‘Westworld’ Producer Defends Explicit Sex, Rape Scenes

TCA 2016: “Sexual violence is an issue we take very seriously,” executive producer Lisa Joy says of HBO sci-fi epic

Last Updated: July 30, 2016 @ 7:16 PM

The producers of HBO’s upcoming sci-fi epic “Westworld” are on the defensive over the show’s explicit sex and rape scenes.

Promoting the show about a futuristic theme park at the TV press tour in Beverly Hills Saturday, the network showed a trailer containing graphic nudity and the sexual exploitation of the protagonist, played by Evan Rachel Wood. In followup questions, reporters pressed the producers over the issue, much as they weighed in earlier Saturday during a tense question-and-answer session with new HBO programming boss Casey Bloys.

“Sexual violence … is an issue we take very, very seriously,” said “Westworld” executive producer Lisa Joy, who is overseeing the show with her husband, Jonathan Nolan. “So in its portrayal we really endeavored for it to not be about the fetishization of those acts; it is about exploring the crime and establishing the crime, and exploring the torment of the characters within this story.”

“Westworld,” an adaptation of the 1973 movie from the late novelist Michael Crichton, has already landed in controversy for its handling of sex scenes. The series also stars Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, who appeared on the panel alongside Wood, Joy and Nolan.

Extras on the HBO production signed contracts agreeing to perform “fully nude” and engage in “genital-to-genital touching,” simulated oral sex and other acts, according to documents leaked last year.

The producers are defending the explicit nature of the scenes by arguing, essentially, that rape is a fact of life.

“Violence and sexual violence have, sadly, been a fact of human history since the beginning of human history,” Joy said. “There’s something about us — thankfully, not the majority of us — but there are people who engage in violence.”

There’s also something about being on HBO that gives the producers free rein to indulge in plenty of sex and violence. The network is not under the same federally mandated broadcast restrictions that censor broadcasters. HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” has likewise come under fire for its extreme depictions of rape and sexuality.

Similarly, Nolan said the producers didn’t have to rely on familiar TV tropes, like introducing a different “host” each week into the amusement park to amplify the number of possible stories.

“We didn’t do a ‘Fantasy Island’ version of the show,” Nolan said. “That’s the broadcast version.”