We caught up with actor Brennan Brown of the breakout series The Man in the High Castle to get the scoop on his creative process and what fans can expect moving forward.
Earlier last week it was announced that Amazon Studio’s Emmy award winning original series The Man in the High Castle – a television adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name – was renewed for a third season. December 15, 2016 saw the release of the second season in its entirety, which was met with much acclaim. The new season also saw season one reoccurring character Bob Childan transition into a more prominent role, becoming an integral piece of the series plot. Actor Brennan Brown who plays Robert ‘Bob’ Childan talked to us about some of his favorite behind the scenes moments and what it took to bring the character to life.
How did you prepare for the role of Robert Childan in The Man in the High Castle?
Started with the book and devoured that many times—so the book was the foundation for the character. There’s so much in the book that details Childan’s inner monologues and the way he’s thinking about various situations and the contradictory aspects of him, so that was a really rich source material. I was really lucky to have that to refer to. The book was the starting point, then I actually watched a few antique dealers in New York—kind of went and shadowed them and hung out in their stores for a few days and watched the way that they dealt with customers and basically handled objects and antiques in their stores.
What was it like working with DJ Qualls and Rupert Evans?
It was great. We’re really close. We’re very lucky in this show in that we’re so fond of each other, because we’re all in a strange city where none of us are residents except for a few. A few of us are residents, but most of us are ‘out of towners’ shooting in Canada, and there’s not a huge social group up there for us. We’re all really, really tight. It’s an incredible group of people. They’re really sweet, and DJ and Rupert are just a joy to work with.
What was the dynamic like with the directors?
There’s a different director for every episode, so that dynamic changes according to which director it is. But all of the directors that were brought in for the show are pretty fantastic. It’s such a big show in terms of its scope, that whoever’s directing an episode has a giant job to do just in terms of the scope of the storytelling and the time that they have to do it in. There’s a very limited amount of time to shoot the amount of material that we have, so they’re extremely talented at what they do. Also, they’ve got a good relationship with us. Most of them coming in know that we know the characters we’re playing very well, and respect our own take on the characters—which is great.
Is it difficult to adjust to kind of different scenarios every episode?
No. It’s something you get used to doing when you’re working episodic television. I mean, that’s something you just kind of get used to doing, very frequently. (When) a director comes in and gets hired to work on the show, they generally have a good idea of what that show is about, and they want to contribute to it. So they’re very conscious of the overall storytelling of the season. Obviously, we’re really lucky, because all the directors that we’ve worked with for both season one and season two are just exceptionally talented people.
What were the most intensive scenes for you to film?
Intensive? Emotionally or physically? I don’t know. They’re all sort of—it’s funny. Sometimes, a scene, if you watch as an audience member and you think “Oh, it’s just people sitting around a table talking,” that can be the most difficult to shoot; because of the emotional underpinnings of it or just the logistics of shooting it technically. You’ve got to get a huge amount of coverage and lots of different angles, and it takes a lot of time. Every scene is challenging in its own way. A very quick scene, where like my character just comes in and says something, has its own challenges; as opposed to a big emotional scene, which also has its own challenges. I guess in season one, the dinner scene with the Kasouras was very….We all wanted to get that scene right. That’s in episode seven, I think of season one—and that’s a scene in the book that we all knew was extremely important.
I actually tried working at it on my own at home before coming in and tried to prepare two different takes on it: kind of two versions of the entire scene, where Childan is aware that it’s an uncomfortable situation and then not aware that it’s an uncomfortable situation. We shot both versions back to back. We’d do one take of one version, and then the second take would be the second version. So we’d go back and forth between those two versions, and we’d do that for every angle, every setup, every part. It was a multi-part scene, so that took some doing, I was really proud of everybody on that. The other actors were amazing too, and the crew’s so good that they can really just set it up fast and help the actors and the director get what they want.
What were some of the most memorable moments working on the set?
Don’t know. Let’s see. Well, Joel and I had a scene together, and we just made each other laugh the entire time, so we would giggle desperately while we were rehearsing and then have to pull it together for the scene. I’ve known Joel de la Fuente for a long time, so it’s kind of dangerous when we start working together because we just give each other massive amounts of grief. The aforementioned dinner scene at Paul and Betty Kasoura’s house was a memorable one to work on, just because it was so challenging that way.
You know, but then there are other things that I remember—Oh god, there was that night at 3 a.m., when we were trying to rush and get done by the time we lost the set or the light. There are various things that I remember that it wouldn’t necessarily mean anything to an audience member, because they’re watching just the product of the show—but they’re things that are memorable for me just because of, usually discomfort or stress. But I could always speak about hanging out on set and making each other laugh between takes. The whole season tends to blur together after a while when you’re in Vancouver for months and months—so I think that scene where Joel and I made each other laugh, we’ll always remember that.
What emotional experiences did you draw upon to portray your character?
That’s a vast question, you know? Thinking how to answer that. I mean, what I do—Okay, I don’t want to get too actor speaky about it, but if I put myself in the imaginary circumstances of the scene, then hopefully, the emotional reactions…. If I know what my character wants and I’m trying to get that, and I know what the stakes are, then I kind of behave naturally within that scene according to those emotional objectives. Though I’m not really drawing on a past experience, but so much as I’m trying to live fully in the moment. Does that make sense?
Yes, that definitely makes sense.
Yeah. I’m not really drawing on anything in particular, like for a specific moment. In terms of just the character’s needs and personalizing, I mean, Childan so desperately wants to belong. He wants to be loved. He wants to be liked. He wants to be appreciated. He wants to be recognized as being valuable. He’s been an outsider. He’s stuck in a society. You know, he’s trapped in a conquered society where he’ll never fit in, racially, and it’s interesting. One of the aspects of the show is that they use the stereotypical patriarchal figure, a white male, and they’ve got subverted. You know, the Caucasian male is now in a subservient role, and the Japanese forces are in the upper level of their society, and in Japanese society, the idea of place is extremely important.
Childan is trying to get placed in society. That’s the term, the Japanese term for it, is to be placed. I think it’s interesting to see. One of the most interesting things about the show is that it addresses racism through an inverted method where we see the world that’s very skewed, but it’s dealing with the same things that we deal with in our own world. I mean all of us have times when we feel like an outsider, or we’re not cool enough, or we’re not doing the right thing. You know, it’s those kinds of things that are very universal. It’s just the specificity of them for Childan and the amount that they have, you know.
What do you think about the possibility of simultaneous coexistence of alternate realities within our world, like the fact that one dimension can affect the destiny of another?
I think it’s kind of cool. I think it’s a cool idea. Obviously, a lot of theoretical physicists are pretty excited about it in terms of there being a multiverse and also in terms of the multidimensionality. I mean there are multi dimensions. There are definitely more than just the dimensions that we humans can see. When you get into quantum theory, things get really, really bizarre, and I’m always amazed at the idea of interdimensional stuff happening. That seems so far-fetched, and now, based on what we know from studying subatomic particles and particle accelerators and the Hadron Collider and all that, knowing that it’s getting weirder than you’d ever thought. I’m excited by it, but I’m also slightly freaked out by it, because I feel like the quantum world is so much more bizarre than we could ever imagine that I’m a little freaked by it.
For sure. Can you tell us what is next for Bob Childan as he travels to the neutral zone, what will be next?
I don’t know—season three is being developed right now, so no I have no idea. They’re just hard at work, and we’ve had lots of meetings with writers and stuff, but it’s a little early to know exact things/specifics.
You can catch The Man in the High Castle now available for streaming on Amazon Prime video.