Frank Spotnitz has been behind some of television’s best series that have toyed with reality: “The X-Files,” “Millennium,” “Night Stalker,” “The Lone Gunmen.” The executive producer’s latest work – in conjunction with filmmaker Ridley Scott – continues that approach with “The Man in the High Castle,” which is slated to launch on the Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming service on Friday, Nov. 20.
The series, based on the book by Philip K. Dick, looks at what would have happened if the Allies had lost World War II. Life after the war, in what used to be called the U.S.A., has the Nazis controlling the East Coast and the Japanese in charge of the West Coast.
The creative team’s biggest challenge was to take ideas presented in the novel and bring them to life. And there were countless questions. What would Times Square look like if we didn’t live in a corporate capitalist society? What would it look like if the Nazis ruled the world? What would their values be? What would their commercial values be? Would there be cars with fins? Would you have Space Age optimism in the design of home appliances?
“Obviously, we started with an alternative history that is in the novel. The biggest challenge was finding the visual alternative history, and that was something the pilot director, David Semel, confronted because we knew from the pilot on that we were establishing the rules of this world, and we needed to honor them however many years this show went forward,” Spotnitz says. “So that does come down to hairstyles, wardrobe, types of vehicles.”
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There’s literally thousands of props and set design and costume and hair design issues.
Frank Spotnitz, executive producer of ‘The Man in the High Castle’
That’s the technical part of making the series. Spotnitz was equally concerned with ideas presented in the story. This is a world where artists aren’t allowed to create. Minorities and those who are chronically ill are persecuted. But, at the same time, jobs are plentiful and crime is low.
Spotnitz wants viewers to think about their own political and social views as they watch the series.
“I think that’s what’s unique about doing an alternative history show. You get to see the bad guys up close. It makes you think more closely about who you are and what you stand for,” Spotnitz says. “The other thing that struck me when I read the novel the first time so many years ago is you can’t assume the good guys are going to win.
“I think we, as Americans, because we are used to winning and because all of our movies and TV shows have us winning, we just have this, ‘Of course we are going to win.’ Well, no, not of course. It’s up to us if we are going to win. And I hope this show makes people think about that.”
To present these ideas, the acting team of Luke Kleintank, Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Rufus Sewell, Joel de la Fuente, Cary Tagawa and DJ Qualls was put together.
Cast members spent a lot of time talking to Spotnitz about the world he had created. They discovered that everything from the Beatles never happening to how they greet a person on the street was different.
One of the biggest twists was discovering the world they inhabit in the series is just one reality. Spotnitz promises clues throughout the first season about other realities.
“I think, really, from the first episode, when you see the films showing our world, that’s a hint that there are other realities. So I would say all the imaginary terrain that is in the novel, we hope to get to, but not too quickly,” Spotnitz says.
The Man in the High Castle
- Friday, Nov. 20, Amazon Prime Instant Video