With The Man In The High Castle due to launch on Amazon today, we sat down with Rupert Evans, who plays reluctant revolutionary Frank Frink in the show. The Hellboy actor chatted enthusiastically about everything from the nature of sci-fi to the morals of modern-day radicalisation.
What drew you to the character of Frank?
I just identified with him because I liked the journey that he goes on. He’s a normal guy who’s trying to survive in this world and then suddenly his life gets turned upside down, you know, by events in the end of episode one and episode two. He becomes an extremist, really. Radicalised, he becomes radicalised. And I liked that journey from normal guy to a radicalised bloke. I thought that was interesting.
In the pilot he’s the one preaching ‘don’t rock the boat’…
Exactly. So initially he’s like ‘don’t rock the boat, let’s just get through this’. I think people like you and me, we haven’t really lived in an occupied [country], have we? So we’ve never really experienced that, but actually doing this I realised that a lot of us would love to think that we would be in the resistance, but I suspect I don’t know if I would actually. I wonder if we would be so brave. I’m not sure I would. So, yeah, I think for that reason I found it really interesting.
Were you familiar with the book beforehand?
No. I had heard of [Philip K Dick], obviously, and movies like Blade Runner of course, everyone knows that. But no, I hadn’t read the book, I won’t lie. But I read it as soon as I got the script. I actually read the script first, and then I read the book. And actually in a weird way I’m really glad that I did that because there are some differences. I think hardcore fans of the books… I hope they won’t be too upset, but… in the book, as you know, the man in the high castle writes a book, which is depicting an alternative reality, whereas in the show we have these reels, these films. So there are differences, as always. But I think generally it holds quite true to the book, and I found the world that Philip K Dick created outside America – you know, he talks about the Meditteranean, Africa and what the Nazis are doing further afield, it gave me a real world view of the Philip K Dick novel, which the screenplay didn’t do as much, because obviously it doesn’t have the time. There’s only 60 pages in an hour.
Did that help inform your performance?
It really did. It really gave me an understanding of the history of it and where Philip K Dick was coming from… I think Philip K Dick was really paralleling the Cold War, you know, America versus Russia, and I think in the book and the screenplay he parallels that with the Nazis versus the Imperial Japanese. So I think there’s a sort of Cold War style affiliation which the book looks at more closely that we did in the first one and two [episodes]. But we look at it in much more depth later in the season. And the book helped me [understand] the character. Frank Frink in the book has more time to explore his character that just the two hours that I’d read initially. So it gave me an understanding of where Frank Spotnitz was coming from and the type of man he was. So the book was really helpful. Moreso than virtually any other project that I’ve done actually.
So was there anything else you did to prepare for the role?
Well, we had to talk a lot about occupied America in 1962. So it’s a period piece because it’s in 1962, but it’s not, it’s Philip K Dick’s 1962, it’s not our 1962. So we had to talk about what it would be like to live in Philip K Dick’s 1962 in terms of the music and the style, what people were wearing, fashion, everything from what cars would look like to art and in Philip K Dick’s world modern art is seen as degenerate art and it’s not allowed to be seen…
We did a lot of talking about what this guy, what Frank Frink is, how he lived and what his background is and how this world is, so we could really get a sense of it. This is a world where there’s no Elvis. There’s no Elvis, there’s no Beatles. You know what I mean? It’s kind of odd. It’s like a skewed reality really. So it took a while to get an understanding. Then we saw pictures that the production department and the art department started to bring along which definitely helped.
And then also I watched a lot of films. Japanese, just to get an understanding of Japanese culture a bit more. Because obviously in the book and in the series [Frank’s] living in occupied West Coast run by the Japanese. The Japanese deal in hierarchies, and in Philip K Dick’s world the Americans are the working class people, and the Japanese are the ruling class, there’s a very clear distinction. Whereas on the Nazi side on the East Coast they’re more about integrating society and it’s very different. So you’ve got two very different ideological views really on life. So we talked about that, and I watched lots of movies like Bridge Over River Kwai and Schindler’s List, I looked at loads of movies really.
Will it just be one season or are you hoping for more?
We don’t know yet, but I think Frank and I and others are all hoping that it will go on, but whether it will or not, we’ll know in December. The book touches on so many things that it could really run and run and run. The avenues that we could go down are so vast, particularly with this alternative reality thing. And that gets explored in greater depths later on in the season.
Frank’s ‘radicalisation’, as you called it, takes place over episode two, in that interrogation sequence. Was that a challenge to film?
I don’t know, was it difficult? Yes it was. It’s not comfortable… I was lucky, it happened at the end of episode two, we shot it at the back end of the episode, so I had a week before to really prepare, and I’d just done another movie and I’d come straight into it, so thank God I had that week. I watched a lot of films about torture and got myself into that mindset. It is a sense of terror, you’re in a state of anxiousness and exhaustion, so it’s not something that I’d like to repeat, because I felt if you’re going to try to do it as well as possible, you’ve got to push yourself and push the boundaries and make it as real as possible. And I hope people believe that, because I was naked, and I was naked on a very cold concrete floor. (Laughs)
There was one really interesting moment in that sequence where the man in the next cell gives the classic quote about ‘all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’ and Frank screams. How did that response come about?
I’ll tell you, actually, that wasn’t in the script. But that was my response. Funnily enough the director, Dan, is very good, because you’ll do a scene and then he’ll say ‘alright, why don’t you do another one? We’ve got what we want, or I feel we’ve got what we want, but do you want to play around with it and maybe explore other things?’ So we did another take and it was then that I just felt very frustrated by this man, Randall, next door, and by this situation and where I was. And so I think it was the end of the night as well, it was late, we were did night shoots, so it was 3 o’clock in the morning and I was exhausted, so, yeah, that’s where it came from.
It seems that that line is one of the key themes of the show.
It’s a pivotal [theme]. It’s crucial. I mean, Frank Spotnitz talks about it a lot. The interesting thing about this show is that although it’s set in 1962, I think it has many parallels with now. Some people would say that doing nothing is as negative as doing something wrong, you know what I mean? And I think even now we’re looking at Syria… trying to work out what to do or not to do. It seems there are a great many parallels to that. I think the show looks at that and says what if we hadn’t committed all those men to world war two, and the beaches and defeating, if we hadn’t done that, and we had made a pact with Nazi Germany? It’s interesting. It’s endlessly fascinating, isn’t it? The show looks at one view of that and the consequences of that. I think Philip K Dick was obsessed with that, and I think Frank Spotnitz the developer is equally obsessed about that and showing an audience the dangers of not doing something.
It’s also a very timely moment to be looking at issues of radicalisation from the point of view of the occupied people.
Totally, absolutely. I think that’s the sign of a good novel, or a play, or a good film. It’s sort of like Star Trek, you know. What Star Trek does – or did, rather – is that it can take world ideas but put them in a different setting and make you think about how we see our own world by putting it into a different context, and I hope this show does the same thing. It looks at terrorism, it looks at home grown radicalisation, it looks at what freedom is, what freedom of speech is, all those things which are huge, big subjects, which we all partly take for granted, like our freedom over here. And war and all that stuff, our generation watched war – the Iraq war – through TV and we’ve never really experienced it, have we? So it looks at all that in a character-based drama. So I hope people will be interested in. We’ll see.
The Man In The High Castle is available to watch now on Amazon. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.