When the second season of The Man in the High Castle starts streaming Dec. 16 on Amazon, viewers will finally get to meet the titular character. Throughout the first season of the alternate-history series, the mysterious “Man in the High Castle” loomed large over the lives of the show’s characters. We knew that the Man had ties to the Resistance, the movement in occupied America seeking to throw off the shackles of the Axis powers. We knew that he was trying to seek out the mysterious newsreels showing another reality, where America did not lose World War II. And now we know the actor who will play the Man in the High Castle.
It’s Stephen Root, the hard-working character actor whose scene-stealing parts range from his iconic role in Office Space and his starring role on NewsRadio to his more recent work on the big screen in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and recurring roles on practically every television show you can think of, including Fargo, The Big Bang Theory, and Boardwalk Empire. We got on the phone to talk with Root about his mysterious character. (You can also watch my full Facebook Live interview with the cast and executive producer of The Man in the High Castle.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved in The Man in the High Castle?
STEPHEN ROOT: I’m a big sci-fi guy from way back. Back in the ’70s, I was getting out of high school and going into college, I was well into Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, and A. E. Van Vogt, and of course this guy. I love the genre, so I’d been a fan of the show since it came on.
How did you go about preparing to play the character?
It’s modeled a little bit after the author himself. He’s an enigma. I felt like, although this character could be either a madman, or somebody not from this dimension, or many different possibilities, I think the basic fundamentals of the man had to be loyalty and groundedness. Some core of the man is truthful. Is he the leader of the resistance? Is he a madman who has a delusion that this is how the world should be? You’ll get through the first episode not knowing the answers to that question. But you’ll get sneak peeks at this man and his personality. You’ll see him go on a journey of discovery as the audience is going on a journey of discovery. His physical appearance might change. His demeanor might change.
You first appear in the season premiere. Can you talk a bit about your first scene?
We start out in a very small space, and graduate to a very large space. Visually, it’s really stunning.
Had you read the book back in your sci-fi reading days?
It’s one of the few that I didn’t! The book is vastly, obviously, different from the TV show. The character’s completely broadened. The novel stops almost abruptly with Juliana meeting the Man in the High Castle. So this is a great continuance of the idea.
I was tickled to realize that along with the Man in the High Castle, you just recently played another American revolutionary figure from actual history, as Nathaniel Sackett on Turn: Washington’s Spies. Are you drawn to these rebellious figures?
What draws me to every aspect of this is the writing. I thought the writing was good on that show, I thought the writing was good on this show. Whether it’s in a film medium, a TV medium, or a web medium, it doesn’t matter. The fact that I’m a big sci-fi guy was just a plus for me.