What if the Allies had lost World War II? That is a big "what if," but that is exactly the question new Amazon series "The Man in the High Castle" aims to answer.
Based on the 1962 novel by sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick, the show imagines a world where the Nazis, not the U.S.-led Allied powers, won the war, leading to an invasion of America where Nazi Germany claimed the East Coast and Japan took the West Coast. In this world, Hitler is alive and in charge, but his health is fading, sparking tension in the U.S. where a resistance -- inspired by mysterious newsreel footage depicting an alternate universe Allied victory -- is growing and relations with Japan are frayed.
Carsten Norgaard plays Colonel Rudolph Wegener, a Nazi official working with Japan's Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), to keep the world together in the face of nuclear war. Norgaard spoke with International Business Times to preview the series, which begins streaming all 10 Season 1 episodes on Amazon Prime on Nov. 20 -- the first two episodes are currently available to all Amazon users. Read the full interview below:
International Business Times: How did you get involved in the project?
Carsten Norgaard: I had heard about the project for a while. I guess it had been circling for years. I think [executive producer] Ridley Scott had tried to make it as a feature film at one time.
When the opportunity presented itself -- I had always been a fan of Phillip K. Dick, who wrote “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” “The Adjustment Team.” He’s a very prolific and incredibly productive writer. Then, the prospect of being in the ultimate “what if” -- “What if the allied forces had not won the second World War?” – the imagination can run rampant with that.
IBTimes: You said you were a fan of the book. Are you a history buff too? Were you passionate about the project in that sense?
Norgaard: I think that coming from Denmark -- we were occupied [by Nazi Germany] so we kind of grew up out of this history. Plus, as far as I recall, this is one of the first times the United States has ever been occupied and split in two. I can’t recall another story about that.
IBTimes: This is an American show that will probably be seen by a mostly American audience and its focus is definitely the hypothetical U.S.-Nazi German relationship, but does coming from Denmark give you a different perspective at all?
Norgaard: I think the “what if” in this specific scenario has intrigue in lots of place – Europe, Asia. It was so close for some time. A few different moves -- if Hitler had not gone into Russia, for example -- and we could have been looking at something like this, so I think it has a very broad appeal. I would be surprised if it was not equally watched in Denmark.
IBTimes: Tell us about your character. What are your motivations for dealing with the Japanese behind the backs of the Nazis?
Norgaard: I play a double agent, a Swedish businessman, Victor Baynes, who is really Nazi Colonel Rudolph Wegener. He is worried that a power vacuum could occur if Hitler died. It might lead to another war with the Japanese. So, in secret he is trying to make an agreement with his Japanese counterpart to avoid another war.
I think deep inside he is a good guy. We are all products of our environment. He’s a complex character. He's done terrible things and that guilt weighs very heavily on him and has messed up his family life. So, you could say he is haunted by the atrocities he has committed on behalf of the Nazi empire. [His efforts to avert war between the Japanese and the Nazi Empire are] atonement or redemption, so to speak.
IBTimes: In your scenes with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, you guys both speak very cryptically about fate and destiny. How is that a theme for the show overall?
Norgaard: I think it is an underlying theme. It is interesting working with Cary. He and I developed a great synergy for each other and each other’s cultures. So, it kind of married with the storyline. I think we managed to bring that to the screen … I hope.
IBTimes: Most of the series revolves around the U.S. resistance to the Nazis, but your storyline with Cary is about the Nazi Germany-Japanese power struggle. It's interesting how a different outcome in the war has still led to what is essentially another Cold War.
Norgaard: History repeats itself, right?
IBTimes: Exactly. How is this conflict different from the Cold War we know from history class? How is it the same?
Norgaard: Well, a lot of things come down to trust. Do you trust the other side? What is the other side doing? We see it today with Russia again where we are not sure what the other side is doing and they are not quite sure what we are doing.
IBTimes: What was the experience like working with Amazon?
Norgaard: We had a lot of pride on set, not just because of the greatness Phillip K. Dick’s material and Frank Spotnitz's interpretation, but also because of the great reviews we had out of the gate with this whole binge watching scenario, which I’m starting to love. You don’t have to wait. You get it right away. Binge watching is like reading a modern book. You read it as fast or as slow as you want at your own discretion. I think the byproduct is fans have a real chance to get hooked on the material and like the story.
IBTimes: It sounds like it was definitely a positive experience.
Norgaard: I think there was a level of freedom that was given to the project. Everybody listened to what everybody had to say. There were daily exchanges about character, wardrobe. I think, for myself, it was impressive. It was just collaboration at its purest. Hopefully, that makes for great viewing.
IBTimes: What lessons does the show have to teach about politics or the state of the world today?
Norgaard: Look at all the stuff that’s happened with ISIS and the Middle East and then the second World War – it’s the same atrocities. And I think mistrust is evident on all of the levels of how everything works today. All you need to do is listen to the political debates.
IBTimes: Is the show a bit cynical about history? It seems like there is an argument in the series that it may be naive to think you can change the word.
Norgaard: I think the show highlights what can be changed. Hopefully, people can see things on the show and then take them to the world today. I don’t think there is any utopia, but we are all in charge of our own destinies and we can choose to live in a place where most of your views and things that make you tick are covered.
IBTimes: We can at least do better than Nazis, right?
Norgaard: I think so.
The first two episodes of "The Man in the High Castle" are streaming now on Amazon Prime. All 10 episodes of Season 1 will be available on Nov. 20.
Watch the trailer for "The Man in the High Castle" below: