When the first season of Amazon's The Man in the High Castle aired, it was a well-executed period drama giving us a glimpse into an alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War II. The Greater Nazi Reich extended from New York City to the Rocky Mountains, and the West Coast was under Japanese dominion. It gave us fantastical, chilling establishing shots of swastikas hanging from buildings in Times Square. People greeted each other with “Sieg Heil!” when they entered and exited rooms, and highly placed Japanese citizens were the ruling elite in San Francisco. The rich world imagined by Philip K. Dick in his 1962 book by the same name was frightening, but also filled viewers with a sense of, Thank God we dodged that bullet.
But now it’s December of 2016, and we are a month removed from a presidential election that ripped the country in half. A winner was declared after waging a campaign of fearmongering that stoked xenophobia and marginalized women, the queer community, and people of color. In this new era, The Man in the High Castle season two is coming at either the exact right or wrong time, depending on your level of personal anxiety, but the cast of the show is here to assure you: They come bearing a message of hope! Vulture sat down with the actors playing every major character in High Castle and two of the show's producers, and each of them wants you to find the bright side of humanity on display in their fictional fascist dystopia. Well, everyone besides Luke Kleintank, who plays embattled Nazi operative Joe Blake, and sees his hit Amazon series as a cautionary tale ...
Isa Dick Hackett (Executive Producer)
“Fascism can be sneaky because when packaged a certain way, it can look interesting. An example is the 'us and them.' We've gotta protect our country. We've got to be safe. Or, we've got to position ourselves so that we know who the 'they' are and who the 'us' is. There's a lot of rhetoric that's been going on that's so divisive, and I think it really reflects some of what you see in the show.
The show has followers from both ends of the political spectrum, which is great because I think it's really important to find common values and common ground for people, and so even though people see our politics differently, there is something about the show that is interesting to people on both sides of it. I really like that. I like that maybe there's a conversation that can be had that will be helpful in some way, on both ends. But we never imagined when we were making this show that it would be this topical. At all, ever."
David W. Zucker (Executive Producer)
“The thing that I find, personally, so powerful in what the experience of these weeks have been since the election is that when you look at the lives that Juliana and Tagomi and Smith are living during these incredible, intensive times in our alternative history, you realize these are life and death choices they're making. That's part of both the entertainment, and hopefully the intimate drama of it. What choice would I make in their situation? That's hopefully what compels you through this story. If there are things you like or don’t like about what's happening in the world today, well, the choices that you make and the actions and communications and conversations you have can have a real effect. If anything, hopefully that will inspire viewers to look at the world around you and realize that these choices do matter and you have to, at some point, take yourself out of any kind of passivity and say, ‘If there’s anything that troubles you, then the time to take action is today.’
We're living in a time that is deeply disturbing for people, for various reasons, but you don't have to look back very far in our own history to realize that this has existed since basically independence was declared, and we still haven't resolved a lot of these things. People talk about going back to America before [World War II]. Well, for a lot of people in our story and a lot of people in our reality, that was not a better place, either. America's come a long way, but there's much that we have not resolved, and we're confronting those things directly.”
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Trade Minister Nobusuke Tagomi)
“I think [the election] is definitely making people think. The fact is, a wake-up call was going to happen sometime, somehow, and good thing it didn't happen with a bomb. There's still the fear of the bomb, but this is a bomb. The fear of it to me, anyway, was this was going to happen. Better it happens now. Now let's get on with something that truly is American. What is American to me is about what's creative. It's when we lose our creativity and we become conservative, then we're in real trouble. I'm looking to the millennials to really be a true possibility for real change of what America can do. I'm so there. I got their back.”
Bella Heathcote (Nicole Dormer)
“I feel like if anything there’s more value in it [after the presidential election], because it’s showing the pitfalls or negative consequences of demagoguery. Why not explore that? And I think it’s cool that our show does, but also shows individuals and their ability to triumph within those restrictions. So there’s hope. Cling to it!”
Rupert Evans (Frank Frink)
“I think that it’s fair to say that a lot of people are surprised by the events of what's happened [with the presidential election]. So I think it makes you reflect on the possible changes that could occur, and I think when people watch the show — particularly season two — they perhaps will reflect on it in a different way and see things that didn't resonate necessarily before the election that might resonate more with them. I think that's great if people think about things and things resonate a little stronger.”
Luke Kleintank (Joe Blake)
“The Reich is not the scary thing to me. It’s the people that are the scary thing. It’s the individual and the systems that we’ve created. We created the Reich. We created the government today. We created all this. So it’s the people that are the problem, and so that’s what scares the shit out of me. Hitler was a person. Nazi aside, he was a guy. So I’m worried about people, and they’re going down the same path, because I think too often people forget who their neighbors are and forget about each other. And the racism — the judicial system that we live in today is just un-fucking-believable. The problem is that the powers are so great and the fear that it instills in the people ... so I think that’s the downfall of people. The Nazis were so powerful with what they created as far as propaganda, and you look at the scope of the influence we have today on social media and you look at the election and you look at Trump and you look at the outcome of all this, and it’s a popularity game. And the people bought into it."
Brennan Brown (Robert Childan)
“I hope people find comfort in it. I’ve thought about this a lot, wondering how people would react to it given what our current climate is. I think it would be comforting to watch people struggle to maintain their humanity in the face of dehumanizing forces, which is what our show is about, how people struggle to be human, and how we create our own identities and our own realities. We all wish our show wasn’t as topical as it seems to be, but those similarities are also very specious."
Alexa Davalos (Juliana Crain)
“We’ve talked about not necessarily being right, but being able to survive in the circumstances that you're dealt, and that's what's happened in this situation. People thought they would not be in the situation they are after the election, and you just have to survive it on a day-by-day basis. So, these characters do just like you do in your life, but this is an alternate universe and that's how they're surviving there. What's interesting is that every single character in the show is connected to [the Man in the High Castle] on one level or another, thus bringing in the level of Philip K. Dick and his idea of parallel realities and how all of us our interconnected, but that actually there is no separation between any of us. I feel like we're all incredibly multifaceted as human beings, as characters in the show, outside of the show. That there is no one or the other, good or bad.”
Joel de la Fuente (Inspector Kido)
“A part of me does find comfort in the role that I play on this show, in that I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to justify and humanize a character who many would argue is one of the people that is responsible for taking away people’s human rights. That’s suddenly the position I find myself in over the last month or so, which is doing that work as an actor and seeing how you can try to do that work in real life. How do you bridge the gap between someone who you have different views from, and how to find useful dialogue or commonality with someone because you’re actually both of the same species? If watching the show can promote this kind of introspection and thought, then I think we’re onto something really interesting. Then I think we’re onto something that is useful, and is entertaining.”
DJ Qualls (Ed McCarthy)
“The conversations that we’re having with actors and journalists have steeled my resolve to be vocal about what I think about what’s going on now, to keep talking. Because the way that things can go south, the way things can be taken from you is if you, (a) take them for granted or, (b) become apathetic or too afraid to speak. Personally when people are saying or tweeting ‘I’ll go to Canada,’ I’m not going to Canada. I’m staying and fighting, and I’m sort of stoked about today because of that. Every older person will call attention to every mistake you could ever make, but you can’t hear it because it doesn’t affect you. So I hope the show will serve as a jumping-off point for discussion. We’re not trying to teach anybody anything. We’re just trying to show you how these particular set of humans are dealing with their circumstance, and as a human being it reminds me ‘Well, it could be like that.’ And it helps me understand how it’s happened before.”