The Spool / Interviews
Capturing Dystopias: “Snowpiercer” and “Westworld” cinematographer John Grillo
The cinematographer behind much of HBO's Westworld and TNT's Snowpiercer talks about the rocky road to filming two disparate sci-fi dystopias.

Welcome back to More of a Comment, Really…, a weekly interview podcast hosted by Clint Worthington! Every episode will feature interviews with actors, filmmakers, producers, and more, giving you the skinny on the latest films and TV.

A futuristic park that simulates the Old West with human-like robot characters. A 1001-car-long bullet train that speeds perpetually along the remnants of a frozen Earth. These are the worlds of two of TV’s most high-concept series to date, HBO’s Westworld and TNT’s Snowpiercer. Both adaptations of out-there science fiction films — the former from Michael Crichton, the latter from Bong Joon-ho — the challenge of adapting them to screen is still vast, even in the big-budget world of Peak TV.

And yet, cinematographer John Grillo has worked on both, spearheading the visual look for Westworld‘s second and third seasons and acting as lead cinematographer for Snowpiercer, which itself took a long, rocky track to release.

Grillo’s work differs greatly in approach for each of these disparate sci-fi worlds: Westworld is vast and sprawling, contrasting the open plains of the Old West for futurist minimalism in its robot cowboy-less third season; Snowpiercer, meanwhile, is all cramped train cars and mining social drama out of the intricately-designed cars that make up its central setting. Each car is a different world, from the prison-like barracks of the tail to the neon-soaked bacchanal of the Night Car.

The Spool sat down with the Snowpiercer cinematographer to talk about the logistical challenges of shooting for TV, the ways both shows have had to change and grow to fit their specific tonal briefs, and whether he might like to take a break from robot revolutions and futuristic class metaphors for a simple, straightforward psychological drama.

(More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Cards Against Humanity for sponsoring this episode!)