from friends where they're just like, "Can you explain that to me?" It can be confusing.

I think your scene was also one of the first moments two humans have had sex together on the show? Usually, we get human/robot or robot/robot matches.

That's true. Nicholas says, "They really don't want us interacting with each other," and I say, "Maybe they're trying to steer you towards a sure thing," towards a host who will sleep with you. I don't think the park wants people to necessarily connect with each other, instead of playing the game. They're not making the kind of capital they want to make [from gathering personal data].

So what is your character's position regarding the hosts? She doesn't want to sleep with them. She pays attention to their names. She learns their languages. Does she have compassion for them? Does she respect them?

Having sex with them isn't interesting to her. She doesn't want to interact with somebody who's been programmed to please her. She's been to the park many times as a child, and she's a very experienced player. Similar to her dad, she wants something else from the game. And right now, she's there to find her dad. When she's held hostage with Stubbs, she says, "A lot of people tend to ignore their narratives. I don't like other people very much." So that's interesting, in terms of how the Man in Black treats the hosts. They both seem to have respect for them and treat them differently. Although you could also argue that her shooting Nicholas — if he were a robot, she would have killed him. So there are two sides of that as well!

What do you think about Raj World and how it fits in with the other Delos park themes?

I think Raj World has a certain luxurious allure. I think you go there if you like to be served, and maybe have a little less violent urge than Westworld, the park. It's a little milder. It's a place where you can have sex in a different way, in a Pleasure Palace. I think it's more exotic. It might be a slightly more exquisite world for people of a certain class.

Westworld, Grace and Nicholas

Credit: HBO

And you're right, it's less violent than the Westworld park. And perhaps hunting animal robots is considered more humane than hunting actual animals, especially given that some of the beasts are considered extinct at this point in time. At least, according to the supplementary websites.

Most definitely. It's less of a fantasy of hurting other human beings than something that's more accepted in society. The gun I used to shoot Ganju is a Howdah pistol, which is the gun that people would have on their elephants to shoot tigers. We didn't end up using this, but there was a scene where we were out on safari. When it was my turn to shoot the tiger, I forcibly miss the tiger. Nicholas turns to me and says, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" And I say, "Well, we already drove them to extinction one time. No need for me to do it again." That also shows my character's respect for the robots and other creatures. It's interesting to see the difference between the way the Man in Black and his daughter treat the hosts. She's very much her father's daughter, but she's also decided to behave very differently in the park!

What was it like actually working with the animals? I'm assuming that the tiger was CGI. No real tiger chased you off a cliff.

Yeah. That was a guy in a blue suit. And actually, I found him extremely frightening! I didn't have to do that much acting when he was chasing me around. [Laughs]

And working with the elephants was very special. The elephant that I had the honor of working with was 47 years old and standing next to her, being able to be so close to her, made an even bigger impression on me than the actual riding we got to do. My character has been to Raj World many times before, and she's so used to it, so I had to tone down my excitement quite a bit. The whole set felt different, though, when the elephants were there. They're such majestic beings. It's quite humbling.