SDCC ’16: “The Man in the High Castle” Cast on Philip K. Dick’s Predictive Powers

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Dan Percival, an Executive Producer for Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, said he considers Philip K. Dick’s works to be prescient and visionary – but he never expected the show’s message to be as relevant to today’s political climate to the degree that it has.

“In a way the world has caught up with the message of the show, rather than the message of the show reflecting the world we have today,” he said. “I was very taken with the press when we show went out last year, how many people were reading parallels in our world in the show. It was not our intention. We’re just telling the story that Philip K. Dick created.”

Based on the novel of the same name, The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history show set in a world in which Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan win World War II. Percival said Philip K. Dick wanted to remind us that turning the other way to xenophobia and bigotry can cause democracies to slip into totalitarianism.

“I couldn’t have predicted that my whole country, that the United Kingdom, would’ve voted to leave Europe in a fit of insane xenophobia a few weeks ago. In fact even the voters who voted for it didn’t quite believe what had happened. And it shows how quickly a zeitgeist can shift into bigotry and xenophobia, and that becomes the determining factor of people’s democratic choices,” he said.

In keeping with the idea that abrupt cultural shifts can alter history’s course, Percival said season 2 of the streaming show would tap into the concept of alternate realities, showcasing timelines where different paths were taken, and how those paths altered the core of certain characters.

“Of all the characters you see in Man in the High Castle, some are intrinsically noble to their character or core all the way through,” he said. “But when you start to meet them in a different reality, maybe they’re not.”

Rufus Sewell, who plays Obergruppenführer John Smith, said he was interested in playing out alternate versions of his own character, but wanted to avoid diluting the meaning of the core world with too many variations rolling out too quickly.

“What I believe is very important, and was done very well in the first season, is I think if we’d embarked in different worlds too soon, the currency of the earth that we’d established would be lost,” he said. “It’s just like with films that have too many flash backs and flash forwards – after a while you don’t invest in what you’re watching because you think, ‘This is probably a dream or another reality.'”

Sewell also said he thought his character represented less of a villain than a typical, complex man willing to rationalize his actions.

“For me, what Philip K. Dick was writing about was how people get on in life, how people continue day to day,” he said. “And that involves getting used to stuff, normalizing, telling yourself you’re the good guy. I think it’s definitely a cautionary tale. You don’t have to go far too see it. You never did… but particularly at the moment.”

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