Poor Juliet. So much of what has happened in Westworld is a direct or indirect consequence of her existence, or lack thereof. We've heard about her suicide since season one, when an older William talked about how his daughter blamed him for his wife's death, but we finally saw, courtesy of guest star Sela Ward how everything went down.
This is a death with far-reaching implications – it's partly because of Juliet's suicide that William reconsiders the Delos strategy of chasing digital immortality. It also causes such a rift between William and Emily that he doesn't fully grasp why she would seek reconciliation, and leads to his own drastic measures. There's so much to unpack about William and Juliet's marriage that we had to turn to the source, and ask Sela Ward to break it all down for us.
Thank you for taking time off from your husband's campaign trail to talk Westworld. Although, technically, in your family, at least on screen, you're the one with more political experience!
[Laughs] Oh my lord! It's a welcome respite. Believe it or not, I'm out there giving speeches. You get a two-fer with my husband. I'm so passionate about lifting up the state of Mississippi. And you're right, I've had a lot of training! I've played the President [in Independence Day: Resurgence], I've played the wife of the President [in Graves], I've played the former First Lady running for the Senate [also in Graves]… It's really funny, how art imitates life like that. Crazy. But my husband's much more qualified than I am, just with his political brain and savvy. He has a Harvard Business School brain, but I'm a really good adjunct, as a cheerleader. Trust me.
There's one thing you do in your real life that is a little bit like Westworld – you invite people to explore every corner of your expansive Mississippi property during an annual scavenger hunt.
You've done your homework! My scavenger hunt is like Westworld minus all the darkness. [Laughs] That's the requirement. What I've endeavored to create is really my happy place. It's my bubble of recharging, of family, of a sense of belonging, of community. And I do that for my kids, because that part of the world and that culture is a part of who I am, and I couldn't imagine them not knowing a piece of that.
When we got married, we bought that property with the intention of spending inordinate amounts of time there, so my children wouldn't grow up in Los Angeles with only one window of perspective. My daughter, one of her high school friends had a birthday party, and all the friends in the group put in like $50 or something in order to buy the birthday girl a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes, and I went, "Oh my god! I think I have to do something about this, if this is the only perspective!" You know?
She actually ended up changing schools, and went to the L.A. County High School for the Arts, to get away from that, and that's really important to me. That's why Mississippi is important to me. It's really salt-of-the-earth type people, who don't look past you when you talk to them because they're actually interested in you as a person.
That's a long-winded answer, but it's a theme park of a different sort, with the sole purpose of having and creating delight and harmony and joy. Most of the time, it's a group of people who are not from Mississippi. Maybe three-fourths of them have never been to the farm. So we give them all sorts of riddles, and they're looking for spots on the farm – whether it's the railroad track, Mom and Daddy's grave buried on the hill in the back, or one of the cabins that the kids think is haunted. So you get all these clues, and they're finding points of interest on the farm. But we're really the antithesis of the Westworld park. It's happy, fun times. JoyfulWorld! [Laughs]
We know Juliet was no stranger to the park. Logan alludes to Juliet not being shy about taking advantage of the sexual aspects with "her share of cowboys." Emily talks about going to the park as a child, which means family trips. What do you think Juliet's attitudes were about the hosts, and what was she like in the park?
You just gave me information that no one ever gave me! [Laughs] I didn't know all that! So all of that is fascinating. When I was working on this part, it was really a black box for me, for the character. I looked at it like, since you're not in the park, it really was just the portrait of a marriage, a real window into their relationship, and that's all I was really focused on. It's just the universal theme of marriages where the woman feels abandoned, neglected, not seen… There's no longer a real connection, no real adhesive, and that loneliness that results from that is so debilitating for anyone in a relationship.
That's what I was really tapping into. Why is she drinking? What are all the factors that contribute to that? Who are these people together? What's the relationship with the daughter? So it becomes a portrait of a family, and you're dealing with two people in a marriage which no longer has love in it.
How much do you think Juliet already knew about the darkness within William? How much was the profile card just confirmation of what she already knew, versus new information in any way? Since it describes him having a persecutory complex, with paranoia and delusions…
Well, the extent of that darkness within him, I'm sure she never imagined. But I think in any relationship, one always picks up these things. It's like many people, many women where their husband is having an affair, they will have known that on many levels, but chose to deny it in their own consciousness. I see that over and over again. You can't be in a relationship and have an exchange of energy between two people and not pick up on nuances, because a large percent of our communication, innately, is nonverbal, without words. So I would find it very hard to believe that she was not in touch with that piece of him. That essence would have to bleed through. The park is the mistress in their marriage.
And yet, suicide…
Why she chose suicide? I don't know. But you see many women in relationships which are abysmal, from which they can't extricate themselves. And I think Juliet was at a point which was so low, and had long since turned to alcohol to try to deal with her loneliness, her depression, her sense of being trapped… I think she looks at that data card, and it confirmed beyond her feelings or her intuition about this man that she's married to, and to see the real horror, the dark side of him, just really put her over the edge.
I think one of the biggest factors is that her own child was really turning against her. At that point, everything you believe in and have to hold onto is gone. She was at a point – what was left to live for?
Besides Juliet, Teddy also kills himself. William contemplates it. And outside of this episode, in real life, we've seen a number of high profile suicides recently. The numbers seem to be on the rise…
Mental illness, in terms of severe depression, is unbelievably debilitating, from the people I know who have that issue. You're taken down a rabbit hole that is so dark, that is so hopeless, that you can't lift yourself up out of it. It's like, if you're in a thunderstorm, you see these dark clouds – and while you might know the sun will come back out, you can't hold on to that. There are varying degrees of that depressive state of being, and that's why we need more mental health funding, because it is an illness, and the people experiencing this cannot pull themselves out of it without help. And yet, the government has cut mental health funding. It's a real serious issue.
On a lighter note, you mentioned once that if you could pick anyone's brain, it would be Elon Musk. He happens to be friends with Westworld’s showrunners, so you might actually get that opportunity. What would you talk to him about?
[Laughs] I'm all over all of his advances in technology. I think he has one of those Einstein brains from an alternative universe. I could just sit there and listen to all of his ideas and fantasies about life as we know it, to advance our planet and take it to another level. I could just sit there for hours and listen to him!