PopPolitics: Frank Spotnitz on What ‘High Castle’ Says About Fear in a Time of Terror

Ed Begley Jr. on Paris Climate Talks: 'Let's Save Midtown' Manhattan; The Media's Addiction to Donald Trump

Man in the High Castle Amazon
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Frank Spotnitz, creator of Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” says even though the show is an alternate history, “you get insights into who we are now by looking at who we could have been.”

Based on a Philip K. Dick novel, the show centers on a group of resisters in a 1962 United States in which the Axis powers, having won World War II, have partitioned the country between Germany and Japan under totalitarian rule.

Spotnitz adapted the novel mindful of its relevance to today, in particular the threat of terrorism after 9/11. With the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., it is an issue front and center in the 2016 presidential race.

“It is a time of fear. People are unsettled,” Spotnitz tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “The threat feels diffuse and uncontrollable. And presidential campaigns kind of bring out all different responses to that fear and uncertainty, and I think that’s what this show does. It shows all different responses to fear and danger.”

He says the show “doesn’t have any political ax to grind,” although its alternate history can be a chilling reminder that justice and freedom are not foregone conclusions.

“Actually, I think politics are kind of a narrower spectrum for understanding human behavior with what we do in storytelling, so I would never want to reduce this to a political point of view, right or left. But I do think that it is never a good idea to act out of fear. People make really bad decisions when they are afraid.”

Spotnitz is based in Paris, where “people are still in shock” from the ISIS-inspired attacks in November. He says he is “impressed by the courage of the French people.”

“I think the overwhelming feeling I get is one of defiance,” he says. “…I think, to me, that is the right approach. Don’t be afraid, and don’t let them destroy your way of life. I have no doubt about the strength of the French people or the American people or this civilization. And seeing the way that the French people have responded to the attacks has kind of reaffirmed my faith.”

Likewise, despite the dark moments of the alternate history in “High Castle,” Spotnitz also says it is still a show that “leaves you feeling hopeful.”

Listen below:

Ed Begley Jr. and the Paris Climate Agreement

Ed Begley Jr., the longtime environmental activist, discusses the Paris climate talks and whether a landmark agreement will alter the political dynamics surrounding climate change.

“We are not going to mitigate all of the damage that has been done by climate change … But we can certainly save other areas,” he says. He says that while the fate of some low-lying regions, like the Marshall Islands and parts of South Florida, “might be sealed,” “we can certainly save other areas. There may be big challenges for downtown New York. Lower Manhattan. Let’s save Midtown.”

Even though the challenge is daunting, he points to past efforts to talk meaningful action to address the ozone layer and acid rain.

Listen below:

Begley talks about how the problem should be framed to those who still doubt that climate change is caused by humans.

Listen below:

The Treatment of Trump

After his controversial proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Donald Trump continues to define the coverage of the 2016 presidential race. David Cohen of Variety and Mathew Littman, political consultant, talk about how seriously the media should be treating his presidential campaign, with primary voting now about six weeks away, and whether there is still a place for Trump on late-night and daytime talk.

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety‘s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.