Is our world becoming Westworld? Yes, says new cast member Daniel Wu
The science-fiction series Westworld opened its first season in 2016 as a story about a robot uprising.
In the current fourth season, the robots - called "hosts" - have won the war. They pacify humans using mind-control waves beamed from a tower. The waves lull humans into believing that they are free when every thought they have ever had has been planted there by the hosts.
American actor Daniel Wu, 47, joins the cast starting from episode three. He plays Jay, the leader of a group of humans immune to the field. In a reversal of roles from season one, Jay and his band of rebels seek to destroy their host overlords.
Wu, speaking at a media conference, says that for him, the show's message is obvious.
"Westworld is about control, right? The show draws a parallel to what's happening with the media and how it is trying to control people's thoughts and their political actions. This is happening in the United States and around the world. Social media is an echo chamber that makes it easy to manipulate people," he says.
Born and raised in California, the actor knows what it is like to run into a wall of biases. After establishing himself as a leading man in Hong Kong cinema starting in the late 1990s, he tried breaking into Western films using his first language, English.
He has appeared in the fantasy Warcraft (2016), action thriller Tomb Raider (2018) and starred in the martial arts fantasy series Into The Badlands (2015 to 2019), which he also produced.
He is married to model-actress Lisa S. and they have a daughter, Raven, nine.
In the science-fiction thriller Reminiscence (2021), Wu plays the villain, Saint Joe. The film was written and directed by Lisa Joy. She and her husband Jonathan Nolan are co-creators of Westworld.
Joy invited Wu to appear in her series, a winner of seven Emmy awards. These were for hair and make-up, visual effects as well as acting - for Thandiwe Newton, who plays the host Maeve. Joy and Nolan have been nominated for Emmys in writing and directing.
Wu says: "I auditioned for season one of Westworld, but I didn't get the part. But after that, I got into Badlands, so I couldn't have done Westworld anyway. But I was a fan of Westworld."
Reminiscence was where he met Joy, he adds.
"We had such a great time working on that film. I was just in awe of an Asian-American female director with so much intelligence and power leading that set.
"Then she texted me just before season four to ask, 'Hey, do you want to be on Westworld?' And I said, 'Hell, yeah, I love that show.'"
Wu's next television project is the action comedy American Born Chinese, based on the prize-winning 2006 graphic novel of the same name by American cartoonist Gene Luen Yang.
The show's cast includes Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, Singapore-based actress Yeo Yann Yann, Singaporean actor Chin Han and Ke Huy Quan.
Quan is a Vietnamese-American actor who as a child, broke through in the adventure movie Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984), playing the hero's sidekick, Short Round. As he became older, the jobs dried up and he quit acting.
A few years ago, after seeing that Hollywood was willing to take a risk on the Asian-led romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians (2018), Quan decided to try acting again. He was cast in the science-fiction thriller, Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), which has since become a box-office hit.
Wu says that for Asian actors in the US, "it's a lot better now than 10, 15 years ago when I was here looking for work".
There is now an awareness of equality and diversity in show business that never used to exist, he adds.
Badlands was one such breakthrough - it featured Wu, an Asian man, in a leading role, a privilege that he had enjoyed only in Hong Kong.
"I'm still one of the few Asian-American males here to have had a lead role because of Badlands. But it's changing. I'm betting on that change. That's why I am investing so much time here. I want my daughter to see people like herself on the screen, something I didn't have when I was growing up."
- The season four finale of Westworld will air on Aug 15 on HBO and HBO Go.