Hi reddit! My name is Ptolemy and I play Sylvester on HBO's Westworld. You may have seen me in such reddit favorites like The Wire (S5), Fringe, Adult Swim's Your Pretty Face, AMC's Preacher, Burn Notice, some ads and other fun stuff. I also run the Nerdist School in L.A. and perform there every Sunday night.

Ask me anything about working on shows with Jonathan Nolan/Lisa Joy, David Simon, and anyting related to improv/acting/raising a family. I cannot speak to anything you haven't seen yet on Westworld, obviously - but also we only received scripts for my scenes, so i watch as a fan at the same time you do... The tangle of theories on /r/westworld have been VERY intriguing to see unfold. Thanks to /u/kn0thing for reaching out on twitter to make this AMA happen, and the guys at /u/meltdowncomics for coordinating.

Oh, and Leonardo Nam (Felix) just texted me about joining this AMA. So he'll be here soon and we'll both be chatting for a couple hours then checking back here all afternoon. Can we cuss here?

Proof: https://twitter.com/ptolemy/status/800729139183394816

Leo's here! https://twitter.com/Leonardo_Nam/status/800781544939917312 EDIT: Nardo signing out! I might check in later if theres more questions! Thanks reddit!!! /u/leonardonam

EDIT: Alright reddit, it's been fun! See you in /r/westworld and tune in for the final two episodes of Westworld on HBO.

Comments: 812 • Responses: 58  • Date: 

BaRKy1911128 karma

Not so subtle shout-out from /r/westworld! We're all big fans.

My question would be: What kind of player would you be in Westworld? White hat or black hat?

ptols242 karma

Here's my WW plan if I ever went: Go black hat, get as far away from the Sweetwater as possible, try to get adopted by Ghost Nation - run raids with Ghost Nation.

LudiusDyrius104 karma

Did you go through a roller coaster of emotions when the script read

"Pack up your bags because your throat is getting slit open...............................just kidding Felix will fix it with a nose hair trimmer" ?

Edit: Removed a word

ptols131 karma

it was interesting to see the words on the page - i DID do that thing where your eyes panic and run around looking for what happens... i think i did react... but it was also as a fan i was like "oh shit whats gonna happen" - interesting question actually because i think i was reading it not even as the guy playing that part at first...

griffton104 karma

Obviously you can't tell us any details, but do we learn more about Felix and Sylvester's motives? People over on /r/westworld are struggling to understand why they are allowing Maeve to get away with so much, can they expect a satisfying resolution there?

Anyway, thanks for doing this!

ptols140 karma

In my experience, what we witnessed up to now is a series of small decisions that got way out of hand. For me I understood many of the small decisions in making them. I get the confusion but you have to realize that we're dealing with my character who believes he was always in control.

AnOnlineHandle58 karma

One thing which wasn't communicated well in the show was that Maeve is blackmailing him over the sex-bot prostitution ring he runs, which nearly went entirely over my head until somebody pointed it out later, so makes his actions seem very random.

Of course, even before I knew that, I sort of believed he was just scared of her and scared of being fired.

ptols17 karma

I think thats a quick line, you have to hear a couple times and/or watch it again. But the situation is pretty laid out. In more general terms, its safe to say that Sylvester does not want unwanted attention to come into his department.

MonsieurTouchet75 karma

Was the exchange with Felix outside the laboratory doors about how to deal with Maeve (and the events that followed) in episode 8 an intentional nod to Frank and Dave's discussion about Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

ptols73 karma

oh wow! - good one - like that idea - and a much douchey-er version of it... thats funny

SimplifyEUW73 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! I have a few questions:

  • What is it like working with Thandie Newton? She is absolutely killing it (heh) as Maeve.

  • If you could change any part of Westworld (behaviour, narrative etc.) what would you change?

  • If Westworld were to become real, would you go?

  • Lastly, what is it like working on set?

ptols127 karma

  • Thandie is a personal hero of mine, its hard to not be fully inspired by here - acting, sure, but as a human - its the kind of thing where a blessing to have ever spent time with her... you know those people? shes the REAL DEAL

  • i would give raises to all the Body Shop employees...

  • ABSOLUTELY - i would go too early - like when it first started - and i would get killed...

  • it felt a LOT like the world does - WAY bigger then you are - insanity everywhere - overwhelming - and like "what the fuck is going on" - BUT i gotta say - every single person was literally the best at what they do AND they were all awesome people... thats a thing - they either hire "good humans" or they dont care when they are hiring - and every person was just 1000% cool...

ashdrake8964 karma

Do you find yourself questioning reality because you're on this show? and do you know if HBO will make shows for the other worlds?

ptols175 karma

ABSOLUTELY. If you think its not a mind fuck to see Anthony Hopkins in one scene and you're fucking face in the next scene, then you have a better grasp of reality than I do.

Whingdoodle55 karma

Do you think of this job as potentially your "big break" in show business? [also, yes you can cuss on reddit]

ptols118 karma

It feels that way although I can't tell you the number of times I've felt that from other shows or commercials… and then I think to myself "THIS IS GONNA BE IT!" and let me tell you: its not it. I'm just really happy to be here and Ive mostly let go of most of that stuff by this point.

hak09144 karma

Is Felix a host? Why does he keep agreeing to Maeve's demands?

I need to know!

ptols75 karma

I genuinely do not know. I think it may help to just put yourself in his position staring at what he's staring at. Think about about what you would do, and think about why Felix did that.

bluecollarclassicist44 karma

It seems like HBO and Netflix are really the vanguard of entertainment these days. How does working on an HBO show differ from other networks you've worked with? Is there anything that communicates to you as an actor what the future of productions will be like?

ptols71 karma

thats two questions - 1) hbo is much more like working on film then TV... they hire vision and the motivation has been pretty consistently not "we gotta turn this show out" - and the end result is much more like a film set - vision and aimed at a vision... and a shit ton of production to get there - but no matter how much production is piled onto the production its all pointed at a vision... and you can feel it - this show is just like that INSANE level of money and things and people... but its really all there for a reason... its insane to behold... 2) i think there are people out there better suited to answer the future on this one... i think HBO/Nexflix model seems like an indication though...

jamey007742 karma

Hi, Ptolemy!

Can you provide us 1 truth & 1 lie about the events yet to occur this season? (Obviously don't tell us which is the lie)

ptols144 karma

  • Sylvester finally sneaks in an improvised "fuck" that was not scripted

  • Sylvester becomes physically as attractive as Hector is by the end of the show

includePhreaker39 karma

Yay, hello! Were Sylvester and Felix named that way as a nod to the cartoon cats?

Also, can you share your most fun/funniest story from production or on-set time from your work on season 1?

ptols57 karma

I have no idea. I didn't notice that until I read reddit. I don't believe it ever even came up on on set.

Hexaver36 karma

is it weird being around all those naked people on westworld in your scenes? lol

ptols110 karma

yes very very very very weird. The only thing I had to save me is that I wasn't wearing my glasses and I'll tell you its shockingly difficult to tell a naked boy form a naked girl when they are laying down 10 feet in front of you

biz7zard34 karma

Besides yourself, who is your favorite character and why? Huge fan so thank you for doing this. I FUCKING LOVE THIS SHOW!!

ptols79 karma

I like Armistice.

tzuridis24 karma

What was it like growing up with such a Greek name?

ptols33 karma

NOT EASY - but i assume it made me who i am??? lets hope - everyday its like this "where is that from" "its greek - but im not greek - i was named after a greek" (hope that satisfies them and we can move on) "oh where did that come from" phase 2: i was born on the eclipse of the moon - and i was born in kenya - he was an astronomer who lived in egypt - so its kind of astronomical and kind of an africa thing...

ChipyGlitchy24 karma

Do you dream of electric sheep?

ptols44 karma

i think sylvester probably dreams of sheep but then he has to fucking fix them when they fuck up...

CaptainCorranHorn23 karma

Dude, why hasn't your character just killed off Maeve yet? Make it look like an accident!

ptols55 karma

If you've seen last nights episode 8, Sylvester definitely thinks he's going to win that episode. Super plan #1 idea.

blissed_out_cossack21 karma

What was the mood with the cast when there was a long hiatus in the middle of the show shoot?

ptols34 karma

yeah - solid question - a lot was up in the air on schedule - it especially got "????" feeling as the time to come back approached... and or went on longer then expected...

ManInBlackHat21 karma

Westworld makes a point of saying that hosts have a backstory to ground their personalities. How much of Sylvester's backstory was given to you and has it/will it be revealed in season one?

ptols42 karma

Not too much really. I actually don't know anything about the outside world, not much about his past. I try to construct him and they would make adjustments based on his personality, not his history. I personally have a long story about him that has no basis in the canon.

PatQuist20 karma

How does one learn to "emolo"? :)

ptols48 karma


ptols32 karma


The_Sign_of_Zeta19 karma

Who was your favorite person to work with on Westworld?

ptols45 karma

My whole experience was Leo and Thandie. I can't choose between them but I will say Leo and I had a similar journey of "WTF is happening??????" so we leaned on each other quite a bit.

ImNotBanksy19 karma

What was it like playing the role of Linus on Preacher? An old acting coach always used to tell me "Anyone can make the audience like you, that's easy. But if you can make the audience hate you, you've done a great job." In Preacher, you managed to make me hate you as well as feel sorry for you, you knocked it out of the park in my opinion.

ptols31 karma

yeah man... thats kind of my thing... honestly, i love dissonance - and humans are very complex - so i want to care about things that you almost dont want to care about - like a brain-fuck - but more like a heart-fuck

neo546818 karma

Great job on Westworld. I love Sylvester and Felix scenes. Do you have any info if Christopher Nolan watches Westworld or if he has any opinion on it, since he is a brother of Jonathan?

ptols35 karma

I have as good a guess as you. If my brother made a show, I know I would watch it. Beyond that I'm pretty sure they worked together in the past and influence each other. /u/jonathannolan could provide a better answer.

painfullfox14 karma

Boxers or briefs?

ptols52 karma

Boxer briefs: Uniqlo… or you mean in the show?

lulaalt13 karma

What is it like working with /u/jonathannolan?

ptols42 karma

My interpretation of Jonathan is that he's what I would call "vertical savant" in that he will simultaneously be talking about big picture narrative concepts, and then see small details like the location of props, numbers on a slate; he literally takes in everything and processes everything at once.

That being said he is totally chill guy. I get a lot of questions that seem to imply the Nolans are somehow scary or condescending, but this dude is funny, personable and in there with you. That whole set was very family oriented.

L33TJ4CK3R13 karma

In love with Westworld, and have a million questions I'm sure will be answered in time, but only one at the moment...

How is your name pronounced? I can't wrap my head around it.

ptols57 karma

Sill Vest Her

comedygod13 karma

HOW MANY TIMES HAS SYLVESTER MADE SWEET LOVE TO A ROBOT? (asking for a friend... who is a robot.)

ptols31 karma

How many grains of sand....

Pragmaticus12 karma

What is one little nugget that you can share that we can look forward to in your storyline over the next two episodes?

ptols38 karma

um... i think it will be interesting to see Sylvester after he gets his ass handed to him... what that does to his sense of ego/self/cockyness... on a performance level...

comedygod12 karma

There is a thread of comedy in your character's interactions in the Westworld lab. What references are you drawing from? eg Homer Simpson, Costello, or the dickless bureaucrat from Ghostbusters etc.

ptols32 karma

I don't know if I was pulling from anybody. I have a lot of dickhead in me so I was pulling from that. I will say that I've always loved Michael Keaton's dickheads. His dickhead comedy is some of the best. and maybe some Fish Called Wanda.

j4n33n11 karma

Do you play video games? If so, what are you playing right now?

ptols29 karma

I've gotten back into Dont Starve. I feel like I had an addiction for a while so I moved to more indie games then I moved to just flash games then I cut it out completely and now I just do some Steam indie simple non competitive.

Klayhamn11 karma

what was the thing or aspect you enjoyed most about working on the show?

ptols30 karma

Witnessing the level of complexity so far beyond anything I've ever seen. But that everybody was great human beings and more focused on family than I expected.

ptols20 karma

man... at first it was "job at all" - once i got there... it was so so so insane and amazing... and THEN they gave us character arc... its like a dream job of dream jobs...

mindbloun11 karma

Who do you agree/relate with more, sylvester or felix?

ptols20 karma

i think im more of a Felix in real life - i would take a chance on "this is life" even if i risk being wrong then: this is just a thing - nothing is special

StrategicZombies10 karma

Hello! Are the names of the characters on this show Easter Eggs? Sylvester & Felix are cats.... Bill(William), Ted & Logan all take an excellent adventure

ptols29 karma

i get most of this backstory conspiracy stuff from r/westworld - heard about all of it first here honestly...

williepee249 karma

Is William's character a younger Ed Harris (The Man in Black)?!?! I feel like that's where it is headed.

ptols24 karma

literally heard that idea first here on r/westworld - if its true how fucking insane this season is...

RedJohn239 karma

First of all Happy Birthday! Same day as Jimmi Simpson btw.

So how it feels to play most annoying character in the series? :)

ptols33 karma

No one thinks they're the most annoying character and I guess if you don't see a more annoying person around you, its probably you.

Sylvester genuinely thinks he's a charmer.

TeXaSKiD49 karma

Why the hell is Felix aiding the host rebellion?! Are you gonna die btw?

ptols49 karma

i think overall Felix loves life and is like "this is happening" - and Sylvester is like "we fix big iPhones" (my interpretation)

bsennarj9 karma

Don't you think it's strange to us viewers that noone in the lab has a suspicion about what you both were doing with Maeve? Will we have a satisfying explanation about this?

ptols34 karma

i will say this minor thing that i know cause we asked about it too on set - but if you look around the scenes in the background there are less and less people around - more and more bodies stacked up - and less lights on.. cause at first she fucked us over by waking up in the middle of the job - but we dont make that mistake as much later on - and she is relegated to less traffic'd corners and off hours...

ErnestGoesToPoop9 karma

How did they do the throat cutting scene & what did that feel like? Did you have to research how to have that torturous reaction?

Whatever you did, it was a great performance! It got clutching my neck IRL as you squirmed.

Happy to see it didn't kill you(r character)!

ptols17 karma

That is ONE take for obvious reasons so the intensity of getting it right in one take plays into it. The panic is really, the blood is real, the build up on something like that is so intense. Days of prep all coming down to one moment. In some ways you just let that pressure become part of you and let it out. So for me, I just hold what technically I have to get done and we rehearse that but then once you go you just let the insanity take over because in reality its fully fucking insane already.

Speider9 karma

So, how was it working on Adam Ruins Everything? I saw that episode after Westworld, and now the character youplayed in that episode is totally the same as in Westworld.

ptols10 karma

LOVE THAT SHOW - so smart - so funny - love what they are doing - yeah that was a helpful character to play

drgordonramsay9 karma

How do you feel about the criticism of some viewers regarding Sylvester's/Felix's/Maeve's plot at the moment? I think your characters' actions are totally plausible and that other viewers are over thinking it, or there's a secret twist coming.

ptols21 karma

its been SO interesting as a person in it to read reactions - esp at first - but now im kinda into it! i just like the passion - i think people put themselves in there, in that moment and the choices would have been different - and so they ARE correct for themselves - for me... i get that they are BIG MISTAKES - esp looking back on how it plays out - but at the time sylvester is literally trying to "win" the ENTIRE time... and he thinks he is hopefully winning as much as is possible, each step of the way...

Meso_939 karma

Hey sylvester, great episode there. Can you tell us what is your favorite thing about being in westworld ?

ptols30 karma

  • 1. Ever being in WW at all
  • 2. They give everyone an arc. Thats not normal. A lot of times you serve a role but on WW everyone is on a journey and it is so awesome.

lula24888 karma

What piece of instrumental music do you find incredibly beautiful (movie score, classical, etc.)?

RyCohSuave8 karma

Would you rather fight one horse-sized Arnold or one hundred Arnold-sized horses? Or Felix for being such a damn robot-enabler?

ptols13 karma

just on straight math, If arnold is less that 2 foot tall I'll take the 100. Otherwise I'll take the one horse and I'm bringing Felix.

Jaji_mbuzi7 karma

That stuff at the beginning... Is it milk?

ptols24 karma

I have no idea, I didn't even know that was in the show. We weren't involved in those sets.

yincrash7 karma

Were all the dead bodies in the intake room mannequins or naked extras?

ptols12 karma

70% naked extras. They mostly only used "half bodies" for mannequins. Almost everything you see is a full person.

BillyGrande7 karma


ptols31 karma

If you ask Sylvester, no: 21+ If you ask anyone outside of Sylvester, probably not so high.

The_Dawkness7 karma

Did they at any time make casts of your or Leo's face for the wall behind Ford's desk?

Or did they just scan it?

