NYCC 2015: What We Learned About Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle

Image courtesy of Amazon
Credit: Amazon

Last week at New York Comic Con, Amazon gave attendees an extensive look at its new series The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s Hugo-Award winning dystopian novel of the same name. The series, which considers what our world would be like if the Axis had emerged victorious from World War II, brings a gritty realism to television that you’ll only find on non-network television – something that Amazon is beginning to make a name for itself for producing.

For the show’s creator, Frank Spotnitz (The X Files), Amazon’s patronage was a blessing without which The Man in the High Castle could never have happened. Spotnitz discussed why he believes the show could never have existed anywhere else: “Immediately, the show is so expensive, so immediately that eliminates 99% of [networks it could have gone to]. But secondly, the subject matter is…really challenging. It’s difficult, and it risks offending a lot of people, too.”

That almost goes without saying, given the fact the show’s poster features bright and prominent German swastikas all over one of America’s most famous locations, Times Square. Although the show hasn’t received any serious blowback for its imagery, Spotnitz expects that it will, and they’re prepared.

That’s not to say The Man in the High Castle is in any way flippant about its use of such loaded material.

During production, actors wearing costumes featuring swastikas wore makeup cloaks over them while they weren’t filming. And it’s not just the Nazi paraphernalia aspect that could draw the ire of viewers: Germany only conquered half of America; Japan has possession of the entire west coast of the United States.

With this in mind, it was exceedingly important to the show’s cast that the portrayals of the Japanese were on point. For Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, this was an especially personal aspect of the project. Having grown up as a Japanese immigrant in the south during the time period the show “covers”, Tagawa felt a personal responsibility to provide an accurate and respectful portrayal of the Japanese. As for star Alexa Davalos, the project had a different but equally personal appeal. As a longtime fan of the book, having the chance to bring its leading lady, Julianna Crane, to life was a dream come true.

Initially, The Man in the High Castle was adapted as a four-part miniseries, encapsulating the whole book, with the possibility of additional seasons if people liked it. With the switch to Amazon, producers were able to stretch out the story longer, and give longtime fans a great deal more to look forward to.

You can watch The Man in the High Castle’s first season in full starting November 20th.