James Marsden takes nothing for granted when it comes to his role in Westworld

James Marsden stars as robot Teddy Flood in Westworld.
James Marsden stars as robot Teddy Flood in Westworld.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Actor James Marsden cut himself while firing a 19th-century gun eagerly in the science-fiction series set in the Old West

Science-fiction series Westworld's season one finale airs today. Its maker, HBO, has announced a second season, but actor James Marsden is keeping his lips sealed over whether his character, the synthetic human Teddy Flood, is coming back.

He remains reticent even when it is pointed out that robots, called "hosts" in the show, are immortal.

After "death" - often at the hands of human clients releasing forbidden urges - the hosts are repaired, memory-wiped and returned to service in a process called a "reset".

"I've learnt to never speak in absolutes about the show. As actors, we are kept out of the loop, so I wouldn't rule anything out, or in. I'll have to approach it with fingers crossed," he says.

The 43-year-old actor was in Singapore last week on a press tour.

His character Teddy, who started in the show as a naive, good-hearted new arrival in town, might have been slain a hundred times by the villainous Man In Black (played by Ed Harris).

"He is experiencing each demise for the first time," Marsden says. Playing someone who has to die repeatedly inside a made-up world is not difficult at all - he thinks hosts and actors have similar jobs, so in playing a host, he is actually just playing himself.

Westworld is a theme park where adults live out their fantasies of the Old West. Hosts play characters who support the desires of human clients, no matter how depraved they are. Things unravel when memories of past events survive the reset and leak into the hosts' consciousness.

Marsden says he does not let uncanny host experiences such as resetting or past lives trouble him in how he prepares for his role. His character simply lives in the moment.

"As long as I know what Teddy knows at the time, what he's feeling and remembering and what drives him and what keeps him awake at night, I use it in my acting," he says.

He quizzes Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for as much information as they are willing to share.

There was one experience, however, that proved unexpectedly tricky. The show uses working versions of 19th-century revolvers and rifles, which lack the safety features of modern weapons.

Marsden was filming a scene in the pilot, in which he shoots down two men out to do evil on a farm. After firing the rifle, he noticed a gash on his right hand. He had not fired the rifle correctly and cut himself on a sharp edge. But he did not want to interrupt the filming and carried on with the rest of the scene.

"I was a little too eager with the rifle. After the director yelled 'cut', the set designer came over and shouted, 'Who's bleeding on my set?' I said, 'That would be me.' You learn these things as you go along."

•The final episode of Westworld airs on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) today at 10am, with a primetime encore at 9pm. The entire season is available on HBO Signature (StarHub TV Channel 603) on Dec 24 and 25 from 10am, as well as on HBO On Demand (StarHub TV Channel 602) and StarHub GO.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'Trigger-happy in Westworld'. Print Edition | Subscribe