BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. The final performance by Eddie Rouse — a character actor who lived in Winston-Salem for years and appeared in many student films at UNC School of the Arts — can be seen tonight in the series premiere of HBO’s highly anticipated “Westworld.” Rouse, 60, died of liver failure shortly after filming the pilot episode.

The series, debuting with a 75-minute episode at 9 p.m., is a gritty, dark reboot of the classic sci-fi movie that was written by Michael Crichton.

The series is set in a futuristic amusement park where patrons interact with realistic robots in a Wild West setting.

The robots are programmed with artificial intelligence, or AI, to act like real people, but they don’t know their own true nature and serve as props for the patrons’ fantasies. A glitch in their software causes some of them to question their existence.

“It’s questioning where does life begin, in essence, and what characterizes the importance of life,” said Lisa Joy, one of the show’s creators. “Whether it is a human ... or whether it’s an artificial being that’s coded with zeros and ones. ... This AI believes in its reality, feels the things it feels and feels them and as truly as we feel our own feelings.

“So it’s the constant examination about that line and where does consciousness begin and end, and what are the differences between an AI and organic human.”

Rouse had a small supporting role as Kissy, a card dealer in a frontier saloon who has several intense scenes with the Man in Black (Ed Harris), a longtime park patron who is on a violent quest to uncover the secrets of the park. Rouse only appears in a few scenes in the episode, but his interactions with the Man in Black are memorable and unsettling.

The series has had a long production history, with the pilot originally filmed in 2014.

Jonathan Nolan, Joy’s husband and the show’s co-creator, said they had “a very cool arc laid out for his character,” but after he died they chose not to recast Kissy and instead rewrote the scripts so they could leave Rouse’s last performance intact.

“Eddie was an outstanding actor and a joy on the set,” Nolan said.

“I would have loved to work with Eddie forever — on this project and any project,” Joy said.

The cast also includes Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright as the masterminds behind the park. Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jimmi Simpson and James Marsden are participants, some of them patrons and some of them robots.

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Shortly after being a guest star in the new fall series “Notorious,” Marc Blucas has a starring role in a new TV movie. “The Irresistible Blueberry Farm” will be shown at 9 p.m. today on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Channel 629 on Time Warner Cable.

Alison Sweeney stars as a Manhattan attorney who travels to a small town in coastal Maine to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wishes. There, she meets a handsome local man (Blucas) and begins to question her life back in the big city.

Blucas was a basketball player at Wake Forest University before veering into acting. He is one of the co-stars of the historical cable drama “Underground” and is perhaps best known as Riley on the hit TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Tim Clodfelter writes about TV for the Winston-Salem Journal. Contact him at (336) 727-7371 or tclodfelter@wsjournal.com.

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