Westworld May Be Over, But Its Stars and Creators Still Get Paid for It

Aaron Paul and Thandiwe Newton in HBO's Westworld.
Aaron Paul and Thandiwe Newton in HBO's Westworld.

Late Friday afternoon, news broke that HBO had pulled the plug on its sci-fi drama Westworld after four seasons. Before this, creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy had already planned to bring the twisty and often convoluted series to a close with a fifth and final season, but those plans have been dashed as Warner Bros. Discovery tries to cut costs anywhere it can following its recent merger.

Even so, paydays still await the creators and its top billed cast. Per Deadline, they’ll all still be paid for the fifth season, regardless of the fact that it won’t ever come to fruition. The core cast—Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, and Aaron Paul, but surprisingly not Tessa Thompson—had pay-or-play deals into their contracts for season five before the show’s final season aired back in June. In total, they’re expected to be paid $10-15 million, which isn’t nothing for a show that already cost a lot to make. Season three was said to have cost about $100 million ($10 mil for 10 episodes), and had HBO gone ahead with season five, that would’ve been $80 million. (Seasons three and four were eight-episode seasons, and five would’ve followed suit.)

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And according to The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan and Joy aren’t walking away empty-handed, either. Both creators ended their deal with Warner Bros. TV before the airing of season four to strike a nine-figure deal with Amazon. (Prime Video’s recent sci-fi series The Peripheral credits the duo as executive producers, and they’re likewise showrunners for the TV adaptation of Interplay and Bethesda’s Fallout franchise.) During negotiations with Amazon, Nolan and Joy successfully included permission to remain showrunners on Westworld up to a hypothetical season six, and they’ll get paid as if the show actually got that far. The amount is undisclosed, but given the show’s prestige, one can reasonably assume it would’ve been quite a lot.

While it’s nice that the main cast and creators don’t go home empty, it sucks that the pay only applies to them and not the show’s crew, or even leftover supporting cast members who would’ve made the jump from season four to five. Beyond that, with the information given, maybe it just makes more sense to let them finish the show on their terms instead of losing all that money in a dumber way?


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