Westworld's Clementine Knows Why That Scene Killed You

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Angela Sarafyan is no new face to Hollywood. The 33-year-old has been turning up in TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Horror Story) and movies (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2) since 2000. But when she appeared in Westworld as the altruistic robot prostitute Clementine, all we could think was, Who is she?

In fact, only now, nearly two decades into her career, is she getting ready to attend her first awards show — the Screen Actors Guild Awards this Sunday. “I always say that I don’t want to go to anything unless I have a reason to be there,” Sarafyan said when we caught up with her to talk about that very reason. She and her Westworld castmates are nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Dramatic Series, which is no small feat when you consider they're nominated by their acting peers in SAG-AFTRA.

In the breakout drama, which is nominated for two other Screen Actors Guild awards (Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series and Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for Thandie Newton), she walks the line between playing a futuristic android and saloon girl in the Wild West. Ahead, we talk about how she prepared for the role, what purpose her character serves in the theme park of Westworld, and why Clementine's final scene was so painful to watch.
What did you think of Westworld when you first read the script?
“I didn’t really know anything about it, and only three pages of lines were sent to me as an audition. But when I looked at them, I got goosebumps. It was like nothing I ever auditioned for, and it was some of the best writing I ever read, like beautiful poetry — Gertrude Stein, Edgar Allan Poe, or a line of Shakespeare. I read it over and over and over in the middle of the night, thinking, What is this?

Do you look for literary inspiration when preparing for a role?
“Yeah, one of my acting teachers would say, ‘If you’re not familiar with the great writings of playwrights like Tennessee Williams or Shakespeare or the huge library of characters and stories that exist, you can’t bring them into current-day roles.’ Like, for Alien, Sigourney Weaver drew inspiration from Henry V. Thinking she’d probably never get to play Henry V, she found him in her character Ellen Ripley.”

Was your portrayal of Clementine inspired by any great literary prostitutes?
“No one specific. I've always been fascinated with prostitutes and strippers and I do have a book on them — it’s about all the different kinds of sex workers and all the actors who have played them in history. I am fascinated by the women who are empowered by the work, who find glory in it. In the time and place that Westworld’s set, prostitutes aren’t particularly looked down upon, and there’s a lot of power in prostitution for Clementine.”

The role of every host in Westworld is to fulfil the fantasies of its guests. If Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is the damsel in distress, is Clementine the hooker with a heart of gold?
“I think she is. She embodies love and so she has this kind of naiveté. She falls in love with all the characters without any expectations. This is someone who is like a child. She isn’t bitter. There isn’t a cynicism to her, and I love that.”

Part of Clementine’s backstory includes saving money for her family to move and have a better a life, but that almost seems like an intrusion on the fantasy she exists to fulfil. What purpose do you think it serves?
“I think it adds to her empathetic quality and allows her to not necessarily hate her job — it’s an opportunity, an opportunity to save her family. Everything she does ties back to that empathy.”

Her empathy is her humanity.
“Yeah, it makes her more human. So when you see how inhumanely she — and really all the hosts — are treated in the end, you really feel it.”
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