Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle cast members and executive producers took part in a panel at the New York Comic Con in support of the show’s third season. The new season premieres on Friday, October 5, 2018 and with it comes a word of warning for those who aren’t necessarily into binge-watching. Prepare yourselves for being unable to turn season three off before you make it through the season finale. Season three of The Man in the High Castle is absolutely spellbinding.
Among the cast members who participated in the season three panel at the NYCC were Rufus Sewell (‘Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith’) and Joel de la Fuente (‘Inspector Kido’). Paired together for roundtable interviews, de la Fuente and Sewell discussed their characters’ journeys, what it is that drives Sewell’s John Smith in season three, and life on the set of the riveting drama.
The show’s a drama but it’s also a sneaky heavy special effects show. What’s your interaction been with the green screen and effects elements?
Joel de la Fuente: “I’ve never seen bigger green screens. They are like two or three stories high sometimes.”
Rufus Sewell: “It takes a lot of green to turn Vancouver into New York, as often as we do.”
Joel de la Fuente: “And San Francisco putting hills in. The fleet and the German aircraft.”
Rufus Sewell: “But it’s not as discombobulating as green screen can be because whatever can be real is real. We work on a real set and there will be green (screens). It’s not…I’ve experienced it where you’re just basically in a green room. […] We’ll still have all of the stuff that brings a reality to a scene and that is so believably detailed. We have a tremendous advantage.”
Joel de la Fuente: “But, also, it’s not just the set. It’s that often in these situations the intention is to call attention to the effects. With us, a lot of it is character-based so we have the opportunity that, yes, we’re standing in a green screen but we have relationships to focus on to act with. So, that makes it a sort of a thrill.”
What do you think is John’s primary driving force in season three?
Rufus Sewell: “It’s never changed. His driving force has never been personal ambition. That’s like an offshoot. The more danger his family is in, the more it looks like he continues in power – and greater power. The more danger he’s in, the more he needs to cling to the machine that’s putting him in danger.
The reason he made every choice is, ill-advised possibly, but in a very, very difficult situation facing choices that most of us would never hope to face, he’s always sided with what he believed was the side that would protect his family. And, in the circumstances, the best moral choice. I don’t believe he made the right choices, but I believe he believed he did at the time. Not to say that he’s not capable of lying to himself and sustaining a false narrative to keep him going, like people do.
But I think his intention has always been the safety of his family. That’s why when Thomas is taken away, it’s necessary to not have him there. Because if he was there, he wouldn’t think twice about doing whatever he could to save him. He’d never harm his son. His whole point is to protect his son, whatever it takes. You pick up a gun, you do this, you do that – that’s his primary super objective.”
Has Smith’s sense of identity changed in terms of dealing with Thomas?
Rufus Sewell: “I think when what happens to Thomas happens, I think he becomes even more split and divided from exterior to interior. It pushes him further into himself. I think his interior is angry, betrayed, rageful, guilt-ridden, dangerous. I think he hugely resents the machinery that’s done this to his child. He resents himself and feels culpable, but he has to make the appearance of moving the direction of the opposite. So, all these feelings are very, very confused.
But I don’t think he’s without enormous resentment towards the society that lionizes his son and bastardizes his memory and turns him into this poster child which is a lie – a hideous lie. They’re using him. I think on his inside he feels what his wife is feeling on the outside, but he has to keep it together.”
Does he have any regrets about his choices?
Rufus Sewell: “Of course. I think he wrestles with it because it’s not easy. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I should have done this,’ because there is no easy obvious (choice). I think he feels an enormous amount of responsibility and regret. But the other choice is not obvious.”
What gets you into the mode of John Smith?
Rufus Sewell: “I don’t know. Being in the room. I try to be in the mode of myself as much as possible when I play John Smith because so much will happen for you in that situation. I want to concentrate on not seeing my behavior so as we can get to something more true, because it’s very tempting to fall into the nearest available characteristic behaviors, just from other movies we’ve watched, from other actors. So, whenever I remember to do the opposite of the Nazi-ish thing, like if I get a knife and fork with my food, ‘Can I eat it with my hands instead?’ If ever I get something on a plate, ‘Could I have it in Tupperware?’ Whatever…those things. I need to remind myself because if you forget, you move towards the cliché because we’re so used to it. So that’s what I try, in many ways, to be myself.”
How are your characters evolving and changing over the course of the third season?
Joel de la Fuente: “Kido has just survived an explosion at the end of season two, so I think there’s sort of a level of trauma and personal responsibility he feels having survived it and also being somewhat responsible for the cause of it. So, it’s that journey, the journey to sort of move past that and to sort of address whatever his honor demands to make sure he pays the debt that needs to be paid for. That is a major driving force in the season.”
Do you ever find time to have fun on the set or is it just all work and no play?
Rufus Sewell: “No, for me work is play. It’s all play unless you’re doing a comedy in which case it’s really serious. But with something like this, I know it’s dangerous to talk about because you risk sounding perverse because the subject matter. But I find the more heavy and the more intense…I mean, I’m pretty silly anyway…but you do find yourself larking about a lot. We get on. It’s a really remarkably nice bunch of people who really believe in what they do. It’s a pleasant working environment, surprisingly. And we all really believe morally in what we’re doing. We believe that the heart behind this show is in the right place.”
Joel de la Fuente: “Honestly, in order to portray the actions and events that happened in this piece, it’s sort of like closing your eyes before you know you have to keep them open for a long time. You need to laugh. You need to lighten your spirit before you go into the heaviness of it.”
Rufus Sewell: “It might sound a little bit strange but actually there’s method to the madness…possibly.”
We heard something about you doing a ballet in full Nazi regalia.
Rufus Sewell: “Don’t joke about it, man.”
Joel de la Fuente: “There’s video.”
More on The Man in the High Castle Season 3:
- Interview with Rufus Sewell and Joel de la Fuente
- Interview with David Zucker and Isa Hackett
- Alexa Davalos and Chelah Horsdal Interview