Ed Harris in Appaloosa

Warner Bros.

HBO’s Westworld remake has been on a roll when it comes to casting, nailing down Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and James Marsden in the last few weeks. Take a lesson, everyone else in Hollywood: if you’re going to remake something that really has no business being remade, the least you can do for everyone is throw in a few actors that can make it palatable.

The latest addition to J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan‘s robo-cowboy epic is better than all those other schmucks combined (no offense, Sir Hopkins, but your role is almost 100% guaranteed to be non-robotic, so we’ve had to dock you a few coolness points). According to Deadline, HBO has snagged Ed Harris for a key role in the series (currently at just the pilot stage), as “The Man in Black.”

Another actor was announced via The Wrap at the same time: Ptolemy Slocum, who had a recurring role on the HBO series Looking. But all we know is he will be playing a man named Sylvester. 

Now, back to Harris: I’m assuming that “The Man in Black” is basically Yul Brynner’s iconic bot, “The Gunslinger,” with a different moniker, but at this stage it’s kind of hard to tell. All we really know is that, according to HBO, Harris’s Man in Black is the “distillation of pure villainy into one man.” Which I guess could also describe Brynner’s sparkly-eyed animatronic menace, whose evilness was also distilled, although who knows if anyone in 1973 was checking the purity levels.

Brynner’s character wasn’t really clad in all black. His hat was black, this much is true. The shirt not so much. That was kind of a greyish-bluish number. But “The Man in Generic Colors, But Don’t Worry, They’re All Western Period-Appropriate” is an abysmal villain name, so we’ll give HBO a pass on this one.

Besides the Brynner thing, we’re also kind of assuming that Harris’s Man in Black is a robot, because there’s nothing in Deadline’s (or anyone else’s) reporting that outright states “hey, he’s a robot.” But we do know that Harris’s role is a lead one, and that he will be distilling great quantities of villainy. And frankly if the new Westworld‘s (presumably) lead villain isn’t a robot that’s gone haywire and is now High Noon-ing every tourist it sees, then this barely even counts as Westworld anyway.

Hopefully, Westworld will break out of its vague and (let’s be frank here) kinda pretentious-sounding descriptions — the series was first announced as a “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin” — and tell us outright who’s a robot and who’s not. Unless the series is gunning for some kind of Blade Runner-style vagueness about which characters are actually androids.

That might be a neat twist, if not for the fact that every halfway decent theme park probably has a staff list of “is a robot” and “is not a robot” lying around. Just to make sure payroll isn’t sending out a monthly check to any of the Country Bear Jamboree.


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