BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Rufus Sewell said his first reaction to playing a post-World War II Nazi in the new Amazon drama "The Man in the High Castle" was reluctance.
In the pilot script, "you didn't see a lot of him outside strutting up and down corridors and torturing people," Sewell told a TV critics' meeting Monday. "I wouldn't necessarily be interested in playing that, especially for a long period of time."
But his character becomes more layered in episode two of the drama, which is set in a circa 1960s America that has lost World War II and is under oppressive rule by Germany and Japan. A resistance movement struggles for freedom.
In this alternate history, Sewell's John Smith is an "all-American hero," said Swell ("Killing Jesus," "The Pillars of the Earth"). The drama explores how people can turn a blind eye to reality and how a cruel man can convince himself he is just, the English-born actor said.
The 10-part series, based on Philip K. Dick's novel, is available Nov. 20. Other cast members include Alexa Davalos and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.
Frank Spotnitz ("The X-Files"), who developed and produces "The Man in the High Castle," said he hopes it makes viewers take stock.
"What are your values? What do you stand for? How do you differ from the people you see in this show?" he said. The novel, he recalled, compelled him to re-examine the expectation that "the good guys are going to win."
"I think we as Americans, because we are used to winning and because all of our movies and TV shows have us winning, we just have this, `Of course we are going to win,'" he said. "Well, no, not of course. It's up to us if we are going to win. ... I hope this show makes people think about that."