8 DAYS: Have you figured out why you were the best person to play the ‘Financial Advisor’?
NIKKI MULLER: I think one of the reasons why they may have selected me, is that I decided to throw in a Swiss-German accent in there. I feel, sometimes, if you do something different maybe they’d say, “Hmmm…that’s an interesting choice. Maybe it’s worth looking at her even though the role is not a man.” From what I heard, the role was written for a man and I think I was the only woman they’d seen for the role, so I’m glad it paid off.
About that accent….
I have no idea how my Swiss family will react to my accent (chuckles). I think with Westworld, you are not sure where you are and who this person you’re playing is. Having that nebulous character perhaps worked for them — except for every Swiss person, who’s going to say, “Why is she doing that accent?”
Please take us through your day of the shoot. Was it a full day?
I did my make-up at 5am. We moved to the set at the National Gallery Singapore just after 7am. By the time we wrapped it was before 6pm, so it was a full day.
We were shooting around National Day period. Just looking at the cranes and equipment and the number of crew members, you could tell that this was a huge show. You had folks from Hollywood and Australia working side by side with the Malaysian and Singaporean crew. It was wonderful to see them working together.
In terms of the actors, whether they had lines or no lines, everyone felt they were a significant part of the show. There was something you can tell, a buzz that everyone was really excited to be there, especially for anyone who had never done anything like this.
Was it nerve-wracking to act opposite Aaron Paul and Evan Rachel Wood?
I sat with them for the most parts of the filming. When we were filming, I was in the scene with them. They are consummate professionals. They gave 100 per cent to their lines every single time when the camera was on them and even when they were not in the shot. They didn’t have to be there; someone else could have read the lines because the camera wasn’t on them.
Did you learn anything new about acting?
What I liked was that the director kept prompting and changing the trajectory of how I delivered my lines. I was speaking to an actor friend of mine, “Is it because I wasn’t doing it right?” Actually, no, a good director will have you change the way you do the scene in every single take, so that they have options [in the editing room].
It was confusing at first but I later I realised, if you give it 100 per cent the same way the entire time, good on you, but the editor would have nothing to work with. So these were little things I learnt along the way.
You guys also had lunch together. What did you guys talk about?
Everything. For Aaron, it was about how exciting an opportunity to be on a show like Westworld. He is very proud of his family and his kids. [Aaron and Evan] were actually very surprised by Singapore — I think it was the first time they were in Singapore. They were looking around and they couldn’t believe that a country like this exists. It’s beautiful, modern and has a bit of everything. It’s highly unusual, something they’d never seen before.
But one thing we all agreed was the intensity of working with someone like [showrunner] Jonathan Nolan. He has all these creative ideas but he would still ask for your feedback. That was something I noticed when we did a script read with him a few days prior to the shoot.
He would go through this process of asking the actors what they would do in the scene and whether [the scene] works for them. I didn’t expect [him to ask for] my opinion on the scene.
Those were just some of the conversations that came up. [We also talked] the kinds of food they like to eat.As the host of The Food Detectives, did you recommend any local cuisines to them?
No, I didn’t actually. The buffet we had on set had a bit of Singaporean food. To be honest, with their schedules, [there were probably] people who had brought them out for meals already. Also, Evan had a strict diet. Because, no matter what, she has to maintain her physique throughout the entire season. That’s something I’d never really thought about, even on The Food Detectives. It didn’t matter if I were a couple of pounds heavier in this scene than the previous scene. But on a show like Westworld, she was very careful of what she ate. That kind discipline is incredible.
Bobby Tonelli is in the scene as well, as the ‘Attendant’. It must’ve been nice to have a familiar face to calm the nerves.
It just helped to have him around me in general. He’s my big brother from another mother. We’ve worked together on a few things. We were just like two kids in a candy store. Looking around at the kinds of equipment, the way the turnaround was so quick — there was such a [high] level of professionalism. As soon as you heard “Cut!”, everybody repositioned. There was no dilly dallying. It was really a joy to be a part of that. It also helps having him there so I could share with him [the experience of the shoot]. We were so exhausted at the end of the shoot, we both went, “Shall we go have sushi and talk about the day?”
Duan Weiming, who appeared in episodes 1 and 2, said he had a PA. Did you have one?
No, but I do know that they were pretty adamant that everyone gets water. There was always someone looking after you, making sure you are okay. That’s what I call above and beyond professionalism. Remember when I mentioned that once they yell cut and the crew repositions?
When that happens, ideally, all the actors would rest in one corner and their stand-ins would come on set, while the crew sets up the lights. When it’s time for the camera to roll, they’d bring back the main actors. So that’s something I have never really seen before: a stand-in for absolutely everyone, including someone who doesn’t really have that many lines.
And I felt bad, so I insisted, “You don’t have to do this, I want to do this.” They went, “No, no, no, it’s our job, we’ll do it.” “But I just want to sit here to be a part of this for as long as I can. I want to make sure you get the lighting right for my left side. You guys do your thing but I just want to sit here all day.” They laughed.
Westworld airs Mon, HBO (Singtel TV Ch 420 & StarHub Ch 601), 9am, same day as the US; it’s also on HBO Go. Download the HBO Go app at App Store or Google Play and get a 7-day free trial or access HBO Go via StarHub, Singtel and meWATCH. You can stream The Food Detectives on meWATCH.
Photos: Crispian Chan (Main), HBO Asia