[This story contains spoilers for Westworld season 4 episode “Well Enough Alone.”]
Ed Harris doesn’t know how things will end for William, aka the Man in Black, when Westworld ends with its fifth and final season, but he has some thoughts.
The Oscar-nominated actor has played sadistic park owner and patron since the first episode of the HBO series in 2016. In his younger days, William (played by Jimmi Simpson) seemed to be the a good guy. But in the end he is spoiled by Westworld where he visits to perform his evil deeds on the robots. That is, until the revolt at the end of the season after the home team became self-aware. Making his wife commit suicide and killing his daughter (even though he thought she was the landlord) left William with nothing. And when viewers caught up with him in Season 4, it was learned that he had somehow survived after a server clone slit William’s throat at the end of season 3. The real William is currently being watched. An owner keeps in a giant cold chamber a replica of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) as the host version of William doing her bidding.
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Sunday’s premiere of “Well Enough Alone,” the stage, screen and television veteran addressed a number of topics, including the full story he was told and when, as well as whether he thinks William can be redeemed.
In the chat below, Harris also talks about the golf scene on this week’s episode and the pain the LeMat pistol has brought on him over the seasons.
Do you know how far your story is going, meaning are you prepared to play a version of William’s AI minions before the scripts for this part appear?
At the end of last season, I had absolutely no idea at the beginning of this season that I was going to be an AI. And after that [co-creator] Lisa Joy gave me an overall part of Season 4, understanding that I was basically a henchman for Tessa’s character.
Do you have to rethink how your character will interact as a host?
I don’t know if there is much difference between the two of them, but yes. He really follows orders. She programmed him to the point where he actually did it in her bid, but hopefully during the season, as the other hosts have done, he’ll start growing inside. in, be a little more aware of who you are and broaden your horizons a bit. Things started to change a bit later in the season.
Can William be redeemed and do you want him to be redeemed?
That’s a really good question. You know, I wouldn’t mind if he, the real human William, got out of the cryo machine and fixed some of the situations he was responsible for. I don’t know if that will happen or not. I certainly wasn’t told, but I’m not sure if he had much of a chance of survival. I don’t know if he’ll ever be that man again [played by Jimmi Simpson]. I hope that some aspect of who he was when he was younger will return, but I really don’t know if it will. I don’t know what they’re planning. We have one more season left, which will start filming in April and May. I don’t know where that will end.
Is Westworld your favorite park on the show? And directed and starred in Appaloosa  make this project more appealing to you when it was originally signed?
This whole idea of the West, you know how to ride a horse and wear this Western dress, is the Man in Black, which is very appealing to me. (Laugh.) I really like my Man in Black suit and who he is when he wears it. Wearing all those layers of black, when I sweat – especially when it’s 100 degrees – it keeps me cool, so I don’t mind. But when I took off that black hat, sweat just trickled down my face.
I just love that golf scene in this week’s episode. Was it fun to shoot there? Do you play?
(Laugh.) I played in the past, but I gave up on it because the last time I played, I threw my putter into the bushes. I hadn’t played in a couple of years, so an expert came over and gave me a little help. It’s not a very good spin, it wobbles a bit, but it’s better than it is. And I’ve actually hit that green a few times. It’s fun, yes.
I’m not much of a gun person, but I went down a rabbit hole because I was so obsessed with William’s LeMat. From what I’ve read, those guns, aside from their exceptional rarity, are quite sophisticated. What is your experience with the pistol?
I had a really hard time with that. They actually have another clone that’s a bit better, but it’s really hard to play with one hand. I gave it to other people and said, “Just trying to play this thing.” And especially if I have to shoot fast, it’s a real pain. But you know, thanks to the magic of cinematography and editing, it worked. But yeah, it’s a bit annoying.
And finally, I’d love to hear from you about the technology that’s evolving at lightning speed, even as the show starts in 2016. From self-driving cars to robotic dogs, etc. The tech show went horribly wrong.
I have to say that I think it’s human responsibility to deal with technology constructively. The internet is great at keeping people connected, it also increases people’s ability to do evil things, whether it’s bullying or sending death threats to senators. Personally, I’m behind on even embracing current technology, and I don’t care. I just assume toss cell phones in the sea most days. That was scary for me. My daughter is 29 years old and I am 71 years old. I can’t imagine what the world would be like when she was my age, no way even imagine.
The edited interview is long and clear.
Westworld airs new episodes every Sunday on HBO.