Amazon’s Man in the High Castle is set in an alternate reality though some of the situations and themes seem to mirror what is happening in the world today. The second season of the show is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Best know for his roles on Space: Above and Beyond and Hemlock Grove, actor Joel de la Fuente, who plays Chief Inspector Kido of the Kempetai, talks about his character and the show.
What drew you to the role of Kido?
I was given the option of auditioning for either Kido or Tagomi.
I don’t know what it was, I was sort of familiar with the book; I knew Tagomi’s a great presence in the book, and I knew Kido was not in the book. I kept thinking, “You should be interested in, you should be trying to audition for Tagomi.”
But there is something about reading Kido… I really responded to the character. I just felt like I was very interested in approaching someone who is such an archetype from the beginning, down even to when he is first described in scripts, “Man with the Round Glasses,” which is such an image so much to the point that it can be considered as a stereotypical image of Japanese during the war. So I was really intrigued with the idea of trying to take that character, and trying to imbue him in a way that made him more well-rounded as the series went on. I thought that was an interesting challenge.
What is next for Kido in Season 2?
Season 2 picks up essentially where Season 1 left off. So Kido is trying to tie up all of the things he was dealing with in Season 1. He has to attend to prosecuting someone for shooting the Crown Prince. That is complicated by the fact that he is now indebted to the boss of the Yakuza. His plans are up in the air because he was planning on using Frank and now suddenly he has Ed in his grasp. It is all about how he weaves those things together. Then, he takes a turn when he starts to become interested and concerned with the power of the films. Hitler is very interested. The Resistance is very interested, and the Japanese pay no credence. Suddenly he starts to become very interested in why is that? What does it mean? And, what are we missing?
Why do you think Space: Above and Beyond has such longevity? It was only on for such a short time but became a cult hit.
First of all, I think Glen and Jim are good storytellers – the show creators and showrunners. I think that they were interested in the tried and true, basic enduring themes like loyalty, watching ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and watching a group of disparate people come together and bond over a huge event, a traumatic event, which is war in this case. And they put it into the future.
What do you think about the lack of diversity in entertainment, it’s been a hot button lately with the hashtags of #underratedAsians, #WhitewashedOut and #StarringJohnCho? What’s your take on that?
It is an absolute problem or issue; When you see the trailers for the The Great Wall – I would like to think that it is a jarring image to see that story being told with the people who are telling that story. But apparently it is not. This movie is still getting made and there are so many different people who could be helping to tell that story, who aren’t being given opportunity.
On the other hand, when you are looking at streaming media, and all this new content that is coming out, I am seeing more and more people of color in positions of primary storytelling; whether it is serious regulars, or people in the writers’ rooms, or producers or directors.
The only way this problem gets solved is systemic. We have to have people in all facets of our industry helping to tell stories together. And that means a diverse group of people. When I say diverse, I mean all kinds of things. Namely, women and namely, people of color.
Do you do anything special in prep to play Kido?
The short answer is yes. I am so excited and privileged to get to play this part. I am very grateful. I think it is a great role to try to play. Also, it is very far from who I am in normal life, so it involves a lot of research.
You worked with a dialect coach?
I have in the past, and there are cultural and language and dialect presences on set all the time. So, I feel supported in that regard.
Then, just physically too; There is a whole process; I rely heavily on collaborating with wardrobe or props that help create the image of who this man is. He can be quite striking in appearance once you see that hat and that coat and particularly the glasses. I think a little bit like when you hear Darth Vader breathing, or you see his cape or his mask; It should send a specific message initially.
What was it like working with Tzi Ma?
Working with him is great. He has so much experience so it’s really fun to be around him and hear stories, and watch someone who’s really had a life in this business.
It is fun to talk to him just about how to be an Asian-American actor because I think a lot of our experiences, many of them are uncommon with other actors. There are certain things that we deal with that no one else will really understand. And he is a native New Yorker, he’s a Staten Island guy. It is awesome to meet in this alternate reality.
The show is such a serious show—what do you do for comic relief? Is there a prankster on set?
I think we all really like to laugh. It is essential in some ways so we can dive into the intensity of the show, so there is a lot of clowning around. I clown around a lot. Anytime you talk in Kido’s voice and say anything that is not Kido, it’s sort of funny.
