Katja Herbers tells Luke Hemsworth what it’s actually like to visit Westworld

By
Photography Dean Podmore

Published April 19, 2018

Despite what its creators tricked you into believing, the second season of HBO’s Westworld is shrouded in secrecy. The sci-fi odyssey’s highly anticipated second season begins this Sunday, and about all we know is that there will be samurais and that the park’s hosts are going to begin taking matters into their own android hands.

We also know that there will be several new faces joining the other robo-people of the park, including one belonging to Katja Herbers, who joins the show as a human named Grace. The 37-year-old Dutch actress cut her teeth in the theater, as well as impressive turns on shows like HBO’s The Leftovers and FX’s The Americans. But because of the whole secrecy thing, all we know about Herbers’s Westworld character is that she’s a “seasoned guest … whose latest visit comes at the park’s darkest hour.” Okay then.

Since that isn’t much to go on, we decided to connect her with costar Luke Hemsworth—who is back as park enforcer Ashley Stubbs—in the hopes that he might be able to unearth some more info from the Dutch actress. But as we learn in the wide-ranging conversation that follows, the first rule about starring in Westworld is do not talk about the plot of Westworld.

LUKE HEMSWORTH: I read somewhere, Katja, that you’re impressively multilingual. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you speak English, Dutch, German, French, and Spanish, yes?

KATJA HERBERS: Yeah, yeah. French and Spanish a little less.

HEMSWORTH: Do you speak Australian?

HERBERS: I do not, mate. It’s really hard for me, this interview, because it’s so hard to translate your funky accent into something that makes sense to my ears. But on set, you were an American, at least when we acted together. You didn’t keep the accent in between takes, right?

HEMSWORTH: No, I didn’t stay in the accent between takes. Did you?

HERBERS: Well, I definitely stayed in accent because—I can’t even say anything about my character.

HEMSWORTH: We’re just gonna talk about me, probably. That’s what this interview’s gonna be about. [Herbers laughs] Because optimally, that’s what fans want.

HERBERS: I know, that’s why I asked them to get you on the phone because I know what people are interested in.

HEMSWORTH: Why don’t we start at the start? How did you get the job? Who did you bribe?

HERBERS: I did it the old-fashioned way, man. I made a tape from Holland, and I sent it in, and they liked it, and then I flew in, I talked to [Jonathan Nolan], Lisa [Joy], and then they gave me the job. And for a long time, I thought, “Wow, they must have made a mistake,” because clearly, I’m not supposed to be on Westworld, that’s way too big a show for a little Dutch girl to be on.

HEMSWORTH: Did you feel the pressure coming into season two?

HERBERS: To get to act with you, mate, was the biggest pressure of my life. [Hemsworth laughs] Yeah, I did feel the pressure, because I’d never been on a show where it already was such an established success before coming in, so that was a little nerve-wracking. I think you and I met on my first day, and you just made me laugh all the time, and I could relax. Basically, I owe it all to you.

HEMSWORTH: Oh, good. I was probably a little bit intimidated, which is what happens when I start to make jokes. I’m usually feeling a little bit threatened, so well done to you on that one.

HERBERS: Well, I’d like to continue to threaten you, because your jokes really amuse me.

HEMSWORTH: [laughs] We did have a few laughs. Can you remember the best joke that I told?

HERBERS: No, I don’t, do you remember?

HEMSWORTH: I’ll jog your memory. What’s long, brown, and sticky?

HERBERS: [laughs] Is this a poo joke? I can’t say “poo joke.”

HEMSWORTH: No, it’s a stick.

HERBERS: [laughs] Alright, Luke. How’s surfing lately?

HEMSWORTH: I just got out.

HERBERS: The first time I met you, you were showing everyone this completely crazy video of yourself on the surfboard making some really bad fall, and you had broken something? You are like the quintessential Australian to me. I was like, okay, I’ve met the Australian.

HEMSWORTH: I was on a surf trip, on boat that had an inflatable slide, and we were going down the slide, and we were standing up on boogie boards, trying to ride out on the water in a blaze of glory, and it ended in a blaze of pain. I dislocated my shoulder, which I then popped back in underwater when I was—

HERBERS: That’s the video, the first thing you showed me, you popping your shoulder back in.

HEMSWORTH: I was in quite a bit of pain when we first met, and you helped me get through that, so thank you. Is there anyone you’re intimidated by on set?

