Amazon’s original series The Man in the High Castle was striking for many reasons. Philip K. Dick has been the source of classic movies, so making a whole series out of his book was monumental for starters. The premise of an alternate history in which the U.S.A. lost World War II and is occupied by Nazi and Japanese forces is frightening, and the real world ad campaign got into some trouble for promoting swastika images on the New York subway.
The Man in the High Castle is back with season two premiering all episodes today. Rupert Evans was on a Television Critics Association panel for The Man in the High Castle this summer. Afterwards, he spoke with reporters more about what to expect from season two.
What is the most challenging thing about Man in the High Castle?
Well, in season one I was tortured and dealing with that. Now leading into season two, it’s a complete change where my character, Frank Frink, decides to take a stand and becomes in many ways radicalized. It’s very interesting now what’s happening in Europe with all the bombings and different things. There’s so many parallels between what happens to me in season two and what’s happening now. It’s weirdly scary really. We investigate the moral ambiguity of radicalism, fundamentalism in some ways and what is morally right to do if you feel you want to stand? Is it morally for the greater good to kill someone or not to kill someone? There’s all those complexities. For me it’s been a fascinating season because of that conundrum and that moral dilemma that Frank Frink goes through. It’s weirdly similar to what’s going on now.
How grueling are all those emotional scenes?
It’s kind of weird because I read a lot of books. I also got a lot of inspiration from a lot of movies like Schindler’s List. I found that very useful. Films like that really depict very clearly and very well how a community of people are being completely oppressed by another and what that does psychologically. The sense of fear and how you react to that and how you survive. Very kind of base instincts set in.
Is it really draining?
Yes. It is exhausting. I’m very, very emotional actually. When I’m watching even now, I find it hard.
But is that a good day for an actor?
Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t speak really after those kind of days. It was over a week I think if not longer. I’m naked in a cell and it’s cold. They really are hitting you around a bit. You become very emotionally involved in it. What’s weird about doing those kind of things, although we’re doing a scene and the director shouts “action” and “cut,” you actually carry on in that state throughout in between. It’s not a bad job.
Is there a particular season two episode you can’t wait for people to see?
Season two is just bigger in scope and more adventurous in many ways. Although it’s very personal to individual characters, there are set pieces which I’m really excited for the audience to see, storylines which I think are really exciting. I can’t give away too much, but it’s really exciting. It kind of heats up in three and four, those ones.
Is Frink in the resistance now?
That’s the core of my storyline in season two. He finds comfort and like minded thinking in a group of people that one could call the resistance. These are Americans actually. These people are what you would call patriots, American patriots who believe that America should find their own identity. For my character, we edge into a sense of resistance and what that is to be part of a group that want to stand up.
Does he feel more Jewish now that his family was killed?
We do go into that. He starts to question what his identity is certainly, about being Jewish or associated with a past, a family who were Jewish. Seders and stuff we look at. They’re in the show. We use a lot more devices this season with flashbacks and stuff like that, so you’ll see more of that stuff.
Is it unsettling to see all the swastikas on the set of Man in the High Castle?
Well, I think everybody has a very individual reaction, don’t they, to certain symbols whether they’re Nazi symbols or any symbol. I think it’s a very individual reaction depending on your preconceived ideas or views or how you were brought up or where you come from. It’s different for everyone. Because of my character, for me it’s a sense of lack of freedom. My character has a real hatred towards these people but ultimately I looked at history in a very different way. Coming from Europe as well, Germany was very close. In America, you were never occupied. You’ve never been occupied. Although Britain hasn’t, where I come from, Europe and France for example, not far away, really was. So I think it has a resonance which is far deeper.
Is stepping on the set of Man in the High Castle like entering a time machine?
Yes, it is completely. This show is really expensive and they have poured a lot of money into the set I think more than anything. All the cars, the music, the sets are vast and it really does feel like America in 1962 but slightly skewed. I can’t explain it. The detail from the telephones to some of the costumes, it is 1960s America but it’s not. It’s kind of bizarre. They’ve been very, very clever with that. I hope the audience can pick out the bits that they like and the differences between the real world and the Man in the High Castle world.
Were you familiar with the Philip K. Dick book before you got the role?
As soon as I got the script, I bought the book and I read the book. That’s where my love for Philip K. Dick started.
How much does it help, because sometimes they take some pieces from the book but not others?
Because the writing is so good in the book, it really helps. What Philip K. Dick does which the show can’t do in the first season is really create the entire world of the show. For us, it really gives us a sense of perspective about where we are, what’s happening in the world, economically, socially in the world, the sense of history. It gives us a real grounding on where we are and where to start from. Hopefully that gives it a sense of reality.