I watched Kido’s audition tape for Red Oaks; I thought that was hysterical.
I took over the High Castle Amazon feed. I initially had thought it would be for Amazon Studios; So, I got to thinking what would fans like to see? What would I like to see in that situation? And I thought I really enjoy watching the other Amazon Studios shows so wouldn’t it be fun for us, in character, to audition for other shows. To be a way of tipping your hat to the other show, and sending a challenge that maybe you can do one of us. I have video of different cast members in costume doing scenes from different shows. I have people reading for Catastrophe, people reading for Transparent. Kido auditioning for the role of Judith Light in Transparent is just really fun.
What is your favorite meal?
Today, I am going to say Crispy Pata which is a Filipino dish.
What is the last book you read or your favorite book?
It’s one of the best novels I have read since I can remember. It’s called Shantaram.
Who is your favorite musician or song?
Right now I am in the Ingrid Michaelson.
What is your go-to song to sing in the shower?
I’m really bad with lyrics. I don’t think I can answer that question.
What was the last show you binged watched?
Just recently, Rectify.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Season 2 of Man in the High Castle is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Angry Reader of the Week: Joel de la Fuente
Hello, friends! As you recover from your Thanksgiving celebrations, I give you the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Joel de la Fuente.
Who are you?
I am Joel of the Fountain. Or Joel of the Source. Also known as Joel de la Fuente. Small d, small l, capital F. (You would never know that this is how you spell my name if you saw the mail I get. My favorite is American Express who often sends me correspondence as "L De.")
Legally, I am Jose de la Fuente, but being Filipino, no one has ever called me by that, always Joel. Or Joe.
And then there are the various ways people pronounce Joel: "Jole," "Jo-ell," "Joe-Al."
I've come to answer to most things.
What are you?
I am a father. And a husband. Actor. Dog lover. American.
Where are you?
I am typing this at 7:30am sitting in a trailer in a parking lot somewhere in Atlanta. The clothes I am wearing are not my own.
Where are you from?
I grew up on the North Shore of Chicago. My home was in Evanston, but I went to school in Winnetka. I was born in a small town outside Utica, New York.
What do you do?
Well, on most days, I wake up, empty the dishwasher, draw a little picture for my nine year old, draw a little picture for my fourteen year old, put them in their lunches, which I also make, then walk our three dogs and start the day.
But I'm also an actor, so on other days I wake up in strange, exciting places and try to find where I fit into the telling of a story, then do my best to tell that part of the story.
What are you all about?
I often think that if I were born in exactly the same circumstances but either white or in the Philippines, I very likely would have been a doctor like my parents. (Or a doctor's assistant, if I couldn't improve my chemistry.) My parents served that profession well, I admire them tremendously, I like the idea of helping others. It is in my blood.
But I'm also a creative person and someone who always felt I was in the presence of magic when I stepped into a theater or watched a great film in a darkened room with strangers. And I almost never saw anyone that looked like me in these stories. Those stories spoke to me, they thrilled me, they often were me, but I was never included. I, and those that looked like me, were absent.
I love the craft of acting. I love storytelling. I love the idea of transformation. I love the idea of being able to play a role with honesty and artistry. And to be able to do that for a living makes me feel creatively happy and like the luckiest person in the world. But what makes it feel essential is the idea that, while I'm doing this thing I love, I am also an Asian American Man. It may be a central theme in the story, it may not. It may be a topic of discussion, it may not. But my presence helps accomplish what all good art must: to reflect the world around it -- our awesome, complicated, diverse world. It is very important for a child to see him or herself reflected in our stories. It's not just about "positive" representation. It's about representation so present and varied that we accept ourselves as all things: good and bad, winners and losers, flawed but beautiful humans. I aspire to play flawed but beautiful humans. I want to be one part of a diverse landscape on stage and on camera.
What makes you angry?
I don't like willful ignorance. Or selfishness. Or laziness. Mean people suck.
My big mantra these days is: "Don't blame. Don't judge." I'm all for being angry, but if I am not blaming or judging others, then what do I do with my anger? It's an excellent thing to ponder.