HERBERS: I’m not that easily intimidated, but seeing how big the production was, and then seeing Ghost Nation in their makeup and everything, and 100 extras, I was just like, “Wow, this is huge.” I just felt super fortunate to be able to be a part of it. It was crazy.

HEMSWORTH: You never stop pinching yourself, too. So good. Why don’t you tell us about your childhood? Was it good?

HERBERS: Troubled. That’s why I’m an actor. Oh, please Interview, I hope that Interview has a way to write down irony and humor … I grew up in Amsterdam, and I went to proper theater school. Then I went to Belgium and spent a couple of years there in the theatre, and then to Germany and spent a couple of years there, and then I thought, maybe it’s time to go to America. And I came here about three years ago, and I’ve done some acting in English, which has been pretty fun.

Have you seen anything of [Westworld season two] yet?

HEMSWORTH: I’ve watched the first episode.

HERBERS: Alright. I’ve only seen some stuff in ADR, but I haven’t actually seen a full episode yet.

HEMSWORTH: Who do you think is your favorite person on the security side of Westworld?

HERBERS: Ooh, that’s a tough one. They’re all such assholes over there. I’m not sure. [laughs]

HEMSWORTH: Do you have any thoughts on artificial intelligence?

HERBERS: I’m just gonna quote Stephen Hawking, who just passed away, and he says the biggest threat to humanity is artificial intelligence, and we’re living it. Yesterday I read this article about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony, and he might not even know what kind of thing he created—it’s bigger than we understand, and it’s already taking control of us in a way that we can’t escape it. So I think Westworld is so extremely timely. It may look as though it’s a dystopian future image that we’re portraying, but it might be closer than we think, and therefore I think it’s probably the most interesting show to be on and to watch.

HEMSWORTH: Do you think it’s too intellectual?

HERBERS: I don’t think so, I think that there are as many layers to the show as there are layers to the park and levels of game that you can play. I’ve just been rewatching the first season, and I’m amazed by how much I didn’t catch the first time around. Like, there’s nothing in the show that doesn’t mean anything.

HEMSWORTH: I love it because there’s so many little easter eggs and cookies … Would you go to Westworld in real life, do you think?

HERBERS: I would but, I think I would be too nice. [laughs] I couldn’t wear a black hat; I have no desire whatsoever for violence. I might go in there like Jimmy Simpson, and come out as the Man in Black. Westworld‘s gonna show you who you really are. I might just not be aware what I crave, I don’t know. [laughs] Are you a black hat or white hat person?

HEMSWORTH: I think the ego says I wanna be a white hat, but there’s definitely a darkness, and there might be a propensity towards violence for sure. I don’t know, it’s an interesting question to ask yourself, what do you do when there are no consequences?

HERBERS: Completely. Who are you when no one’s watching?

HEMSWORTH: Can you tell me the most shocking moment from the first season?

HERBERS: I can’t get over that pilot. I’ve watched the pilot maybe four times now, and I just can’t believe all the stuff that’s in it. And I think the most shocking—well, I tend to be very shocked by violence, so I was very shocked when the Man in Black scalped the robot head.

HEMSWORTH: Yeah, for me, cutting off the robot heads was pretty shocking. Half cutting it off, they didn’t really get through it, but there was no acting required there. That was a real mannequin head with tubes and blood. It was a visceral experience. [makes gagging sounds]

Who would you be if you could be another character? Except obviously Stubbs. But, of course you would want to be Stubbs. Is there another character you would want to have a go at?

HERBERS: Yeah, I’d love to play Dolores or Maeve. I think their journey this season is such a story of empowerment.

HEMSWORTH: Can we talk a little bit about your preparation for Grace, maybe.

HERBERS: You know what I did? I took the train all the way from New York to California, because I thought it’d be really cool to take a train ride into Westworld. And I thought that would just prep my brain to enter this world. And I was on that train, I didn’t have reception, and I went into five days of just being on that train and setting my brain straight to start this job. So, I think that was probably the biggest thing I did to prep myself.

HEMSWORTH: That’s actually genius. That’s so genius.

HERBERS: Beautiful, too.

HEMSWORTH: I just practice looking tough in the mirror.

HERBERS: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, because it’s hard to get that smile off your face, because you’re always very cheerful.

 

WESTWORLD SEASON TWO AIRS ON HBO THIS SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2018.