Drew Boughton Q&A: ‘Man in the High Castle’ production designer
“Knowing that it’s an alternative period is an incredibly challenging assignment, but also just a wonderful one,” admits production designer Drew Boughton as we chat via webcam (see above) about his Emmy-nominated work on “The Man in the High Castle.” The Amazon Prime series imagines what life in 1962 America would look like had the Nazis won WWII. “Most production designers and people who have an opportunity to work on a period film or period television show have a reasonably clear roadmap for how to create that,” he explains. However, for this adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Philip K. Dick, “we had the opportunity to go back to the same time period, but then to change it.”
Boughton, an ADG nominee for his work on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (2011), says he did extensive research into the period to spur his imagination. “What’s very interesting about looking at images and photographs of places that are essentially under occupation,” he reveals, “is you see there’s a real absence of color, and a real absence of wanting to stand out. You see a lot of people who are just trying to be good members of the social system, and not run afoul of the authorities.”
The muted colors of East Germany and the Soviet Block countries of the time are “a very different and distinct thing when you compare it to the postwar American world,” where many things “were brightly colored and exuberant. It’s an entirely different visual world if you imagine that the 1950s America didn’t really happen.” In melding the two worlds, Boughton says he and his team “looked at all the things that were unique and special” from the period, “and then figured out which things we would subtract.”
Boughton’s nomination — his first from the Emmys — is one of four below-the-line citations that this hit series received for its first season: it also contends for Cinematography, Main Title Design, and Special Visual Effects.