Vincent Cassel and Anthony Hopkins wound up playing similar characters on Westworld. Hopkins' Dr. Robert Ford and Cassel's Engerraund Serac are both brilliant, driven men. They're both mysterious, they're both charming, and they both have a grand vision that they can't trust just anyone to fulfill. Perhaps most important, though, they're both willing to go to any lengths — even deadly ones — to get what they want.
Though they share all of these things, Serac and Ford aren't sharing the screen in Westworld Season 3, which has mostly left the titular theme park behind in favor of the real world, in which Serac has his own hyper-detailed playground away from Ford's immersive Western experience. Speaking to SYFY WIRE about his work on the third season of the hit HBO series, Cassel noted that he was glad he wouldn't have to live in Hopkins' acting shadow, despite being a fan of the Oscar winner's work.
"One of the first things I asked when I got to L.A. was 'So, who's in the show this season?'" Cassel recalls. "And I kept on asking about everybody, and when I asked about Hopkins, they said, 'No, he is not here this time. You're the new one.' So, I thought, 'OK, that’s even better than what I thought,' because I love Anthony Hopkins."
"The new one," in this case, refers to the show setting Cassel up as the next major villain for the series, as much as a show like Westworld can actually have villains. As the architect of the mysterious supercomputer Rehoboam, Serac reveals in Episode 4 of the new season that he believes humanity has always been its own worst enemy, as evidenced by the loss of Paris, his childhood home, to senseless violence. To that end, he built Rehoboam to give humanity a roadmap, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to keep his species on that right track, no matter what Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her notions of freedom have to say about it.
Of course, no one in Westworld is ever entirely pure, so we had to ask: Does Serac really believe he's doing what's best for all of humanity?
"Yes, totally," Cassel replies without hesitation. "And that’s why he is so interesting. You know, he really believes that’s the best thing for humanity, to get rid of pain and grief and suffering and inequality. The problem is that he wants to impose that on the world. That’s the only thing. If people have voted for him, then that would be different. But in a way, that is just a tyrant.
"But yeah, he believes that is the best thing," he continues. "And the world that he created, even though it is fake, it seems at least balanced."
The delicate (if artificial) balance Serac has set up through Rehoboam is threatened by the presence of outside factors he didn't account for, in the form of Dolores and Maeve (Thandie Newton). Both hosts have goals of their own, but while one is trying to obliterate everything Serac has worked for, the other, Maeve, is more interested in dealing with him — or at least getting to the heart of his motives. That meant several intimate, intense scenes with Thandie Newton right off the bat, which, according to Cassel, felt like a new experience for them both, even though Newton has been a part of Westworld since the beginning.
"She welcomed me, really, more than guided. We were really excited to work together," Cassel explains. "Of course, she had two seasons, but they were so different. It’s a different world, as we know now. It’s not the Western world anymore; it’s not the dust anymore; it’s not all those things, really. It’s a different, high-tech kind of polished computer world, really, we are in. Even to her, she told me that it feels like a different show."
Even now, as we near the midway point of Westworld's third season, we know very little about who Serac actually is, what drives him, and whether he'll ever actually be satisfied in his work to save humanity from itself. Cassel promised we'll learn more about him in the weeks to come, and also confirmed that he's not just an illusion generated by Rehoboam. He also promised that there's more to the character than mere villainy. If you're ready to judge Serac already, he says, you should wait a while.
"I don't know if you should be scared or eventually charmed by him and his ideas," he says of his character. "When you think about it and when you see the determination of killing and destroying that Dolores has, maybe his vision is not a vision of a villain. I mean, that is the interesting thing with this show — you start to judge somebody and then you realize that it is exactly the opposite thing than what you thought it would be. So let’s wait and see before judging Serac and see what are his plans for the world."
Westworld airs Sundays at 9 PM Eastern on HBO.