Interviews

Carsten Norgaard: The Mystery Man in 'The Man in the High Castle'

It's tough playing a Nazi with a conscience, but veteran actor Carsten Norgaard not only lives up to the challenge presented in Amazon's The Man in the High Castle, but stretches far beyond what's expected of him.


The Man in the High Castle

Airtime: Now Streaming
Cast: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rufus Sewell, Carsten Norgaard
Network: Amazon Prime
Air date: 2015-01-15
Amazon

On January 15, 2015, Amazon debuted the pilot for The Man in the High Castle as part of its series development program. The episode became the most watched in the program's history and Amazon greenlit nine more episodes which were released almost 11 months later. The series takes place in an alternate reality in which the Allies lost WWII, and the Axis Powers rule the planet. Rather than taking viewers to the current day, perhaps in order to make the idea of the future even more terrifying, the series rather takes place in the Mad Men years (1962 to be precise).

Populated with characters that exist on the borderline between paranoia and idealism, the show keeps as many secrets from viewers as the characters do from each other. One of the most enigmatic of these people is Rudolph Wegener (Carsten Norgaard), a high-rank Nazi officer whose allegiances change with every scene. We see him trading secrets with a Japanese officer, in an attempt to prevent war with Japan. But is he on Japan's side? Is he working for the Resistance? Is he a Nazi mole?

It helps his cause that he's played by the exemplary Norgaard, a Danish actor best known to American audiences for his work in Sleepy Hollow and for playing the ruthless Coach Wolf Stansson in D2: The Mighty Ducks. He's the rare actor that can jump from genre to genre making a lasting impression on each, perhaps the popularity of The Man in the High Castle, will lead viewers to discover Norgaard's melancholy work in the Danish dramedy Rita, which has him playing a character who couldn't have less in common with Wegener if he tried.

We had a chance to discuss Wegener's motivations with Norgaard, who also shared his TV viewing habits and spoke about his love of Philip K. Dick.

* * *

The pilot for The Man in the High Castle was the most popular on Amazon's new series development program. Did you always know you were in something special?

The fact that it was based on the award winning Philip K. Dick novel, which has been referred to as the crown jewel of the alternative reality, then add Ridley Scott and Frank Spotnitz that's a pretty formidable trifecta. So whatever I say about my expectation nearly doesn't matter, because expectations were high in general. You then add Amazon and their commitment and freedom bestowed on the project, and seeing the pilot I definitely felt it was something special.

You've mentioned being a Philip K. Dick fan before. Which were your favorites? Which of his characters did you see yourself wanting to play?

Apart from The Man in the High Castle, Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Minority Report, and The Adjustment Bureau, I remember when I first saw Blade Runner I was taken by Ridley Scott's vision and how visually stunning the world he created was, along with a rich set of characters (Phillip K. Dick's universe is full of great screen characters I'm sure most actors would love to play), Roy Batty being one of those that would be a fun character to play. Rutger Hauer did such an awesome job.

Do you find that being in a show about the Nazis, forces you to address uncomfortable topics about European history?

I think everybody sometimes thinks about what if in all aspects of life. The "what if" in the Amazon alternative reality series The Man in the High Castle, it's probably the ultimate what if! -"What if" the Allied forces had lost WWll and the Axis Powers had moved on to conquer The United States and split it in two. What would our world look like today or rather 1962? What would happen to freedom and freedom of speech as we know it? It's both provocative and thought-provoking that explores the impact to our freedoms if we had lost WWll.

As an actor, why do you think that stories about WWII and the Nazis continue being so popular with the public? Which films or TV programs would you say best capture WWII for you?

WWII and the Nazis has had a huge impact on the world, so many people gave their lives for the freedom we have today, still so many untold stories, that combined with the visual imagery that is so embedded in people's minds and in our history. I think Steven Spielberg with Saving Private Ryan sparked a new renaissance and interest in the period because of the way it was shot and its realness. Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds was awesome in an alternative way and HBO's Band of Brothers all helped capture and keep the popularity of WWII current.

Your character is often referred to as "a Nazi with a conscience," taking into consideration thesis like Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" and other philosophical discussions, do you think "Nazi" and "conscience" ever went together?

Rudolph Wegener has turned a corner unlike Smith who's still in denial. Wegener is a complex character and deeply flawed, but deep inside he is a good man who has done terrible things, the guilt for his actions weighs heavily upon him and made a mess of his family life. You, could say Wegener is haunted by the atrocities he committed on behalf of the Reich. His efforts to avert war between the Japanese and Nazi empires is his attempt at atonement or redemption.

Before Castle you did Rita, which is completely different in terms of genre, how was it to go from a comedy to such a tough drama?

Yes, you're at opposite ends of the spectrum so to speak with a different set of challenges which I guess is what actors are looking for and blessed to get if the opportunities present themselves. Rita, is a contemporary dramedy with an edge, a school teacher's fight for her kids. It deals with social problems as well as relationship problems in a very straight forward in your face kind of way.

Your chemistry with Mille Dinesen on that show was such a delight, how was it to work with her?

Thank you, I'm glad you feel that way. It was fun working with Mille. We really had a great synergy playing each other's first loves who in midlife get a second chance. The little flame had never really been extinguished and a larger fire grows. It's the second time we worked together, actually a different network a few years earlier had paired us in another hit Danish series called Nynne.

You're fairly active on social media, why do you find it important to connect with your fans through Twitter for instance?

Actually my manager encouraged me a year and half ago to get going with it and connect with the fans, but I still consider myself a novice in the social media field.

What's your stand on binge-watching, do you prefer consuming all at once or are you a moderator when it comes to enjoying the things you like?

A convert of binge-watching now, for sure, never thought I would be but the whole premise of watching at your own leisure and discretion: it's like the modern way of reading a book. I think shows like The Man in the High Castle, Narcos, House of Cards etc. are really well served by this.

Last but not least, who would you say is tougher, Coach Stansson or Rudolph Wegener?

Good question! [laughs] Never thought of that. I think both would be considered tough in their own way. Coach Stansson probably has the raw physical and imposing edge here I would say, where as Rudolph Wegener is more mentally strong being a double agent, sacrificing a lot in trying to avert another war.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Forty years after its initial release, one of the defining albums of US punk rock finally gets the legacy treatment it deserves.

If you ever want to start a fistfight in a group of rock history know-it-alls, just pop this little question: "Was it the US or the UK who created punk rock?" Within five minutes, I guarantee there'll be chairs flying and dozens of bloodstained Guided By Voices T-shirts. One thing they'll all agree on is who gave punk rock its look. That person, ladies, and gentlemen is Richard Hell.

Keep reading... Show less

Tokyo Nights shines a light on the roots of vaporwave with a neon-lit collection of peak '80s dance music.

If Tokyo Nights sounds like a cheesy name for an album, it's only fitting. A collection of Japanese city pop from the daring vintage record collectors over at Cultures of Soul, this is an album coated in Pepto-Bismol pink, the peak of saccharine '80s dance music, a whole world of garish neon from which there is no respite.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image