ComicVerse’s own wonderful, Kay Honda talks with Rufus Sewell and Jason O’Mara at NYCC 2017. They talk THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and more!

Jason O’Mara: Sort of a disclaimer up front, which is that there’s a lot of things I can’t talk about, unfortunately. My journey really on this has been about sort of how I fit into this incredible world that has already been created, you know, ahead of time. I really enjoyed watching season one and season two of MAN OF THE HIGH CASTLE. Watched them sort of like a fan would. I binge watched them.

So, really just finding a way into the world for my character. The writers have come up with quite a rich backstory. So I’m able to use that, especially as the story deepens, you know, he does and says certain things that affect the action and the choices that are made.

So I can say though that he’s not a Nazi, you know. He’s Irish. His name is Wyatt Price, or at least that’s one of his names. We discover him in the Neutral Zone, but he won’t stay in the Neutral Zone forever. So, that’s just about all I can tell you.

Speaker 1: So when we left John, I was really impressed with kind of the stuff that was going on kinda behind his eyes as he was brought up onto that stage while everyone was cheering him. It seemed almost like he was a little apprehensive or surprised by it and trying to comprehend that.

So now he is in the den of vipers. Before in America, he was kind of able to do things without the High Command fully knowing about it, but now he’s, you know, straight in with the Mountain High Command. How is he going to be functioning in that world?

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

Rufus Sewell: Well he always was, he was always, you know, Obergruppenführer, it’s a very high position already. And, yes, what you picked up on was the fact that, Harven is thinking, well that’s really —

[inaudible 00:01:49]

— you know because he’s not someone who’s ambitious for ambition’s sake. You know, for me it’s very important that distinction.

Someone who … for reasons that he believe were the right reasons, no matter how misinformed or skewed that was, he picked the side that he thought was the safest for his country and then realized, quite over a period of time that he had aligned himself to something really terrible. His way of coping with that was to just pull the mask tighter, you know.

And so he has these feelings, and he realizes, you know, at the same time that he’s going higher and higher up in that world his doubts only grow because of what’s happening in his life, but the doubts that were always there.

And one reason why it’s an advantage for him to get more powerful, he has no choice but to get more powerful because of what’s going on in his family, his genetic makeup. They’re coming for him unless he makes himself completely safe. So he has to, in one way, align himself ever-closer with the machine that’s asking to take his children one at a time. So, he doesn’t feel good about that.

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

It’s very, very complex for him. So, that’s kind of the journey that continues. He continues. And for me, the more powerful he gets, the more difficult it is to be able to find drama. Because you don’t want him to be so powerful that he can just fix it. There’s always someone more powerful; there’s always someone out to get him. And, as far as I’m concerned, I hope there always will be otherwise it gets a bit dull, you know.

ComicsVerse (Kay): I think to kind of piggyback off of what you were asking, I think that it’s really interesting for your character to do that. I think that we’re introduced to John Smith as … we were talking earlier; it’s like a completely original character as well from the Philip K. Dick story.

It’s really interesting that we’re introduced to John Smith as a very villainous character, but then you realize very soon that his Achilles Heel is kind of like the support of his country and his family, and so then you see that, as you were saying, how you kind of get … the character is thrown into something that he thought was the best for his family, and so would you say that your character is more … I don’t want to say family man-

Rufus Sewell: No, I would say that the appeal of him … When I read the first episode of season one, I had grave doubts, because he seemed so … I mean, he didn’t have a scene with anyone who wasn’t hanging upside down in chains, which is not normally a good sign. And, I mean, it might be on a weekend, but generally not in a TV show.

And the fact that he’d been added compounded my suspicion that this might be kind of a one dimensional creation to kind of anchor the evil of the show, so I spoke to Frank Spotnitz, who was in Paris at the time, and he said well, actually, there is a second episode already, because it was written as a two hour first night, and that second episode, you saw him with his family being relatively calm father.

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You saw a gunfight from his perspective, and I was told about these potential upcoming stories, and what appealed to me was the idea of him as a kind of, an everyman who’d taken the wrong path.

And Naziism, as far as I’m concerned, is designed to bring out the worst in people. Not just bad guys. It takes people, and it makes Nazis of them, and it gives the opportunities to look away from certain [inaudible 00:05:13], blah blah blah blah. That’s how it can happen, and I’ve always pushed for that, and that’s what’s been … And occasionally, scripts will come in, and they’ll veer towards classic villain, and I always try to find something to … It’s a balance.

ComicsVerse (Kay): Yeah, I definitely think that that comes through–

Rufus Sewell: Good.

ComicsVerse (Kay): –and of course the writing and of course your performance, it’s very interesting, because a villain is only … Not even a villain. I feel like that’s almost too aggressive a word, but someone with villainous characteristics are very interesting because they have like their own reason-

Rufus Sewell: They’re interesting if there’s conflict, or if there’s …

ComicsVerse (Kay): –Exactly, yes.

Speaker 2: I watched the trailer for the new season, and what I found interesting is you’re introducing this concept of the multiverse.

Rufus Sewell: I think it’s more of a clip than a trailer.

