This post contains frank discussion of Westworld Season 2, Episode 5 “Akane No Mai.” If youd rather not know anything about the episode, now is your time to leave.
On the latest episode of Still Watching: Westworld, hosts Richard Lawson and Joanna Robinson are joined by Simon Quarterman who plays Lee Sizemore, Season 1 comic relief turned vital player in Season 2. Though Quarterman has never intentionally leaned into the humor when playing his debauched Westworld writer character, hes responsible for most of the shows breezier moments these days. When every episode is packed with death, violence, despair, and philosophical ennui, that levity is more than a little welcome. But Quarterman also serves a vital function in the shows second season. In fact, without him the series best episode, “Akane No Mai,” wouldnt have worked at all.
Throughout Maeves journey into Shogun World, Sizemore serves as, essentially, narrator and one-man exposition machine. As the only representative of upper management, Sizemore knows most of the rules of Delos Inc., and is essential in navigating Shogun World specifically. In other words, while so many elements of Westworlds structure work overtime to keep viewers confused and disoriented, Sizemores entire function is to provide clarity.
Quartermans isnt the flashiest performance in the episode. That distinction probably belongs to either Thandie Newton as Maeve or Rinko Kikuchi as Akane. But when someone does a poor job of delivering that much exposition, youd notice. His ability to make all of that dialogue appear natural and entertaining is truly a gift. Quarterman says it wasnt exactly an effortless task:
Its one of the most challenging things to do, I think, as an actor. Making any type of exposition interesting. You want to engage the audience as best you can without going crazy yourself. There were a couple of moments where I was banging my head against wall going how am I. . .Because Maeve next to me is gagged and bound.
Like most members of the Westworld cast, Quarterman praises his frequent scene partner Thandie Newton who had to wordlessly take in much of his exposition with just the eloquent roll of an eyeball in the episodes first minutes. But while the show leverages lead actors like Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright to explore themes centered on women and other marginalized and exploited groups, Quartermans petulant Sizemore has some intriguing things to say about patriarchal power structures as well. As the actor sees it, Westworld pairs Sizemore with powerful women—first Theresa, then Charlotte, now Maeve—in order “deflate” and “emasculate” his “bloated” male ego. But what will happen once Sizemore is broken down completely?
The show has tripled our Sizemore fun in Season 2 giving him not one but two idealized robotic doppelgangers in the form of the gunslinger Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and the ronin Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada). Yes, Quarterman went back and watched as much of Rodrigo Santoros Season 1 performance as he could in order to explore what this connection between them might mean. But he also hints that once the layers of Sizemores artifice are stripped away this season, well see something wholly unexpected underneath. To paraphrase Logan Delos, I cannot wait to meet that guy.
In the meantime, despite playing the guy with the answers, Quarterman is content to be as lost as the average Westworld viewer as the season progresses. With access to only the scripts he appears in, Quarterman both doesnt entirely know what the future has in store and is no longer trying to guess:
Im pretty useless at the whole getting whats going on. I did try for a bit. I got it so disastrously wrong, I gave up and hung up my boots. Im not even gonna bother. Leave everyone to it, I'm just gonna get on with this and try to get through it best I can.
For the rest of Quartermans interview—including what it sounds like when you ask him about Sizemores new walkie-talkie—you can listen to the entire episode of Still Watching: Westworld.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:Week in Fashion: Met Gala, Cannes, and BeyondJoanna RobinsonJoanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for VanityFair.com.