'The Man in the High Castle' director on being scared of Nazis at Comic-Con, the nature of evil, and the Amazon show's trippy season 3

AmazonDaniel Percival (second from left)
  • “The Man in the High Castle” director and executive producer Daniel Percival spoke to Business Insider ahead of the show’s third season, which premieres October 5 on Amazon Prime Video.
  • Percival talked about being scared of running into cosplaying Nazis at Comic-Con, the increasing relevance of the show for audiences with the rise of far-right populism, and whether the team has plotted out an end for the show.

When “The Man in the High Castle” director and executive producer Daniel Percival first went to Comic-Con to help promote the Amazon TV series, he was terrified that people would show up dressed in character.

For most shows, that would be a lovely way for fans to support their favourite characters, but this show was different, since it dramatizes an alternate universe where the Axis Powers won World War II and are currently occupying what was formerly the United States of America.

“I was terrified [people would] roll up in Nazi or Japanese Imperial uniform,” Percival told Business Insider in a interview in advance of the show’s third season, which premieres Friday, October 5. Percival’s fear didn’t come to pass, though he did see one person dressed in a SS uniform at that Comic-Con, albeit a pink one, with a Hello Kitty logo where the SS logo should have been.

“A Hello Kitty Nazi,” Percival said.

But Percival’s fear speaks to something the “Man in the High Castle” team is aware of at all times: walking the tightrope of portraying the show’s fascist characters as human beings, while trying to prevent them from being a rallying cry for the far right in our own world.

Percival said the goal was to demonstrate how evil comes from one’s choices and circumstances.

“Very few shows deal with the subject matter of moral choice in quite this way,” Percival said. “Given the circumstances of your life what choices would you make.” It’s tricky and one reason why Percival acknowledged that it can be an alienating show for some audiences.

“Not everyone wants to watch Nazis and [Japanese] Imperial forces winning the war,” he said. But Percival said he has always thought it served an important function.

“High Castle sounds as a warning of how easy it is to slide,” Percival explained. He said from the moment he first signed onto the series, he knew that fascism was lurking in our contemporary world. “I was never in any doubt,” he said, perhaps partially because he is British and not American. But other people’s awareness of it has increased as far-right movements have picked up steam in various parts of the world, he said.

“For our audiences it’s become an increasingly fascinating parallel for them,” Percival said. He said since Amazon started making the show, the world has become more enamoured with strong-man politics and populism – voting “with our guts instead of heads.”

“It happened in the 1930s and it’s happening again now, [so] we need to be wary,” he said.

The destruction of history

One of the most striking parts of season three of “The Man in the High Castle” – which certainly resonates with the war over truth going on in US media and politics – is the idea of controlling information and history.

“Hitler and Stalin, they understood that if you control the lie, you control the truth,” Percival said. In season three, the Nazis begin to try and eradicate history by destroying icons that people can rally behind, until there is only one truth: theirs.

“Hitler himself had this ambition,” Percival said.

Liane Hentscher/Amazon Prime Video

There’s an end in sight

The desire of the Nazis in the show to conquer history also ties up with the multiverse. In this season, the concept of a multiverse, which Percival said was an essential part of Philip K. Dick’s original vision, takes center stage.

Percival said in the show, the concept serves as a type of karmic cycle, that the characters are “destined to replicate the patterns until [they] reach full understanding.”

But it was also a tricky element to introduce heavily into the show, he said.

“How do we not overwhelm the audience?” he said. “How do we bring this back to human narratives?”

But one thing that’s not going to happen is “The Man in the High Castle” throwing conceptual curveballs at the audience until it gets canceled. Percival said the team now has an end in mind, which was not the case two seasons ago.

“Now, yes, there is a plotted-out end,” he said.

“The Man in the High Castle” season three premieres October 5 on Amazon Prime Video.

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