‘The Man in the High Castle’ producer Frank Spotnitz on his Amazon pilot

Last week, I published an interview with Shawn Ryan, producer of one of the two best pilots from Amazon’s latest batch. Today, it’s the turn of the man behind the other top pilot: Frank Spotnitz of “Man in the High Castle.”

“X-Files” alum Spotnitz (who most recently produced Cinemax’s “Hunted” and TNT’s “Transporter: The Series”) and director David Semel adapted Philip K. Dick’s novel set in a world where the Axis powers won World War II, and America is split into an Eastern region governed by the Nazis and a Western run by the Japanese. The pilot looks fantastic (and has an opening title sequence that perfectly sets up the premise and tone) and does a good job of creating this alternate reality. Not surprisingly, it’s not only the highest-rated pilot of this round, but has by far the most votes.

As I did with Ryan, I emailed Spotnitz some questions about the pilot and his plans for the story if Amazon picks up the series.

Let’s start with the basics: How did you get involved in adapting the book, how long was this in development, and how did you wind up at Amazon?

Frank Spotnitz: I was approached by David Zucker at Scott Free about two years ago. They had been developing the project for about five years at that point and another broadcaster was interested in taking a crack at it. I wrote two episodes, but they didn”t get greenlit. The project was really in danger of never getting made when I got a call about 14 months ago from Morgan Wandell, who had recently joined Amazon. He asked me if I had any scripts I really loved, and I told him about “The Man in the High Castle.” To my delight, he and his colleagues at Amazon loved it, too, and it was greenlit about six months later.

I’ve never read the book, so correct me if I’m wrong on this, but my understanding is that the pilot covers about half the plot of the book, and that the book only takes place in the western part of the country, and doesn’t show us Nazi-occupied New York. How did you approach adapting Dick’s work for a TV series, and how much are you going to have to expand on what’s in the novel to make this work as an ongoing show?

Frank Spotnitz: It was one of my favorite books in college. I was thrilled to have the chance to adapt it, but frankly a little intimidated by the thought of changing Philip K. Dick”s narrative in any way. But I knew that if I was going to make it work as a television series, I was going to have to do just that. While I had to change the narrative, I was determined to stay as true as possible to the themes and ideas that mattered to him. He has one of the most fascinating minds of any novelist I”ve ever read, and I didn”t want to dilute or corrupt his insights. The joy of turning this into a television series is that we can not only explore the themes in the novel, but do it on a very large canvas.

Following on that, do you have a sense of how long the story could run? Is this a 2 or 3-season show, or do you think the alternate America is rich enough to fuel a long run of stories?

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