‘Westworld’ Star Evan Rachel Wood Describes the Most Traumatizing Part of Being a Child Actor

Evan Rachel Wood has been acting in film and television since she was seven years old. She has appeared in intense and edgy movies like Thirteen and The Wrestler, and series True Blood and Westworld. Wood shared her difficulties growing up in the spotlight in the new HBO documentary Showbiz Kids.

Westworld Star Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

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The documentary from Alex Winter features Wood, the late Cameron Boyce, Mara Wilson, Milla Jovovich, Todd Bridges, Jada Pinkett Smith and Wil Wheaton discussing their experiences as child actors. It is now airing on HBO, the home of Westworld, and streaming on HBO on demand and HBO Max.

Before ‘Westworld,’ Evan Rachel Wood was a lonely actor

By the time she made Westworld, Wood was an adult. The first experience Wood shares in Showbiz Kids is the loneliness she faced as a kid. She had to complete school while working, but also she was often the youngest cast member in a production.

“You know somebody’s a child star when theyre really good at juggling and hackey sacks,” Wood told Winter. “Everyone’s like, ‘How do you know how to do all this weird stuff?’ Because I spent a lot of time alone on set in a trailer, doing school in a trailer, being alone in hotel rooms. You’re very much isolated most of the time. It’s a very fulfilling but lonely experience. It’s a lot of time alone.”

As Evan Rachel Wood got older, she had to deal with sexuality on screen

Movies like Thirteen addressed teenage sexuality head on, but any story involving teenagers could likely have a component of dealing with puberty and maturity. 

It’s that dichotomy with art of well, teenagers do have a sexuality. There’s a part of me that believes we should explore that in a way that makes them feel less crazy and more in tune with themselves. Sometimes if it’s done right it can be a really beautiful exploration of innocence and coming of age. You need them to be sexual but you also need them to not be sexual. You need to push the boundaries while not pushing any boundaries. You’re navigating this super adult world which is just being kind of dangled in front of your face while being told to say a kid. That option is gone already.

Evan Rachel Wood in Showbiz Kids

For Wood, that included coming out herself in a heteronormative industry.

Evan Rachel Wood in Showbiz Kids
Evan Rachel Wood | HBO

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“I also knew about my sexuality when I was about 12,” Wood said. “I’m bisexual. That was really interesting to navigate as well. When I started doing better in the industry and I was sort of prepubescent, you’re put in these situations. A lot of them are your first experiences and they’re on camera.”

‘Westworld’ has nothing on Hollywood trauma

On Westworld, Wood explores sometimes dark fantasies of visiting park guests. For her, the most difficult part of growing up on camera was the publicity photo shoots.

“Photo shoots and stuff, maybe it’s more of a girl thing, but that stuff was much more traumatizing than filming for me,” Wood said. “I didn’t want to be in dresses, I didn’t want to be in heels, I was a tomboy and that stuff was really forced onto me. It’s forced onto a lot of girls. We’re starting to reject it now, you’re seeing it more.”

Westworld - Evan Rachel Wood
Westworld – Evan Rachel Wood | HBO

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Hollywood is becoming more hospitable to nonbinary talent such as actor Asia Kate Dillon and creator Joey Soloway, but there’s still more work to do.

“I also know that so many people have been pressured into staying in the closet and conforming to certain gender norms that are really prevalent in the film industry,” Wood said.