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The 'Man in the High Castle' is Back on Amazon
December 16, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

If it’s any consolation to fans of Amazon’s dark, mysterious and fascinating Man in the High Castle, the actors don’t know where it’s going, either.

“You’re playing in the moment,” says Alexa Davalos, whose character is resistance fighter Juliana Crain. “What’s important is what’s happening now, and there’s a freedom in that. If we knew what would happen next, that might start informing your acting choices.”

“It’s like real life,” says Luke Kleintank, who plays smooth double agent Joe Blake. “You don’t know what you’ll be called on to do tomorrow.”

All we really know about High Castle is that Season 2 will drop Friday on the streaming service, with another 10 episodes that take us further into the shadowy world created in a 1963 novel by American science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

The story is set in 1962, in an America that lost World War II. The Eastern two-thirds of the country are under the control of Nazi Germany, the West Coast run by Imperial Japan. In between is a narrow “neutral zone” that has become a buffer between the two suspicious superpowers and a refuge for outlaws who don’t mind living in a modern Wild West with little discernible law, order or hope.

This oppressive occupation has naturally spawned resistance, some of it coming from a mysterious “Man in the High Castle” who collects and selectively disseminates grainy films that seem to show a world in which it was the Allies who won World War II.

These films fascinate Adolf Hitler, who in the TV version is slowly dying from Parkinson’s Disease. In the novel, it was syphilis. So all Nazi commanders are under orders to confiscate these films, to amuse Hitler and to avoid putting subversive ideas in any resistance sympathizer’s head.

Juliana, who had been getting along okay in San Francisco under the occupation, got involved in the resistance after her sister was killed for transporting one of these illicit films.

“This wasn’t something she planned,” says Davalos. “The loss of her sister propelled her into this life.”

She soon meets Joe, who has infiltrated the resistance while working for John Smith (Rufus Sewell), the American-born Obergruppenführer who more or less rules Nazi America under Hitler.

Juliana and Joe form a professional relationship that rises and falls as Joe’s loyalties sometimes feel fluid. Their moves often intertwine with those of Juliana’s boyfriend Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), a closeted Jew who becomes an active partisan after the Nazis gas his sister and her two children.

Joe’s shadowy moves “keep him interesting,” says Kleintank. “We’ll find out more about him, but we’ll find it out slowly.”

That will be one of the focal points of the whole second season, he adds: growing insight into the motivations of characters on both sides.  

“There are so many universal elements here,” says Kleintank. “We get into the psyches of people, why they do what they do.”

“It’s tough to say how you’d respond when you aren’t actually in a situation like this,” says Davalos. “You’d like to think you’d have the will to fight. But you don’t really know.”

Man in the High Castle “shows you something that could have happened,” says Kleintank. “So it makes you think what you would have done. What would be your responsibility as a citizen?”

The characters here didn’t ask to be faced with those choices, Kleintank notes: “Joe is reacting to circumstances. If he’d been born in our time, he wouldn’t think about these kinds of things. He might be a farmer.”

Davalos says it helps that Man in the High Castle episodes tend to be dense and involved.  

“It feels more like shooting a movie than a TV series,” she says. “We might spend 13 days on an episode. We get to know the characters so well that it all feels very continuous.”

She says it also means spending a lot of time in a very defined historical place.

“It also feels very much like a period piece,” she says. “It looks like a period piece.”

Kleintank says the world of High Castle actually feels older than its chronological date.

“It’s set in 1962, but in terms of the real 1962 it’s a little off,” he says. “Because we lost the war and we’re being occupied, it feels like people are stuck in the 1940s and ‘50s. It feels very period, but not like the ‘60s.”

The wild card there, not surprisingly, is the science fiction element, since the films seem to suggest there might be several simultaneous realities.  

For better or worse, Dick’s novel never cleanly resolves that suggestion, and if the TV series plans to, the actors say they haven’t gotten the memo.

“Anything about where the show will end is just a projection,” says Davalos. “We never even know what will happen tomorrow.”

“There is no end,” says Kleintank, “until the studio says there’s an end.”

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You will be hard pressed in any movie theater to find a production as fine Man in the High Castle. Truly at the very top of the list for phenomenal streaming television. Thank you Amazon.
Dec 16, 2016   |  Reply
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