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Westworld Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Reveal Details About S2’s “Shogun World”

Rinko Kikuchi in "Westworld"

One of the things Westworld fans are looking forward to the most is the introduction of an all-new park in Season Two. We caught a glimpse of itsamurai hosts battling, an “SW” logoin the Season One finale, and have been speculating about it ever since. Now, creators and showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are ready to reveal a little more about the new park: Shogun World.

A Shogun World makes sense, considering that the world continued to go on while the whole Wild West thing was happening in the United States. While the original Westworld film focused very firmly on white/European experiences, what with its “Roman World” and “Medieval World,” Nolan and Joy wanted to give their show and its parks a more global scope.

In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Weekly, Nolan said, “[I]f you’re doing a theme park, you wouldn’t limit it to the Western European or North American experience. You’d try to reach a global audience. So the idea is you have a texture here that’s totally different.” He then goes on to explain his more selfish reasons for doing Shogun World:

“[S]elfishly, it comes down to being obsessed with Japanese cinema as a kid and earnestly wanting to make an homage to Akira Kurosawa and the other films I grew up watching. My older brothers and I watched Sergio Leone Westerns and Kurosawa’s classic samurai films and were fascinated to discover they had the same plot. You had this wonderful call and response between these two genres — with the gunslinger and the ronin. They have identical tropes but are set within different cultures.”

For Joy, who grew up in Taiwan and is half Chinese, the motivation to create Shogun World also went back to childhood:

“I grew up in Asia, and I remember as a little kid being in Taiwan watching films there and being so awed by these new worlds of entertainment. You saw new talents with the actors, new fighting styles, new types of wardrobe. It was exhilarating to me. So we looked to all our [department heads] to make sure we had the full thrill of exploring Shogun World … researching hair and production design and costume, working with choreographers who were skilled at fighting styles we haven’t seen before, and of course working with incredible talent, from Hiroyuki Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi, and the other actors that we cast and the extras filling it out. It was wonderful to see that world come alive.”

Why yes, she did say Rinko Kikuchi, a.k.a. Mako Mori from Pacific Rim!

Shogun World will capture the broad strokes of the Edo period (1603-1867), but will take liberties because, after all, it’s a theme park. Just as Westworld’s version of the American West is a hodge-podge of several historical periods, so too will Shogun World be. It will also be more violent than Westworld, inspired not only by Kurosawa’s films, but also by the Sonny Chiba films Nolan grew up watching.

While the second season will primarily continue to take place in the show’s eponymous Westworld, there will be a story arc of several episodes in Shogun World with one episode entirely in Japanese. However, Nolan says that they, “[W]ant to try and gently temper expectations … except to say that I think the stuff we did for Shogun World is spectacular.”

Meanwhile, Joy talks about a problem that I’m sure the rest of us nerds would love to have: “We definitely have a lot of cool Japanese weaponry cluttering up our offices now.”

Ms. Joy, feel free to note The Mary Sue’s mailing address on our site. We will gladly take some of your cool Japanese weapons off your hands if it would help you de-clutter.

(image: screencap/HBO)

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