Daniel Wu Got To Do Two Things He Loves On Westworld Season 4 – Science-Fiction And Architecture - 8 Days Skip to main content

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Daniel Wu Got To Do Two Things He Loves On Westworld Season 4 – Science-Fiction And Architecture

The Golden Horse Award-winning actor stars as resistance leader Jay in Season 4 of Westword, which just ended its run on Monday. 
Daniel Wu Got To Do Two Things He Loves On Westworld Season 4 – Science-Fiction And Architecture

In the 20-odd years American actor Daniel Wu had been in Asia, there’s one genre he rarely worked on: science-fiction.

“It’s interesting to me because Asia is a very futuristic place to me,” Wu, 47, tells 8days.sg and other press over Zoom from LA recently. “Maybe in Japan, they do a little bit more, but not so much in Hong Kong, Mainland China, or Taiwan.”

That’s why when the California-native moved back to the US — with wife Lisa S and their daughter Raven — he made “a conscious effort” to pick sci-fi projects, which included the 2017 climate-change epic Geostorm; Into the Badlands, the post-apocalyptic martial arts TV drama that ran from 2015 to 2019; and last year’s Reminiscence, the dystopian detective-cum-love story from Lisa Joy, the co-creator of HBO’s man-vs-machine series Westworld.  

And if it weren’t for Reminiscence, the Golden Horse Award-winning actor wouldn’t have landed the recurring role of resistance leader Jay in Season 4 of Westworld, which ended its eight-ep run on Monday (Aug 15).

A Westworld fan since day one, Wu loves the themes tackled on the Emmy-winning show which originated from a Michael Crichton novel that was later made into a 1973 cult classic starring Yul Brynner. (Interestingly, Wu once auditioned for Season 1 but didn’t get the part, and even if he did, he couldn't do it because of his commitment to Into the Badlands.)

“It’s kind of an expansion of The Terminator idea,” says Wu, referencing the 1984 James Cameron movie about AI machines who become self-aware and rise up against their human masters.

Good science-fiction, like Westworld, cautions humanity about the dark science of technology, Wu muses.

“In Westworld, you create these [theme park robot] hosts to entertain ourselves, but look what happens when they get consciousness and turn against you,” says he. “Humans are constantly doing this to ourselves: trying to invent something better to make our world better, but only to create more problems as well.”

Look at the case for and against electric cars, he adds. “Does that solve our environmental problems? Yes, for air pollution. But where does the lithium-ion come from? They have to mine that from somewhere and there’s going to be a precious resource. Then we’re going to be in the same situation we are now with petroleum.”

Elsewhere, Wu relished the opportunity to work with Joy, who’s the American daughter of a British father and a Taiwanese mother, again. “When I was on the set of Reminiscence, I was watching her work and all of a sudden, it snapped in my head that this is the first time I’m working with an Asian-American female director,” says he.

They also share similar backgrounds. “We both had Tiger mums growing up; her mum was little bit more than my mum because she went to Stanford and I ended up at the University of Oregon, so we’re a little different,” he says, with a laugh.

“Her mum pushed her a bit harder — she didn’t let her watch TV! So the first time she watched TV was in college, which is an irony: Because she’s now writing one of the biggest shows on television.”

As a producer himself (on Into the Badlands), Wu says watching Joy and her husband Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan) as showrunners was inspiring and insightful. “This show is huge — the crews are gigantic; you have multiple storylines going on at once, so many actors,” he says. “To just manage that machine and get it going was very exciting for me to watch.”

A Joy to work with: Westworld showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy at the Season 3 premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Mar 5, 2020. Wu, who likens Joy to a sister, says, “She’s one of those directors that I’ll just do whatever she asks me to do. I just had a great time working with her. There’s only a few directors to whom I would do that without looking at the script, and she’s one of them. Derek Yee being another one that I’ve worked with like, six times.”

During production, Wu discovered something startling: Westworld was shot on film! “I haven’t shot in film in years, and all of a sudden, I looked at the camera and realised there was a film loader. I was like, that’s so ironic because it’s a science-fiction show about the future and it’s shooting on analog film!”

As a trained architect, Wu is also blown away by Westworld’s sleek aesthetics and stunning landmarks, which included a few Singaporean locations standing in for Los Angeles 2058 in Season 3.

“[Building design] is something we talked about a lot on the side because of my background and [Jonathan and Lisa’s] familiarity with good architecture,” says Wu. “They are both architectural fans, so they looked for locations or built sets that are very architecturally interesting [to serve nice backdrops for the story to happen],” says Wu, who also bonded with Nolan over their passion for cars.

What does he make of the theme parks on the show? “I like what they did with the contrast between the theme park worlds and how they are kind of a relic of the past, and the cities [in the real world] which are super ultra-modern and futuristic,” says Wu, who watches the British docu-series Grand Design in his free time.

“I always thought the irony in Season 1 was like, there are these really high-tech robots living in the 1800s world while the humans, who are kind of backwards, living in this super-futuristic world.”

Present tense: When asked what is his Mount Rushmore of futuristic landscapes, Wu says Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is definitely up there. “That sets the tone for all kinds of sci-fi. It was cool then because I found it very familiar, because a lot of those streets and things like the exteriors were very Asian to me. It felt like Hong Kong to me. That wasn’t the future — that was the present.”

What would a Daniel Wu-designed Westworld look like?

“My view of the future is lot less clean; I don’t think it’s going to be like an Apple store,” says Wu, who was nominated for a 2018 Royal Institute of British Architects’ International Prize for a library he co-designed in Inner Mongolia.

“I think the world is going to be a mixed bag of dirty and clean together. So, I’m more in the Blade Runner aspect where you have really complicated systems mixed in with older, analogy systems jammed together.

"Maybe it’s not necessarily a beautiful architectural environment, but something that’s very layered and a lot of like Hong Kong in some way. Tokyo is a little too clean, but I think a combination of those cities.”

A family outing: Wu with wife Lisa S and their nine-year-old daughter Raven at the Season 4 premiere of Westworld at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Centre in New York City on June 23, 2022.

Now that he’s fulfilled his science-fiction goals, what else does he hope to do more in Hollywood that he couldn’t do back in Asia?

Some part of me now wants to delve more into comedy,” he says. “When I worked on [the upcoming Disney+ fantasy series] American Born Chinese, Ronny Chieng was involved and so was Jimmy O Yang. I’m a huge fan of theirs. I know this sounds really weird, but they make me want to write a 10-minute stand-up set. I’ve always been a huge fan of stand-up comedy but I’ve never had the balls to actually try and do it.

“And then because in Hong Kong, the way I got my start was based on my looks really, so I became this idol who never really got a chance to delve into comedy so much. Also, because Cantonese is not my first language so it was much harder to do comedy in a language that is not your own.

“I also kind of prefer English-style dry humour and that’s become more popular in the United States now with people like Jason Bateman [in Arrested Development] and Steve Carell [in The Office]. So, if I get the chance to do comedy, I would love to do that.”

Stream Westworld Season 4 on HBO Go. All previous seasons of Westworld as well as Reminiscence and Geostorm are also available on HBO Go. Into the Badlands is now on Amazon Prime Video.

Photos: HBO Go, TPG News/Click Photos

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