NEW WORLD OR­DER

Dick’s K Philip ac­claimed alt-his­tory novel THE MAN IN THE HIGH CAS­TLE is head­ing to the small screen. Jor­dan Far­ley joins the re­sis­tance...

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - The Man In The Castle -

w hat would the world look like if the Axis pow­ers won World War Two? It’s a ques­tion that’s in­spired dozens of dystopian al­ter­nate his­tory tales across film, TV, lit­er­a­ture and videogames. Philip K Dick’s clas­sic novel The Man In The High Cas­tle is ar­guably the best but, like the ma­jor­ity of Dick’s work, its bril­liance went largely un­recog­nised when first pub­lished in 1962. Since his death, how­ever, Dick has be­come one of SF’s most cel­e­brated word­smiths, one en­thu­si­as­ti­cally adapted for the screen by the world’s big­gest film­mak­ers. Former X-Files writer and Man In The High Cas­tle showrun­ner Frank Spot­nitz puts that down to the author’s un­par­al­leled pre­science.

“I think his work is in­creas­ingly rel­e­vant. If any­thing it was too out there at the time for peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate,” Spot­nitz tells SFX from the mid­dle of the busy show floor at New York Comic Con. “I still strug­gle with what the end­ing of The Man In The High Cas­tle means, but the themes are so time­less and timely.”

The show’s tur­bu­lent jour­ney to the screen saw it al­most adapted as a four-part minis­eries by both the BBC (in 2010) and Syfy (in 2013) be­fore Ama­zon got hold of Spot­nitz’s script. Re­leased as part of the an­nual pi­lot sea­son ear­lier this year, the first episode went on to be the stream­ing ser­vice’s most-watched pi­lot ever, eclips­ing even Emmy-award-win­ning crit­i­cal dar­ling Trans­par­ent. In the tran­si­tion to the screen Spot­nitz made some key changes to the novel’s nar­ra­tive, shift­ing the fo­cus to dou­ble agent Joe Blake (Luke Klein­tank), re­sis­tance re­cruit Ju­liana Crain (Alexa Dava­los) and her boyfriend Frank Frink (Ru­pert Evans).

“In the book Ju­liana and Frank are al­ready split up. I wanted to rewind a bit and see them in their re­la­tion­ship so that I had some­thing I could care about and threaten, and then let Joe come in,” Spot­nitz ex­plains. “So it’s a love tri­an­gle where Ju­liana is be­tween th­ese two

men, but on a deeper level she’s be­tween two dif­fer­ent ways of look­ing at the world she’s in.”

Set in 1962, 15 years af­ter the end of the war, The Man In The High Cas­tle’s Amer­ica is di­vided be­tween the pow­er­ful Greater Nazi Re­ich, who oc­cupy the East, the Ja­panese Pa­cific States in the West and the Neu­tral Rocky Moun­tain States in the mid­dle. Af­ter her sis­ter Trudy is mur­dered by Ja­panese po­lice in San Fran­cisco, Ju­liana as­sumes Trudy’s place in the re­sis­tance and risks ex­e­cu­tion to trans­port “The Grasshop­per Lies Heavy” – a faux news reel depict­ing an Al­lied vic­tory in WW2 – to Canon City in the neu­tral zone. Joe also ap­pears to be work­ing for the re­sis­tance and crosses paths with Ju­liana, be­fore be­ing re­vealed as a Nazi agent.

“My char­ac­ter has changed a lot,” says Klein­tank. “In the book he’s a soldier and his eye’s on the prize, but here he’s con­flicted a lot more with his mis­sion.”

Joe re­ports to John Smith (Ru­fus Sewell) – a ruth­less Nazi Ober­grup­pen­führer cre­ated for the show. But rather than a typ­i­cal psy­cho­pathic black­shirt, Smith comes with com­plex cul­tural bag­gage. “What I was ea­ger to do was not make him the stock Nazi,” Spot­nitz ex­plains. “He’s an Amer­i­can Nazi, a re­ally good fa­ther, a re­ally good hus­band, a good leader. Ev­ery­one looks up to him. It just so hap­pens he’s a Nazi.”

“My con­cern af­ter the pi­lot was that my char­ac­ter was some cre­ation by the ex­ec­u­tives so that the story would have an over­rid­ing one-di­men­sional evil,” Sewell adds. “Af­ter read­ing episode two, which goes a lot more into his pri­vate life, and be­ing as­sured that the point was to have some­one who was a hu­man be­ing but rep­re­sented a face of Nazism in Amer­ica, then it be­came some­thing in­ter­est­ing for me.”

One of the ma­jor char­ac­ters miss­ing from the pi­lot is an­tique shop owner Robert Childan, who trades in Amer­ica’s her­itage with the Ja­panese, in­clud­ing mi­nor of­fi­cial Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Spot­nitz con­firms that Childan will de­but later in the

Ru­fus Sewell might play a char­ac­ter called John Smith, but he’s a ruth­less Nazi.

Ed McCarthy (DJ Qualls) and Frank Frink (Ru­pert Evans) are fight­ing back.

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