For a series entitled “The Plot Against America,” viewers can’t help but think about how the story could resonate with today’s turbulent political climate ahead of the 2020 elections.
“We know what happened in WWII, we know what the Holocaust was, we know what America first meant in 1940 and what was at stake,” creator David Simon told Variety on the red carpet for the show’s premiere at Florence Gould Hall on Wednesday night. “The ‘othering’ that’s going on right now in this country quite obviously is the misuse and abuse of people of color, black and brown people, immigrants, people from Muslim countries, people who are Islamic. That’s now the cohort that is fundamentally happening in America.”
The show, based on the 2004 novel by Philip Roth of the same name, portrays an alternate history in which legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt for the presidency in the 1940s, turning the country into anti-semitic fascist regime. While some Jewish characters in the series, like John Turturro‘s Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, are in support of Lindbergh and his policies; some detest him, including Zoe Kazan‘s Elizabeth Levin; and some are complacent, like David Krumholtz‘s Monty Levin, a glaring polarization in the era of President Donald Trump.
Winona Ryder, who plays Evelyn Finkel, carried a worn, hard copy of one of Roth’s books on the carpet, declaring that he has “always been” her favorite writer. In addition to the combination of Roth and working with old friend David Simon, Ryder explained that she signed on to the series because the story is “so incredibly timely.”
“Obviously a lot has been weighing on all of our minds. The whole fear of ‘the other’ in the eyes of fascism, what’s happening at the border, all of that is so outrageous and I think the last few years has been such a mind boggling like nightmare in so many ways,” Ryder said. “When I think about this project, it makes me want to speak out and do whatever I can and the way to do that right now is to vote.”
“I think this show is so much more about psychology of the victim than it is about the tyranny of the perpetrator,” Krumholtz added. “It was not unlike a lot of [my] friends that have chosen to not take the alarmist route, to sort of keep their heads down and be grateful for the things they do have.”
In terms of the upcoming election, Morgan Spector, who plays Herman Levin, says he’s supporting Bernie Sanders.
“I think the problems that we’re facing are enormous and they require state scale solutions. Climate change cannot be solved by individuals recycling or driving electric cars. It has to be solved by states acting together to address what is an absolute crisis,” Spector said. “When I see the Democratic Party consolidating around a candidate [Joe Biden] who basically has, I don’t think really an interest in dealing with that problem or considering it, I find it absolutely terrifying.”
“The Plot Against America” hits HBO on March 16.