Speaker 2: It is. Fair enough. Clip, preview.

Rufus Sewell: Just to make it clear, that is not representing the whole-

Speaker 2: Right. [crosstalk 00:06:02]

Rufus Sewell: There are other people in the staff, apparently.

Speaker 2: But you’re struggling with accepting what’s being told to you. Is that a way of keeping the anchor of reality?

Rufus Sewell: Absolutely. I mean, sometimes, in scripts, especially if there’s any genre assigned to it, you can go into a thing where people just accept jargon as a given. They don’t do what they would do in real life. I mean, you watch a vampire movie … It’s different now since Tarantino. Before then, people would say, oh it’s a vampire, and people would be like vampire? What’s a vampire? You think, what fucking world are you from? Have you not seen films?

The opposite is true when someone introduces interdimensional travel to someone from the 1960s, they’re not going to have seen all the shows. They’re not going to know. They haven’t seen LOST. They haven’t seen, you know … So, it’s very important to get out of the shortcuts. Avoid the shortcuts of writing and of acting, because you know, you’ve got to take the audience in there.

Speaker 3: As actors, does working on a show like this make you look at current events or political events differently or in a different light?

Jason O’Mara: I don’t think it makes them look at it in a different light, but I think the idea is to remind people, well I mean the idea is to make a good show, but I mean, I think the show serves to remind people that things could still get worse and this could still happen, and why are we still talking about Nazis? I wish we were talking about Nazis as if they were just something that happened a long time ago.

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Rufus Sewell: I often say to people, like people say, oh, your show’s really current, and I say well I could do with being in a less current show in a better world, frankly. I’m not that keen on being of the moment in my TV choices. But I think what’s also very useful about this show, from my perspective, is to tell the story of how you can bit by bit, incrementally get used to horrors.

Jason O’Mara: Yes.

Rufus Sewell: And distract yourself with the minutia of your life, and this way, these things are possible. The natural ability we have, which is for a good reason, to get used to stuff, to find our balance. If that becomes too strong, then horrors are possible.

Jason O’Mara: When horror becomes mundane, it’s very dangerous.

Rufus Sewell: Absolutely. Well, that’s what’s happened. That’s how Germany … You know, Germany did not contain all of the worst people in the world in a particular period. It could happen anywhere because people incrementally … Look at what people get used to. Look at what is shocking one day, and then oh yeah, it happened again. It doesn’t even come up in conversation. That happens in a matter of weeks. You go from the worst thing you’ve ever heard to not even mentioning it in a room.

ComicsVerse (Kay): I guess it’s less of a show. I think that–

Rufus Sewell: That’s how it’s current, I suppose. It was like, it was true in 1962 when he wrote it, and it’s still unfortunately very true.

ComicsVerse (Kay): Yeah, and I think that’s interesting because I think that superficially, you can say that the show is just like a fu-, well, not fun, but an alternate universe sci-fi kind of world, like a fun show to watch, but I think from what you guys are talking about and how you approach it from your acting, and in the writing as well, I think it’s almost more a story about the human condition in the face of something horrific or something that is-

Rufus Sewell: Yeah. What humans do.

ComicsVerse (Kay): Exactly. Yeah.

Rufus Sewell: It’d be fine if it weren’t for humans.

Speaker 2: In that first episode of the series, there’s that bit where the guy’s got, Joe’s got a flat tire, I guess, and a cop’s helping him-

Rufus Sewell: Exactly. That’s the show.

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Speaker 2: And the ashes are coming down of the people who are being in the furnaces because they were older or injured or whatever. Invalids. To me, that’s —

Rufus Sewell: Yes, but the horror of that is alongside a recognizable, perfectly likable, New York cop guy with his sandwiches wrapped up by his … and his big worry that day was was it going to be spam or chicken in his sandwich. Not that. That says so much more about that. That’s what’s chilling, you know?

Speaker 2: Absolutely.

ComicsVerse (Kay): This is a bit of a jump, but this is a question for Jason. If I’m not mistaken, or maybe I’m just nerding out, but if I recognize your voice properly, have you done Batman animated series voicings at all?

Jason O’Mara: Uh, yeah. I played Batman in a few of the DC original animations feature films.

ComicsVerse (Kay): That’s awesome. I guess my question aside from my person fanship for it. Of course, it must be different, but how is it different from like going from that and experiencing that and filling like big shoes as a huge character, and then going into a show that you’re a huge fan of and acting in it. How are those two experiences?

Jason O’Mara: Completely different. You know, standing in front of a microphone, using completely different drawers of your toolkit, then trying to play a character in flesh and blood, so —

Rufus Sewell: Different tools from you bat belt.

Jason: Uh, yes. Thank you, Ru.

Speaker 4: Okay, that’s all the time we have.

ComicsVerse (Kay): Yeah, no problem. Thank you so much.

Jason O’Mara: Yeah, so completely different, but love it all. It’s all work, as they say.

ComicsVerse (Kay): All different, all fun, I hope. Thank you so much.

 

Remember to check out Season 3 of MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE on Amazon!

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