“I’m writing a very important book,” said sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick to his third wife before penning 1962’s The Man in the High Castle. In truth, Dick had no book. He didn’t even have an outline. So he turned to an unused idea about an alternate reality in which Germany and Japan won WWII and colonized the U.S.
To call High Castle complicated is like saying Caligula saw a few naked buttocks. Through five main characters (and a dozen more supporting), Dick ponders humanity, racism and superstition and poses big questions: Is what we perceive always real? Will knowing the truth free us from our perceptions?
While it may be the most acclaimed of the author’s 40-plus novels (and the only one to win sci-fi’s prestigious Hugo Award), it’s no shock that Amazon’s bold, 10-episode series is the book’s first adaptation. (Fox’s fall drama Minority Report is also based on Dick’s work.) “The subject matter is contentious. The plot is difficult to unpack,” points out star Rufus Sewell, who plays American under-Führer John Smith (a character new to Dick’s universe). “While the story is mind-boggling, it’s not a sci-fi extravaganza. It’s much more thoughtful than most crash-bang-wallop science fiction.”
Executive producers David W. Zucker (The Good Wife) and Isa Dick Hackett (the author’s daughter) began shopping around the novel a decade ago. Unable to find an American taker, they approached British filmmaker Ridley Scott, who had successfully turned Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into the seminal 1982 film Blade Runner. In October 2010, BBC announced a four-hour miniseries version with Scott at the helm. And then…nothing. So Zucker and Hackett approached X-Files writer-producer Frank Spotnitz about taking a crack. By February 2013, the project was on Syfy’s slate with Zucker, Hackett, Scott and Spotnitz all attached. Spotnitz had written the first two hours before Syfy chose to opt out.
Then ABC Studios drama chief Morgan Wandell headed to Amazon Studios in October 2013. Hunting for a smart sci-fi project, he called Spotnitz, whom he knew from the 2005 occult drama Night Stalker. “Morgan said, ‘Do you have any scripts you love that you’ve never been able to make?’” Spotnitz recalls. “I said, ‘As a matter of fact, I do.’”
The first installment, which debuted on Amazon this past January, was the most-watched pilot in the site’s history, and the upcoming first season will be their most expensive endeavor. In High Castle’s realm, the Nazis rule the East Coast with a black-gloved fist, while the slightly softer Japanese govern the Western seaboard—with the Rocky Mountain states serving as a neutral zone. One episode could conceivably need at least three different backdrops, and while these sets do represent historical “periods” (the series begins in 1962), Nazi-run Manhattan and Japanese-occupied San Francisco don’t exactly have precedents. “We made all these decisions you wouldn’t normally think about,” Spotnitz says. “What phone utility would exist? What German influence would there be in the clothes? Would they wear hats?”
“It was a huge undertaking,” Wandell admits. “The Man in the High Castle takes a very big investment to do right. And I’m sure traditional networks were nervous about the more controversial aspects. We didn’t have those constraints.” The dicey bits—the subtle racism between characters, the Nazis who aren’t depicted as Satan’s spawns, the kind imperialists, the emotional trauma and the violence—all remain.
In the pilot, Juliana (Alexa Davalos), an American, left her timid live-in boyfriend, Frank (Rupert Evans), in San Francisco in order to bring a banned film depicting an Allied triumph to Canon City, Colorado, on behalf of her murdered sister, who was part of the Resistance. When Episode 2 picks up, Frank, who is secretly Jewish, is hauled off and tortured because of Juliana’s actions. It’s ugly and transformative—and gets worse. “What happens makes him realize he has to stand up and make hard choices,” Evans says. “He becomes a radical, almost an extremist.”
At the same time, Juliana grows closer to mysterious truck driver Joe (Luke Kleintank), who she doesn’t know is carrying the same film for the Resistance…and more. “There’s this unexplainable, kinetic, palpable energy between them,” Kleintank says. “Whether they know the meaning behind it or not, it draws them to each other.”
In San Francisco, SS officer Wegener (Carsten Norgaard) and Japanese minister Mr. Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) conspire to prevent the mass destruction that rises from the power vacuum caused by Hitler’s impending death. And on Long Island, Smith is having a lovely breakfast with his family. “It’s so casual,” Sewell says. “If I did the same scene wearing a pullover and slacks and comfortable pair of slippers rather than a Nazi uniform, it would have an entirely different feel. It’s At Home With the Smiths!”
Category: The Man In The High Castle
For EW’s Fall TV Preview mega-issue, we covered a whopping 115 new and returning shows. To help you narrow down the field, here are six of your best bets courtesy EW critics Melissa Maerz and Jeff Jensen.
MELISSA MAERZ ON …
The Man in the High Castle (Amazon, Nov. 20)
Inspired by the classic Philip K. Dick novel, this high-concept drama imagines what would happen if the Nazis had built the bomb first and won World War II, leaving America split into the Greater Nazi Reich (in the East) and the Japanese Pacific States (in the West). The premise alone is rich with political intrigue, as Juliana (Alexa Davalos) and Joe (Luke Kleintank) carry out secret missions during the early 1960s that may or may not help the Resistance. When Juliana discovers newsreels that suggest the Allies really did win the war, leading to a massive cover-up, her search for a rebel hero known as the Man in the High Castle will leave viewers furiously trading conspiracy theories on Reddit. But the plot isn’t even the best part. It’s the evocative paranoid world that creator/executive producer Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files) has built, cast in seasick greens and yellows, with swastikas, rising suns, and other propaganda hidden within billboards — and a creeping sense that you’ll never really know who or where the enemy is.
I’ve added a bunch of new photos of Alexa on the set of The Man In The High Castle. I’ve also added a new episode stills, replaced a couple episode stills with high quality ones as well as with her appearance to promote the show at The TCA Tour. Check them out below.
