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Westworld premiered on HBO just last night. The new sci fi drama has a lot riding on it, mostly including its wildly expensive budget, which could end up making or breaking the series, depending on how many eyeballs tuned in. While we're still waiting on the numbers from HBO, we do know the subscription cable network has a plan for Westworld, a plan that actually includes quite a few more seasons of the series. In fact, series lead James Marsden says Westworld already has 5 or 6 seasons planned out.
It wasn't about getting the first 10 [episodes] done, it was about mapping out what the next 5 or 6 years are going to be. We wanted everything in line so that when the very last episode airs and we have our show finale, five or seven years down the line, we knew how it was going to end the first season -- that's the way Jonah and J.J. Abrams operate. They're making sure all the ducks are in the row.
If you've been keeping tabs on Westworld at all, you may already know that the new HBO drama took quite a while to actually make it to the small screen. There was plenty of gossip about problems on set, and Westworld even shut down production at one point to get the writing on the series back on track. But James Marsden tells EW that there was actually a secondary plan for the hiatus, which was to figure out exactly where they wanted the drama to go over the long haul. Which means, provided fans are invested in the series, there's plenty of material for them to work with over the next few seasons.
James Marsden also said that taking some time off to get the episodes right during Season 1 should pay off over the long haul:
And it's a testament to Jonah and Lisa and HBO that we got them right, especially the last three scripts. They could have rushed them and get spread too thin. They got them right, and when they were right, we went and shot them.
HBO has had trouble getting a major hit off of the ground after Game of Thrones became popular and broke expectations for the network. True Detective Season 1 was a hit, but Season 2 was not well-received by fans. The Leftovers has largely earned praise but that hasn't translated into big or even decent-sized numbers for the network. Reportedly, HBO spent $100 million to make Westworld happen. That number isn't totally unprecedented for TV, but it is high and the subscription cable network will really need to make sure Westworld is popular if it keeps shelling out those numbers.