Thandie Newton & J.J. Abrams Defend Sexual Violence in ‘Westworld’

Thandie Newton, Rodrigo Santoro
John P. Johnson/HBO

Actress Thandie Newton and producer J.J. Abrams have defended the depiction of sexual violence in their TV show Westworld.

The Crash actress spends a lot of her screen time naked to play a brothel madam alongside Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Evan Rachel Wood in the upcoming science-fiction thriller TV series, a remake of the 1973 film of the same name.

Preview footage caused controversy about its depiction of sexual abuse and violence towards women, such as one scene where a human-like robot is pulled by her hair to be raped offscreen.

Thandie, who has been sexually assaulted herself, has defended the handling of sexual violence in the story because she believes it will force people to have conversations about it.

“I didn’t have any reservations because I knew how it was going to be depicted,” she told the Press Assocation. “I knew how it was going to be central to the narrative – I mean central. It was not going to be wallpaper, let’s put it that way… Westworld covers some really challenging territory… I think it will create moments for conversation which are so valuable for people.”

Abrams, who serves as producer, admits it may be “too intense” for some people, but urges those who believe its too exploitative or violent should “keep watching”.

“I would say the criticism is accurate but you can’t tell a story about oppression without depicting the oppressed,” he explained. “No one was going into this thinking ‘let’s do a show that somehow dehumanizes women’. This is a show, I would argue, very much about the opposite.”

The series, about a futuristic theme park where the robots malfunction and go on a killing spree, hits TV screens from October (16). The show’s stars, including James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright and Tessa Thompson, turned out for its premiere in Los Angeles on Wednesday (29Sep16).

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