The Man in High Castle will return with a new exploration of the multiverse next year, but they’ve released a tiny, horrifying clip of the moment Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) finds out that there are multiple universes. Some of the cast and crew took to the stage of New York Comic-Con to discuss the show’s themes.
Click through for panel highlights and the full clip, but be warned that the clip contains disturbing imagery of medical experimentation.
The Man in the High Castle has already won two Emmys, and explored a horrifying alternate reality over two taut, gripping seasons. Season three will feature a new anti-Nazi resistance of hope, and even more underground films.
Moderator Dominic Patten began by asking Philip K. Dick’s daughter, Isa Dick-Hackett, what she thinks her father’s response would have been to the flare-up of Nazi imagery and hateful actions online and in the life that passes for our reality. She took a moment with her response, choking up as she began her answer. “It’s such a horrifying…it’s so hard working with the iconography of the show. He said the enemy is fascism, wherever it exists. Maybe now is a more important time to watch for it than ever.” She also promised that going forward we’ll see a lot more “twisting and folding reality” in season three.
Dan Percival built on her comment, saying that while “we’re still in the same story, with the main characters’ fears, ambitions, and needs, [the show is] evolving in our own understanding of that that world.” He promised “more of a sense of the multiverse rather than going back to Berlin as much. We’ve toyed with it—we explored a storyline in North Africa—but we pulled back because, as a character-driven narrative, too much spectacle could overshadow the character’s stories.
Actor Rufus Sewell (John Smith) agreed with the show’s emphasis on character, saying that “we haven’t spread to wide too quickly. In a film, someone you care about falling down a step is more involving than seeing someone you don’t care about falling off a cliff, so I’m glad to say we’ve gotten deeper and stranger, but not too soon.” He spoke to what drew him to the character:
I’m not interested in the idea of him as an ambitious man, he’s made a bargain, in a twisted way, to protect his family. There is friction between the man he is, in this reality, and the man he is inside, and possibly could have been in another world. I was fascinated by the fact that, the lower he goes as a person, the higher he goes in his professional life. His son’s illness [Smith’s son has a debilitating muscle disorder that is a death sentence in Smith’s Nazi-run society] is, well, it’s truly the chickens coming home to roost. Smith made the choice to “not know” certain things, he took the opportunity to turn away, just as people did in Nazi Germany, and now he’s seeing the consequences.
The panel introduced a new character, played by Jason O’Mara, who tried to talk about his role without spoilers. “He’s Irish, and his name is probably Wyatt Price. he’s a mysterious guy. he and Juliana get on exceptionally well.”
Alexa Davolos talked about how joyful it was to stay with a character for so long: “I love this characters, and I love Philip K. Dick, I love his questioning of reality, and to be able to explore all those things through this character…it’s been a mysterious journey.” And, without getting too spoilery, now that Juliana’s has tangible proof of other realities, “it allowed Juliana’s mind to open. It’s opened the door just enough, and now she can see a different way.”
The panel featured a thoughtful Q&A sessions, with one fan asking about whether the showrunners felt they were able to speak out politically in our current climate. Dan Percival answered immediately and uncompromisingly:
All forms of creativity have to exist and be allowed for humanity to express itself. Fascism doesn’t want individual ideas, individual creative expression—it wants to crush it and create “one truth.” We can never be complacent about giving up our freedoms.
On a slightly lighter note, Rufus Sewell was asked about how being “America’s leading Nazi” effected his interaction with fans.
He replied that, “the seig heils through coffeeshop windows are a bit much. It’s hard to ironically seig heil.” He went on to say that he chose to do the role because of the storyline about Smith’s son, and what it revealed about the character. “In the first episode, he seemed like he was a symbolic mock of evil, but the fact that there was a human in there, trapped, that was the attraction.”
Asked how the showrunners and set designers build such a consistent world, Dan Percival spoke of authenticity: “…although it’s a fictional reality, since the Nazis really happened we have a responsibility to be authentic to what would have occurred—what sort of fashions and art would have been approved of by Japanese and Nazi powers? There are giant show bibles we refer to. We have a whole alternate history of America we refer to.” Sewell elaborated on this with an anecdote that illustrates how dedicated the creators are: “I chose to pick up a newspaper on set to read in a scene, and there was an entire article written from the perspective of the American Nazis, and it wasn’t just the first line followed by blah, blah, blah, it was a real, interesting article.”
But apart from all the intricate set design and gorgeous acting, the core of the show is its theme, which Dick-Hackett summed up in one short sentence: “How do you retain your humanity in an inhuman world?”