Fans of HBO’s Westworld were delivered a shock late last week, when the award-winning dystopian sci-fi drama was canceled ahead of its fifth season. Despite its twisty plots and exciting commentary on humanity vs. artificial intelligence, Westworld was apparently the victim of an aggressive cost-cutting mandate enacted by the network. The series’ big budget, combined with declining ratings over the past two seasons, proved to be its downfall, but it turns out the A+ cast members are still going to get paid.
Deadline reports that Westworld’s actors had “pay-or-play deals” for Season 5, ensuring that the cast — which includes Aaron Paul, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Tessa Thompson and Jeffrey Wright — will still be paid, despite the cancellation. The site reports that contracts may have been renegotiated ahead of Season 4, and that networks making such guarantees to its actors is not unusual, particularly for ensemble casts that might be difficult to reassemble otherwise.
HBO is expected to pay out between $10 million and $15 million to the actors, which is still considerably more financially feasible than paying for another season, as THR reports that Season 4 cost “at least $160 million” to make what turned out to be its final eight episodes.
Despite ratings for Westworld dropping for 2020’s Season 3, and falling further two years later when it returned from pandemic-related delays, co-creator Jonathan Nolan said he’d always planned for a fifth and final season. It’s terribly frustrating for fans, including myself, to know there was a plan that would bring the often-confusing storylines to a conclusion, and now we will likely never get to see that play out.
Over its four seasons, the series accumulated 54 Primetime Emmy nominations, taking home nine trophies. There’s no question the HBO drama has made its mark on the TV world, with another good benchmark of that being the fact that it was brilliantly parodied in The Simpsons’ annual Halloween “Treehouse of Horror” episode this year.
As the actors will still collect a check from HBO, we can keep up with them through their other projects. Evan Rachel Wood can currently be seen with a spot-on portrayal of Madonna on The Roku Channel’s Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. And following Teddy’s surprising return to Westworld Season 4, you can take a look at any of James Marsden’s best movies and TV shows.
There may not be any more stories from the Divine on their way, but the first four seasons of Westworld are still available to stream for fans with an HBO Max subscription. You can also check out some of HBO Max’s best original series, and see what’s coming to cable and streaming for the rest of the year with our 2022 TV schedule.
Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.