• 2015 TCA Summer Tour – replaced and added images
• The Man in the High Castle: 101 Stills – replaced images
• The Man In The High Castle: Unsorted Stills
• The Man In The High Castle: On The Set (08/26/15)
If you listen to us at all, you know that the fall television season that the big networks celebrate hasn’t given us much to celebrate in recent years. Midseason is where it’s at, people! But are we ready to take back every nasty thing we said about the fall after compiling this list of our Most Anticipated New Fall Series? Kind of!
Thanks to some great cable entries and a few solid-looking network offerings, these next few months look like they won’t be another fall full of lamenting another fall season. Space aliens, murderous slashers, and a kick-puncher are among our predictions for the best new shows this fall. So peruse the list and prepare yourself!
1. The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)
WHEN IT’S ON: The 10 episodes of Season 1 will all plop down on Amazon Instant Video on Friday, November 20.
WHO’S IN IT: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rufus Sewell, and Joel de la Fuente.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Based on the Philip K. Dick novel, this alternative history drama poses the question of what would happen if the Germans and Japanese won dubya-dubya-too. The answer: swastikas everywhere!
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT IT: Amazon released the pilot as part of its pilot program in early 2014, and we LOVED it. The idea of a new United States was terrifying and spectacularly recreated in the style of producer Ridley Scott’s best films (i.e. Blade Runner). If there’s a can’t-miss show out this fall, it’s this one.
What if the Allies lost World War II? What if the Axis powers conquered the United States? And what would the country look like 15 years later?
Those questions open the floodgates to dozens more in Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, an adaptation of the 1962 Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. In the world of High Castle, the United States has been divided into three zones after losing the war: There’s the imposing, totalitarian, German-occupied East called the “Greater Nazi Reich,” a slightly-less-imposing, still-totalitarian, Japanese-held West called the “Japanese Pacific States,” and a neutral zone in the middle.
Executive producer (and The X-Files alum) Frank Spotnitz, who helms the series, spoke to EW about the challenges of transforming the world described by Dick into a visually arresting show that has to depict an alternate history for the U.S. “I watched and re-watched endless documentaries on Hitler and Nazism,” he says. “I had spoken to a number of historians. I asked them to talk about how Hitler could have won the war, what the key turning points, the mistakes he made were, and how they pictured Nazi society would have progressed if they had won.”
The resulting series (the pilot episode is available here) delivers a chilling look at the regions through the eyes of two characters: Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) is the closest to being the audience’s proxy; she lives in San Francisco, grew up around Japanese culture, and only becomes ensnared into the larger forces at play after her sister gives her a film reel created by “the man in the high castle” depicting a world in which the Allies won — in other words, our world. Joe (Luke Kleintank), meanwhile, joins the Resistance movement in New York, and travels west on a mysterious mission, with a mysterious purpose of his own. The two meet and may run into trouble, as evidenced in the exclusive first look photo above from the series’ third episode. (The photo below comes from the series’ fifth hour, showing Juliana in far less dire-looking circumstances as she talks to a character named Mr. Eto, played by Richard Ching.)
The series, which counts filmmaker Ridley Scott among its executive producers, will not only explore the alternate world the novel imagined, but also tackle a number of overarching themes. According to Spotnitz, the three questions viewers should ask while watching are: What is it to be human, and how do you remain human in an inhuman world? What is freedom, and what would you do to get it? And finally, for the science-fiction fans, what is real? (If there’s a film reel showing another course of history …)
Ultimately, Spotnitz says, it’s a story that shows just how easily history could have gone differently. “I think that the qualities that led to Nazism in Germany could lead to Nazism anywhere, fascism anywhere,” Spotnitz says. “There’s something unfortunate in the human condition, that we’re vulnerable to that kind of ideology. And I think that’s what’s most chilling about The Man in the High Castle are the scenes that are normal, are everyday, are really all-American, but you can see how it could happen here, too.”
As with many adaptations, Spotnitz has altered certain elements from the book. He added characters to expand the world, including Rufus Sewell’s slippery German officer “John Smith.” He set scenes in New York, which the novel doesn’t visit. Even character backgrounds have changed: In the book, Juliana is estranged from her husband, Frank Frink, a Jewish man living in San Francisco. In the series, Juliana is dating Frank (played by Rupert Evans), a man whose grandfather was Jewish — a detail Spotnitz changed after reflecting on his own family history. (Spotnitz is half-Jewish, and thought about what it would be like to be someone who had Jewish roots, but would still be targeted by Nazi Germany.)
“I grew up in a time when you’re used to happy endings, and I think The Man in the High Castle, the novel, made me realize that there’s nothing inevitable about a happy ending, that things really could go the wrong way. If you want the world to change, it’s up to you,” he explains. “I really just want people to think, to ask, ‘What does it mean to be free? What would you sacrifice to be free?’”
The Man in the High Castle hits Amazon on Nov. 20.
I’ve finished getting the entire gallery up to date adding another 3,000 photos including all of Alexa’s most recent public appearances, television appearances, The Man in the High Castle and Mob City photos, and much much more. Please check out the latest photos here. I will be working on updating the site’s content this weekend.
Hello visitors! Welcome to the new version of Alexa Davalos Web. The site needed a whole new fresh can of paint to celebrate being online for over 10 years!!. I hope you all like it. I want to take a moment and thank all the visitors who take time to visit my fansite. I know you’re all Alexa fans like myself and it’s awesome to know so many of you have been visiting my site since it opened its doors back in February 2005. I will be working on getting the website up to date this weekend so please bare with me. I know you all will enjoy all the new goodies I plan to add.
In the meantime, be sure to watch Alexa on THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE a new series available on Amazon that is just.. fantastic. There’s no other words for it. I can’t wait to see more episodes.