By Lia Chang
AsAmNews Arts & Entertainment Reporter
Joel de la Fuente is currently starring as Chief Inspector Kido in Amazon Studios’ terrific new series The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s Hugo Award-winning 1962 alternative history novel of the same name, and he can also be seen as Dr. Johann Pryce on Season 3 of Netflix’s Hemlock Grove.
In addition to de la Fuente, The Man in the High Castle stars Alexa Davalos (Mob City) as Juliana Crain, Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars) as Joe Blake, Rupert Evans (The Village) as Frank Frink, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat Legacy) as Tagomi, Rufus Sewell (Eleventh Hour) as John Smith and DJ Qualls (Z Nation) as Ed McCarthy.
The series explores the world that would have resulted if the Allied Powers had lost World War II. America and much of the world have now been split between global dominating powers Japan and Germany. As tension mounts between the two, resistance builds against the oppressive regimes amid questions over what is real and what is not.
All 10 episodes of Season 1 are now available to stream on Amazon Prime. Amazon Studios debuted the pilot of The Man in the High Castle, directed by David Semel (Madam Secretary, Heroes) and written by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files), on Amazon Instant Video in the US, UK and Germany.
On the first Monday in November, I caught up with de la Fuente at Alice Tully Hall in New York, where he celebrated the New York series premiere of The Man in the High Castle with his castmates and the creators.
Prior to his intense shooting schedule with Hemlock Grove and The Man in the High Castle, I was fortunate enough to experience his tour-de-force turn as Gordon Hirabayashi and 36 other characters in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths, directed by Lisa Rothe in its New York premiere at Epic Theater, for which he garnered a Drama Desk nomination. Inspired by the true story of University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi, Hold These Truths follows Gordon during the U.S. Government’s decision to forcibly remove and incarcerate people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
He also performed Hold These Truths in a sold-out run in Hawaii at the prestigious Honolulu Theatre for Youth, as part of the 10th Annual soloNOVA Arts Festival in New York, at Playmaker’s Rep in Chapel Hill, NC. and at the ACT Theatre Allen Arena in Seattle.
Currently in Atlanta doing a guest spot on a new show for NBC called Game of Silence, de la Fuente found the time to answer a few questions via email about The Man in the High Castle, Hemlock Grove, Hold These Truths and the benefits of working on platforms other than traditional networks.
Chang: Who is Chief Inspector Kido?
de la Fuente: Kido is the Chief Inspector of the Japanese secret police in San Francisco. It is his job to keep the Pacific States safe by whatever means necessary.
Chang: What has it been like to work on two series that are on platforms other than traditional networks?
de la Fuente: I think the growth of streaming media has been a watershed moment in the entertainment industry.
New York City has long been the home to many of America’s finest actors, most of whom are unheralded to the rest of the world. With the abundance of all this new work, so many new shows are casting out of New York — fifty shows, at last count. That’s fifty more places for New York-based actors to find work. And this applies to other non-LA cities as well: Toronto, Chicago, North Carolina, Vancouver — more opportunity for more actors.
Because these new platforms are not bound by the traditional models of network television (advertising-based, draw-as-many-eyeballs-as-you-can, appeal to the most popular tastes), we are seeing unprecedented calls for actors of all types. Gifted actors who have worked in relative obscurity are now getting a place to shine in front of a global audience.
This morning, I just watched single episodes of Jessica Jones, Master of None, and Into the Badlands. Also, The Man in the High Castle launched this weekend. None of these four shows can be found on a traditional network, and one could argue they would not have existed if not for the growth of streaming media. It’s good work with greater diversity than ever. It’s an exciting time.
Chang: Are you a Phillip K. Dick fan? What is it like to be immersed in that world and that time period?
de la Fuente: I think the most amazing thing you can say about Philip K. Dick is that we live in a Philip K. Dick-influcenced world today. He’s had that much of an impact through his work. The sad irony is that he had no idea how resonant he would be. His success came almost entirely after his death.
Chang: You’ve had quite a rigorous shooting schedule over the past year. Where have you been filming your different projects?
de la Fuente: I’m writing you this from Atlanta. I have also been to Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles this year for work, from December of 2014 to September of this year. Then, since then Greenpoint and Atlanta. Lots of travel.
Chang: You have worked in numerous genres. What have been your favorites and why?
de la Fuente: There is beauty in opportunity. There’s always something to learn, always something that terrifies, always a problem to solve. It all starts with getting a job. Getting a job opens the door to all of these wonderful things.
Chang: What are your most memorable scenarios as Dr. Johann Pryce in Hemlock Grove?
de la Fuente: This last season was a roller-coaster: scary, exhilarating, super-fun. I got to become addicted to speed; speak Greek, French, German; perform an autopsy; get locked in a box; have sex in a bathhouse; solve the puzzle of a new life form; discover a new disease; detox from drugs; play the drums; fall in love; kill a Nazi; survive a mass shooting; and die in the arms of the person I love the most. Oh, and get murdered by myself. All in nine episodes! A gift from the minds of remarkable writers. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
Chang: What was it like navigating both shows at Comic Con?
de la Fuente: A treat. You are surrounded by people who are there because they happen to love the things you are lucky enough to be working on. How awesome is that?
Chang: You were nominated for a Drama Desk award for Hold These Truths. How did playing that role impact your life and work?
de la Fuente: Hold These Truths is the standard by which I judge myself as a person and as an actor. Gordon Hirabayashi, as a person, a man, a citizen, is someone to aspire to. The physical, technical, artistic demands that Jeanne requires to perform her play — it’s trial by fire. It’s the mountain to climb that tells me exactly where I am as an actor. It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.
Chang: Can you describe what happened on the set of The Man in the High Castle when someone realized that they had seen you in Hold These Truths?
de la Fuente: Bryan Spicer, the gifted director/producer of Hawaii Five-0, came to direct episode five of TMITHC. The first day of shooting, we were in the middle of a huge crowd scene, and he came up to give me direction, stopped and stared at me in silence for a few moments. “Were you… were you in that one person play… in Hawaii??”
Hold These Truths performs in venues of 300 people or less. It’s an intimate performance. For someone to have seen, remembered, and been affected by Jeanne’s play halfway around the world —and to run into each other on set in Vancouver!— was really humbling. It also felt a little embarrassing, because having seen me as Gordon, an American hero, he was now seeing me as the head of the Japanese Secret Police!
Chang: What is your role in Blue Bloods?
de la Fuente: My character is named Gomez. He’s a teacher in the public school system who has a student whose father was shot to death by the police.
Chang: Are you working on anything else?
de la Fuente: I’m thinking about making my bi-annual commitment to start writing again. James Yaegashi, the wonderful actor and gifted director, and I have been batting around an idea for a production of Hamlet. There’s always the dream to do Hold These Truths again someplace.
Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.com, Broadwayworld.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.