Lee Shorten reprises his role of Sergeant Hiroyuki Yoshida in season two of Amazon Prime Video’s Emmy Award winning “Man in the High Castle”
Based on Philip K. Dick’s Hugo Award-winning 1962 alternate history novel, “The Man in the High Castle” explores what would have happened if the Allied Powers had lost World War II. While Germany controls much of the East Coast and Japan controls the West Coast, the Rocky Mountains have become a “neutral zone” — and ground zero for a resistance, led by a mysterious figure known only as “the Man in the High Castle.”
1. Why did you choice to be apart of such a conversational series and how has it changed you?
I’m a huge fan of Phillip K. Dick’s work. From ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ to ‘Minority Report’ to ‘Scanner Darkly’, his work is just so intelligent and provocative. When I heard Frank Spotnitz (X-Files, which was a childhood favorite) was adapting ‘Man in the High Castle’, I knew I had to be a part of it. Given the subject matter, the great challenge of humanizing villains in order to highlight the banality of evil, I knew I could trust Frank to handle the material with care and sensitivity.
Its been a wonderful experience. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown as an actor and to top it off I’ve made some wonderful friendships as well. Without going into too many spoilers, one of the themes of the show is identity. One of the characters observes that most people are different across realities, depending on their circumstances. So during filming that was something I often thought about. What would I do if I were living in the circumstances of this world, would I still be a good person? Would I fight or would I collaborate like Yoshida or Smith?
2. Please describe your role for people who never watched the show.
I play Sergeant Yoshida, who is a member of the Kempeitai, the Japanese secret police. Yoshida is Chief Inspector Kido’s most loyal and trusted soldier, which makes him one of the primary antagonists on the show. He has to do some unpleasant things in order to, as he sees it, maintain peace and order. Yoshida is one of the few Japanese Americans on the show, so I get to really play with his sense of identity and inner conflict. Playing him has been a gift. I prefer to play villains, understanding their motivations and trying to humanize them is always a welcome challenge.
3. Where is production filmed?
Pretty much all of it is shot in Vancouver. Who knew the city is versatile enough to double for San Francisco and New York? Haha. But we’re lucky because it really is a beautiful city and the crews are exceptional.
4. Happy New Year. Did you have any new year resolutions for 2017?
Drink less beer? Haha. But seriously, this year I’m just focused on working hard and trying to be a good person. The world seems more divided now than ever so I just want to do what I can to build bridges. I can be, maybe too, outspoken at times so I want to try and listen more this year. I’m also a fan of the work being done by Amnesty International and I try to support that where I can. Human rights is an issue close to my heart and in another life or reality, something I would have pursued.
5. What is the worst part about being an actor and what is the best part?
The best part about being an actor is getting to tell stories and work with like-minded people. I really love the process, reading scripts, doing research, building a character, etc. Stories and characters just mean so much to me. The death of Mufasa in The Lion King, damn, just all the feels. Haha. So, yeah getting to be a part of that is incredibly humbling.
The worst part, a lot of the time, even when I’m just auditioning for a part I get quite invested in the role, I think you have to, to a certain extent. In order to feel like you can play the character you have to invest, you have to bring something of yourself to the table. Unfortunately, the nature of the business means that 90 percent of the time, you won’t get the part.
6. Where do you call home or whats your favorite places to visit?
It’s a little cliché but home is where the heart is. That means I feel at home when I’m with people I love. I’ve lived in a few places over the years and to an extent they all feel like home but I attribute that to people, rather than place. But I do have soft spots for Melbourne, New York (of course), Chicago and after that, Kyoto.
7. Where do you want to see yourself in 2018 as far as personally?
My friends will tell you I’m something of a workaholic. So hopefully working on something cool. We really are living in another golden age in terms of television, there’s just so much good content. I’d love to work with Noah Hawley or Bryan Fuller or on something like Westworld.
8. How can fans reach out and connect with you on social media?
I’m on all the usual platforms, @lcshorten on Twitter and Instagram, Lee Shorten on Facebook. And please do reach out, I love talking about film and TV with people. It’s that water cooler thing. Game of Thrones is back in April so I need someone to talk to about that.
9. What other project are you working on this year?
I worked on a pilot at the end of last year, so I’m waiting to hear if that gets picked up. I’ve also got a film in post production which will likely start it’s festival run this year. In the meantime, my team and I are currently reading scripts and trying to find something that looks like a good fit.
10. Thank you for your time. Do you have any final words of wisdom?
Thanks for chatting with me. You know, I just happened to have read a letter Hunter S. Thompson wrote to his friend in 1958 and it really spoke to me. So I’m going to defer to his words on finding purpose and meaning, though I highly recommend reading the whole thing: In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important.