Isa Hackett and David Zucker Q&A: ‘The Man in the High Castle’
Producers Isa Hackett and David Zucker revealed during our recent webcam chat (watch above) that it was a nine-year struggle to bring the dystopian fantasy drama “The Man in the High Castle” to the screen. “It is extraordinarily intimidating material,” Zucker admits about the adaptation of the 1962 alternate history novel by legendary sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. This meticulously crafted period fantasy spectacle depicts a world in which the Axis powers won World War II and the United States is split into the west coast “Pacific States of America” occupied by Imperial Japan, and an east coast suffering under the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany, with a neutral zone dividing them.
Zucker says that without Amazon’s support, the show might never have seen the light of day. “Ironically the home where it landed, and I think the best home we could have imagined, was Amazon, which didn’t even exist as a potential buyer for this when we started on this journey.” Hackett adds, “Amazon was brave enough to take this and embrace it and give us the funding to do a proper world-build.”
Zucker agrees. “They embraced the incredible literary origin of this, in combination with the vast world-building ambition of it but most of all, what they responded to and hopefully what the audiences are responding to and what’s been motivating us all of these years is how incredibly profound, provocative and resonant these stories are, despite the fact that they were written in another era; that we are wrestling with so many of these themes and ideas today.”
Anyone who has seen the show can attest to how grandiose a vision it is, and how difficult it would have been to bring it to life. “Essentially we’re creating three different worlds that never existed. There were vast numbers of decisions that had to be made early on,” Hackett explains. “You’re not building a futuristic world and you’re not building an historic world,” Zucker adds. “You’re building in some ways the most challenging combination of the two because it’s a world that we recognize, it’s America that has a history up until mid-century that we’re all familiar with. It’s mind-bending because you have to think about what happened with architecture, what happened with film and the arts, what happened with music?”
For Hackett, her work on this show has also been a very personal journey, given that it is based on a novel by her famous father. “I’m so proud,” she admits when reflecting on what this show means to her. “It’s a very unique privilege for me to be able to work on this material and to watch people like you and everyone else love his works and become connected to the work through these adaptations.”
As for why his work resonates for so many people, Hackett acknowledges “he was obviously so ahead of his time. There are those fundamental questions about what it means to be human, and what is reality,” Hackett explains. “He remains relevant. His heroes are ordinary people and people respond to that. It is pretty amazing. He never saw the success of all of these adaptations, so it is bittersweet.”
Hackett and Zucker reveal they are upping the ante for the show’s sophomore season. “The goal and ambition for season two is to pull no punches,” Zucker says. “There’s a lot that is introduced in terms of what may be going on globally as well as touching on what is truth and what is reality. Those are all very much on the table for season two.”