This past Sunday was the final leg of HBO’s Westworld second season premiere tour. Following the show’s initial Los Angeles premiere, HBO held three additional premiere/screening events, in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Boston. Boston was selected as one of the cities to host the event because they were looking for a high tech crowd that appreciates the scientific nature of the series, and where better than the home of high tech businesses, and institutions such as MIT?! I was fortunate to be able to attend the Boston event, which certainly did look like anything to me.
HBO went all out for these events, turning the screenings into a full experience rather than just a simple sneak preview of the season 2 premiere episode. With people in costumes, various props, and a themed after-party, HBO brought Delos and Westworld to the Revere Hotel Boston Common.
Upon their arrival, guests were greeted by “hosts” dressed all in white, and were asked to check in. They were handed a personality assessment voucher, and then escorted down a hallway to wait for the screening.
I was attending this event as press for both this site, and for the Beyond Westworld podcast, so I headed to the red carpet area to wait for the actors to arrive. They were still setting things up, and populating the wall of the hat redemption station (more on that later).
It wasn’t very long until the stars arrived. Most of the press weren’t there to do interviews, so things were quite casual, and moved along very smoothly. Both actors were a lot of fun to speak with.
First I asked Shannon Woodward (“Elsie Hughes”) about the return of her character, how things change in the second season, and whether she’d be a white hat or a black hat if she visited the park in real life:
Then asked Simon Quarterman (“Lee Sizemore”) why he likes to play such a jerk, what the second season holds for Sizemore, and the same black hat vs. white hat question:
After the interviews, I headed next door for the premiere screening. When first entering the room, guests were greeted by a large drone/Vitruvian Man structure…which, of course, everyone had to stop and get a photo with.
The screening was in a large ballroom, with rows of chairs laid out in front of a stage containing three cushioned seats for the post-screening Q&A. I took a seat in the reserved section in the middle of the room and waited for the screening to begin. The Boston event was held the same night as the second season premiere was airing on HBO, so we only got to see the episode a couple hours before the rest of the country (but still enough for bragging rights to friends). While waiting, I talked with another journalist who was there, who told me that he writes articles on A.I. for various tech publications.
Once the screening began, everyone was transfixed to the screen, trying to make sense of it all, and figure out this season’s hidden twists and secrets that will no doubt feel so obvious upon a re-watch at the end of the season.
After the episode finished, there was a short but entertaining Q&A with the stars, moderated by Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner. The focus of the Q&A seemed to be steered towards technology, and the fact that parents, Shannon’s father was a lead programmer on IBM’s OS/2. But there were also a lot of fun moments, such as when the topic of Quarterman’s nude scene came up, and Shannon describing some interactions with Evan Rachel Wood, and noting that Westworld had not made her scared of Disney parks. HBO had brought two fuzzy cube microphones to toss around the audience during the Q&A. They were actually quite convenient—it would be great if other conventions had those! There was a wide variety of people in attendance—from TV and newspaper folks and other journalists, to professors, aspiring actors, and just fans of the series.
Once the Q&A was over, they announced that the after-party was open. But before heading into that, I first stopped off to take my personality assessment test, to see if I was a black hat or a white hat. While I would have liked a black hat, I knew the white hat in me wouldn’t let me cheat on the quiz and the manipulate the system. I stepped up to the row of tablets, and started the quiz. Questions ranged from obvious moral questions like would you risk your own life if you could possibly save everyone else or would you just run and save yourself, to no-ggood-answer questions such as asking you your preferred method of death. After answering the 20 questions, I was told that I was an “Explorer”. So I went up to the hat desk and handed in the voucher they had given me when I first arrived, told them I was an explorer, and sure enough, I was handed a white hat. (You can take the assessment yourself to see how you get sorted.)
Now looking the part, I headed into the main ballroom for the after-party. Everything was western-themed, with the idea that you were at the Mariposa (though without that part of the entertainment). Around the perimeter of the room were various food stations and bar setups. There were various small wooden and wine barrel tables throughout the room, and people were walking around serving appetizers and offering shots of Westworld Whiskey. There was also a man in one corner of the room playing the piano, using a tablet for his sheet music.
I got some food—beef brisket, corn bread, and some chili. Later I also tried some of the pecan bourbon bread pudding. To wash it down, I ordered a Dr. Fords Sarsaparilla Tonic, which was comprised of Westworld Whiskey, root beer syrup and soda water in a tall thin glass, along with a lemon wedge on a skewer that looked like the end of an arrow. The food was really good.
In one corner of the room there was a station where you could get some old-timey portraits taken. For the first photo I just stood normal, but for the second one they told me to cross my arms and scowl…this was surprisingly the better of the two pictures as the first one looks quite creepy. I think you really needed to be wearing darker clothes for these photos. (Those black hats win again!)
The atmosphere of the party was great, but after a while, it was time for me to mosey on home. Overall, it was a really fun event, and I am grateful to HBO for letting me be a part of it, and experience a small piece of Westworld right here in Boston. Now I’m off to re-watch the premiere, and to try to figure out what exactly is going on this season!
For a short discussion of the event, also check out the latest episode of the Beyond Westworld podcast: