Angelenos watching the current season of HBO’s “Westworld” may notice that many of the scenes and settings look familiar. More than 100 locations throughout Downtown Los Angeles were featured on season three of the futuristic drama, which is set in neo-Los Angeles in 2058.
Location manager Mandi Dillin has worked on the hit TV series since it debuted in 2014. Since then, she has scouted filming locations around the world for each season.
“For seasons one and two, we filmed in and around Los Angeles, in combination with Utah and Arizona,” Dillin said. “Season three takes place in a future urban society, so we expanded our filming locations to include Spain and Singapore. The locations serve as the bulk of the storytelling, really bringing the viewer into this specific time and place. It’s a very immersive show.”
The 1982 film “Blade Runner” served as a source of inspiration for the futuristic setting of Los Angeles, along with the Spike Jonze movie “Her,” which featured breathtaking modern architecture. The Los Angeles depicted in season three of “Westworld” is sleek, clean and orderly with less traffic and more greenery—a stark contrast to “Blade Runner’s” eerily dark metropolis.
“We wanted to avoid creating a visual duplication of the world depicted in ‘Blade Runner,’ because it’s a different space,” Dillin explained. “Our future version of Los Angeles has evolved a lot but in subtle ways. There are all of these cool gadgets, robots and nanotechnology. The city is similar to Singapore in many ways. It’s a lush and lustrous world with beautiful buildings covered in greenery. Even though the story has changed and we’re out of the theme park this season, there is still an aesthetic that we want to maintain.”
Dillin, who is a docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy—a historic preservation organization—spends a lot of time Downtown and is familiar with much of the city’s architectural work and historic buildings, which inspired some of the show’s filming locations.
“One of the places I knew early on that I wanted to film at was the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts on Grand Avenue,” Dillin said. “I called the principal and reserved the campus for filming during their spring break. Season three was more immersive in terms of exploring Downtown. If there was anything cool and modern, we shot it. There are so many fantastic buildings in Los Angeles. I’m always keeping my eyes open for places that are visually interesting.”
The Los Angeles Convention Center has been featured prominently on “Westworld” since season one. Its interior escalators are depicted as the Delos Arrival Terminal at the Westworld resort, where guests to the theme park are first greeted. Other filming locations included MacArthur Park, Fourth Street Bridge above the Los Angeles River, and the Arts District.
Various buildings such as City National Bank and the U.S. Bank Tower also make on-screen cameos, and viewers will recognize many of Downtown’s streets in various scenes as well.
“The apartment building that overlooks Downtown Los Angeles, where Aaron Paul’s character lives, was actually a building that houses people transitioning from being homeless into residences,” Dillin shared. “During the process of scouting, we discovered a lot of these housing communities with fantastic modern architecture. It’s quite surprising.”
The show also features wide landscape shots of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline, and while digital augmentation added some skyscrapers, futuristic vehicles and other special effects, much of the buildings and architecture depicted all remain authentic to their original form.
“Some of our action sequences are fantastic because you see so much of the city,” Dillin said. “There are amazing views, even during the nighttime scenes. In general, when people think of Los Angeles, Hollywood and the beaches are the first things that come to mind—not our Downtown metropolis. It’s exciting to be able to showcase it to people who normally don’t get the chance to visit. We definitely utilized many existing skyscrapers, public spaces and interiors throughout Downtown, and viewers will see a lot more as the season progresses.”