Ed Harris is back in black as ‘Westworld’ villain and loving it: ‘This is what I signed up to do’
The Man in Black has returned, and he’s doubly evil.
Ed Harris, currently starring as the Tom Cruise-disdaining commanding officer in “Top Gun: Maverick,” brings his brutal black-clad businessman William back to “Westworld” for Season 4 (returning premiered Sunday, 9 EDT/PDT).
After the power villain was committed to a psychiatric hospital in last season, Harris is gunning to be back in his “Westworld” dark cowboy attire terrorizing the futuristic theme land.
“That damn white jumpsuit loony-bin deal wasn’t my favorite. It’s just nice to get back to the Man in Black Western outfit,” says Harris, 71. “This is what I signed up to do. And when I’m in it, it feels good.”
Harris believes the seven-time Emmy-winning “Westworld” will ride againafter Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s sci-fi drama has drawn criticism for being too convoluted.
“I’ve talked to people who really loved Season 1, hung with Season 2 and then got a little lost in Season 3,” says Harris. “So I hope the audience comes back and checks out Season 4.”
Harris talks to USA TODAY about “Westworld” evil, that “Top Gun: Maverick” jet flyby scene and the worst opening line ever:
Question: The Season 3 finale showed a shocking new robot Man in Black brawling with the human Man in Black. So Ed Harris, what was it like fighting Ed Harris in the cliffhanger?
Ed Harris: That was kind of interesting fighting myself. We rehearsed that scene very specifically with stunt men and stunt doubles. So it all worked out very smoothly. But no spoilers as to how that ended.
Q: I won’t reveal the human Man in Black’s Season 4 fate, but we can reveal the robot double is a golfing phenom, hitting holes-in-one at will. Did that please your inner golfer?
Harris: That was fun. I hadn’t golfed in quite a while. I gave my golf game up about three years ago when I threw my putter into the bushes, and it took me half an hour to find it. I decided it was time for a break. So they had a pro work on my swing for the scene. I hope they chose my better ones.
Q: You’ve played the Man in Black since 2016. Is it hard to keep up that unspeakable evil for so long?
Harris: Everybody has a dark side; my dark side is more accessible. Truthfully, it’s kind of cathartic to get some of that stuff out playing a guy like this. In my day-to-day life, I’m pretty peaceful, not violent. I have a temper, but I’m not a fighter. I’m much more about trying to find love in my heart as much as possible. But there’s a part of me that’s a little dark.
Q: In that instantly famous “Top Gun: Maverick” scene, was that you taking the blow from a low-flying jet?
Harris: Yeah, it was pretty cool. It blew the roof off the guard station. The first time it happened, maybe I took a step backward, it blew me back. But the second time, I was just holding my ground knowing what to expect. It’s really impressive seeing this jet coming at you from so far away and just flying right over your head.
Q: Is it true that your opening gambit to actress Amy Madigan, now your wife of nearly 40 years, was, ‘I like your socks’?
Harris: That’s true. That was my big opening line. She walked into this semi-circle of actors at a play rehearsal, and there was one chair open. She sat down next to me and I said, ‘I like your socks.’ They were very colorful socks. It seemed to work, what can I tell you? We still get along great.
Q: You two have done so much theater together, including “Buried Child” in New York and London. Is the 24/7 of that difficult?
Harris: Some people shy away from working with their spouse. But I enjoy working onstage with her more than anything. You’re both doing something you love to do and are doing it together. It just brings us closer together, sharing that.
Q: What was it like directing Robert Duvall, who’s 91, in the prison drama ‘The Ploughman’?
Harris: We’ve only shot 18 minutes. I’ve been trying to raise money for this movie for 18 years; it’s a really great role that Robert really, really wants to do. But I’m not sure Robert’s gonna be able to do it because he’s getting up there and had a little trouble walking. But we’ll see what happens. I’ve been living with it so long, I’m not sure what the future holds.
Q: Speaking of the future, in 1998’s “Truman Show,” Jim Carrey’s Truman leaves the serene life reality show created by your TV corporation-owning Christoph for real life. Seeing the state of the world in 2022, do you think Truman regrets leaving?
Harris: No, I don’t think he regrets it at all. Even as (messed) up as this world is at the moment. As opposed to living on a reality show, I think Truman prefers his freedom.
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