Rufus Sewell Talks Being John Smith in 'Man in the High Castle'
Parade, 18 November 2016
Youíve seen him in countless roles. Starting in January, Rufus Sewell will play Lord Melbourne in PBS Masterpiece Theatreís 'Victoria' starring Jenna Coleman as the young Queen Victoria. He currently stars as ObergruppenfŁhrer John Smith in Season 2 of Amazonís 'Man in the High Castle' now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Rufus sat down to chat about his character and the show.
I love your story arc. I call you the Nazi with a heart of gold. What drew you to this role?
What attracted me? Well, I suppose, what attracted me was the fact that on paper heís purely a bad guy especially in Episode 1 and from the character description which would certainly be enough at this stage to just make me say ďnoĒ to something like this, especially a long running series. To potentially play someone that was just one color, for me doesnít hold any appeal.
But as soon as I read Episode 2 and I saw the first scene with his family and there was a shootout from his perspective I saw what Frank (Spotnitz) had been saying about this character not being the all bad guy but kind of Everyman Nazi as a way of confusing the audience. Someone who wanted to be a good man who thought he was a good man, who tried to be a good man, who signed up to an evil system. That was very interesting for me.
When I was offered this part, I suddenly realized that any desire I had to really explore the light and dark of a personality, to explore what I was capable of, that this was actually a better platform for it than playing some not-very-well-written good guy in a not very good thing. And, actually this was a perfect opportunity for me to show all sides of a person.
How it is described does not bother me. It is just how complex the character [is]; this struck me as a very complex character with dizzying potential.
You want to hate him because heís a Nazi, but on the other hand, you see that he is a husband and a father who is just trying to protect his family.
Exactly! And very misguided. To me, the question to ask myself, and some might ask the question, how responsible it is to humanize Nazis in this way? I think we have is to humanize Nazis. If you indulge the fantasy that they were not human, then nothing is learned. This is human beings that did this. It is only humans that are capable of inhumanity. Somehow, people signed up to this. And people in America were fans as well. Somehow people manage to tell themselves different stories in order to fill out that they are heroes. And this is one of these people.
You go back and forth from film to TV to theater, do you prefer one over the other?
For me, itís really still just about the quality of the writing. I love occasionally doing plays, because normally that is a form for me to be involved in great writing.
With film, so far, the more major the character, and the greater the writing, the less my chance to play in the role because of my position in the business. So, sometimes, I have to compromise and compromise, and see what I can do with a smaller part here and there. But, I like theater and my place in it because occasionally I get to play great roles.
I also like television because I can play generally better roles in television. So far, I would say that I would prefer theater and television to film, because when I am doing a film, often, it is a compromise and in some way I am trying to trick myself somewhere into a better part somewhere along the line.
I donít see you doing a lot of comedy? Is there no interest there or?
Comedy is my one natural thing. Iím very fussy about comedy. I would say that if I have one forte, it is comedy. It always was.
Can you talk about working about Quinn Lord (who plays his son) and Chelah Horsdal (who plays his wife).
For me, one of the great pleasures of the first season and the second season is the fact that I got wonderful actors playing my family. Itís great doing scenes with Quinn and Chelah is a wonderful actress. Our story continues and it goes quite deep; there is a lot of her in the second season. I am just thankful that they cast her the way they did; When the casting and the chemistry is right, it is very easy. The fact that there is a certain trust between us, that is inherent.
It is such a serious show, what do you guys do for comic relief or is there a prankster on set?
I think the more serious the show, the more you piss about on the set. I have to be very careful because there is a certain level of sarcasm and silliness that I bring into any role. Itís banter and jokes on set. However, banter from a man wearing a Nazi uniform does not translate to the public.
In fact, you have to be very careful because you become so inured to the Nazi imagery. You have to continuously remind yourself of what it is. It is your natural human habit is to just become relaxed.
What is your favorite meal?
At the moment, my favorite meal is bread and butter with cheese because I only have it once a week. Really good bread and really good butter; I have to say I am a fan.
What is the last book you read or your favorite book or author?
Last book I readÖ I am reading a lot at the moment, 'Goldfinch'.
Who is your favorite musician or song?
I donít have a favorite song; Too many favorite songs. Too many favorite musicians but it was a very sad year for me because David Bowie is certainly one of my heroes.
Do you have a go-to song you sing in the shower?
Not one I will tell you about.
Last show you binged watched?
Last show I binged watched was 'Catastrophe'.
It is a good show.
I love it.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
When I was very, very, young, when I was about 5, I had a crush on Shirley Temple. How embarrassing is that? I had a dream about living in a tank in her back garden.
Is there a role that youíd like to play that you have not yet?
Favorite place to visit?
It varies but at the moment I want to get to Rome again.
Is there a movie you can watch over and over again?
Not one that I can think of. I donít want to be quoted with the wrong film and regret saying it.
Did you have a favorite TV show growing up?
The Six Million Dollar Man.
Whatís your favorite dessert? Iíve heard Etonís Mess from Rupert Evans, and Angel Delight from Richard ArmitageÖ
Angel Delight, itís true. Birdís Angel Delight.
Do you have a pet peeve?
People standing on the side of escalators.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Season 2 of 'Man in the High Castle' is available to stream on Amazon Prime. 'Victoria' premieres on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS on January 15, 2017 (check local listings).