Great performance by the way, my man. Both of you guys play off Thandie exceedingly well.

ptols14 karma

nope - i got my neck cast for ep8... and those dudes have NO SHORTAGE OF HEADS - and thank you

liamquane5 karma

What is it like working with Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, can you please tell them: hi, everyone loves your art! :~) if that's not too sycophantic? :~P

ptols8 karma

oh man they are awesome - they really hold that insane ship on track both emotionally and factually - just to think of all they were holding in their head at all times... but also, and just as importantly - they are VERY cool people - with a very cool relationship - very funny and honest - man every time Lisa was on set there is just this calm... ask anyone... but for me, as impressive as the show is, i have always been equally impressed with them as people and the priorities they have ... this is not sunshine - they are legit... i spent most of my life as a fan - and put people like that in this distant frame... like they are all their work... dunno - they are great individuals...

ironshadowdragon4 karma

Legitimate hard hitting question about Westworld, I hope you answer.(that's the point of these things right?!)

I personally like you and Felix and understand why you're both doing what you're doing with Maeve. Felix sees her as a person in front of him,not a host, and you, you're helping your friend, even if you don't outwardly seem like that kind of person.

My question to you is, there are a lot of Westworld fans who haven't taken to your storyline, perhaps you've seen them if you've browsed the sub, how do you feel about those negative reactions, and do you think there's a pay off in the final two episodes that'll really get everyone on board with your characters? No specifics obviously.

I apologize, this is long!

ptols14 karma

yeah - some of this gets into reading reviews - im okay with it now - its initially HARD to see and your like "BUT! but..." - but this is the point of experiencing a piece of entertainment socially... we get to express what we want and the negative stuff feels as good as the positive - still sharing... i will say this : i actually care about this guy Sylvester - i think he is trying his best and he cares a lot more then he's being given credit for - i think he is a broken individual and makes up for it by following problems with more problems - to cover bad choices already made - i def think he makes mistakes all. the. time. but i kinda get it - i dunno - i have NO ISSUE with people not liking his choices or not even believing them - we should all share what we think - but i get it...

gabsrossi3 karma

What is it like working with Rodrigo Santoro? A fan from Brazil here!

ptols8 karma

He's so fucking hot and such a cool guy its not fucking fair.

PanecdotesJM3 karma

Have you ever thought about going on Harmontown? Theyre fans of Westworld.

ptols7 karma

I love that show and watch that show live a lot.

Speider2 karma

On Wesworld, was the direction really tight, or did you have a lot of room to try out different things in scenes? (totally not trying to figure out if you're REALLY a host, promise)

ptols3 karma

this show is 100% "word perfect" - which means its ALL lines said EXACTLY as it is written... so thats real hard for someone who likes improv (like myself) and most of my work is making it look as much off-script rambling as possible... so direction is tight in that way... BUT they also know that and write it in a way that you can process your thoughts out loud - (and "fucks" actually hold up a lot of emotion outside of you - so they help!)

mmadayag2 karma

AmA thanks for the discussion. Happy Birthday btw, same BD as me. Why do you think Sylvester has not gone to any outside help if his whole plan was to decommission Maeve? You would think a simple call to the higher ups would be compelling enough for him to keep his job, regardless of how far they have broken protocol.

ptols5 karma

THANK YOU - yeah - for me internally - it was kind of 1) "i dont need your help - sylvester run boardertown" (body shop) 2) cannot take an audit - too many issues...

MrK_HS1 karma

Did anyone every told you that you look like Louis CK?

ptols3 karma

No but I get called Trey Anastasio all the time (from Phish)

BransonBombshell1 karma

What would be the most annoying thing about actually working at WestWorld? The terrible lighting? The lack of desk space? Having to look, but not touch all the gorgeous pleasurebots?

What is Felix' most annoying habit as a co-worker and what is Sylvester's? And what is your biggest pet peeve in a real life co-worker?

I have no motivation to do any actual work today, so I'm re-watching WestWorld. It's a WW kind of day.

ptols2 karma

constant fear - LOTS of workload - lots of stress...

Felix is most annoying for not being Sylvester - or doing anything Sylvester wouldnt do... real life i HATE being a captive audience - like not being able to walk away from stories etc...

you are in for a good day! im gonna do that after the final

occono1 karma

You were in Looking Season 1 right? I remember your character there but you disappeared from the show.

Also your name is really distinctive. Does that have any impact on getting attention in Hollywood? And how do you pronounce it?

ptols2 karma

yeah - they had a lot of story to get to - and he was fun texture but... necessary(?) i guess, not exactly... but that show was so emotionally tight - loved working on though

the P is silent like "tall-uh-me" is the main american pronunciation - more accurate would be "toll-eh-may" i dont care - just as long as you are trying...