Back in February, the pilot for The Man In The High Castle became the most-watched in Amazon Studios’ history. It’s easy to see why. Based on Chicagoan sci-fi legend Philip K Dick’s 1962 book, the show’s executive producer is Ridley Scott (who turned another of Dick’s stories into the seminal Blade Runner in 1982) and it’s written by The X-Files don Frank Spotnitz. Set in occupied USA in 1962, it stars Alexa Davalos as Juliana Crain, a woman scooped up into the resistance fight, and Brit actor Rupert Evans as her boyfriend Frank Frink. Read interviews with both Evans and Davalos below.
What with current world events – occupation and surveillance – the show feels particularly timely…
“The great thing about it is that not many TV shows will attempt to depict something like this. It makes us look at bigger questions, like freedom and how it feels to live under occupation. Those things are happening now, whether it’s Syria or the Arab Spring. At this very moment the British Government is dealing with a bill regulating our telephone calls and storing information about us.”
The swastika is one of the most taboo images of the modern age. How does it feel walking around a set where it’s everywhere?
“Shocking. Just very, very weird. There were days where there would be supporting artists all in Nazi uniforms. But what was equally shocking was how quickly you got used to it. Going on to a set and seeing a huge portrait of Hitler, it’s weird. But you become numb to it. It’s terrifying how normal
a situation can become, like living in a repressive regime. It’s part of life and people accept it.”
Do you think that’s how it would be, had the Nazis won? Did Dick get it right?
“There are many of us who would love to think if we were occupied, that we’d be brave and join the resistance. However, the reality is there are many people who wouldn’t. I’m not sure I would. I don’t know how brave I really am. Frank tries to toe the line. But then he is radicalised by the very actions of the regime he’s trying to toe the line with.”
Juliana is an amazingly strong character, presumably that’s what attracted you to the part?
“It was mostly because of the journey that she’s on, and Philip K. Dick was a big draw for me. But she’s an incredible character, very different from me, emotionally, which I was quite intrigued by, being that she has to keep everything contained and controlled, which is not really my instinct. It’s interesting to have to keep everything reigned in in order to survive in that environment.”
Were you familiar with the book ahead of joining the cast?
“I read it a very long time ago, and it has stayed with me, oddly. So when it came around in script form, I was quite taken with the idea of being a part of it. Philip K. Dick has many, many characters, but the female characters, this is one of his strongest, most fleshed out, I suppose.”
Are you a sci-fi fan?
“Science fiction is something that’s been in and out of my life, definitely. But it’s more that he interested me because of how productive he was. I’m intrigued by a man who can write five novels in a year. The thing I love most about science fiction is the extremes of imagination. There are no boundaries, and that’s exciting.”
Did you ever fear that the concept could be too big to take on?
“I never questioned it, to be honest. And his daughter Isa Dick Hackett is a huge part of this. Heavily, heavily involved, and because of that I had quite a lot of confidence in it. It was a conversation, quite a beautiful process. All the main characters were so impassioned with the project that we all got very inspired, ideas being thrown back and forth, questions being asked. I’ve not worked on a project where there’s been as much of a dialogue. It can often be a paint-by numbers thing with network shows.”
Everything looks beautifully made and grand in scale, did it feel like that on set?
“The sets and the costumes, everything down to the tiniest prop, it was all so beautifully done, and so detailed. Strangely, it felt massive and intimate at the same time.”
How closely does the show stick to the source marterial?
“There’s been a narrative inserted which isn’t in the book, and Frank (Spotnitz, the showrunner) was adamant about thickening the plot. The
book is very unique, but it spirals in different directions. In order for it to be coherent, they needed to add characters and change things. There are lots of different elements. This is ultimately what [Frank] does, serialised television. His grand plan is to make sure the show goes on, so we’re really only scratching the surface with the first season.”
And what’s ahead for your character?
“Juliana will stop at absolutely nothing. It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s very quiet and very subdued and stylistic, and confined, because of the nature of the world they’e living in and the oppression. The metaphorical low ceiling, being under control. It creates a certain temperament among the characters. We worked hard to make sure these were characters that we cared about.”
The Man In The High Castle is released on Amazon from November 20.