Born in Tamworth, Australia, Lee Shorten has always had a love of film. Now, along with a recurring role on “Supernatural,” he’s starring on the critically acclaimed Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle.” Now in its second season, I caught up with Lee to talk about the show and growing as an actor and a man.
What initially inspired you to be an actor?
I’ve always loved good stories and I originally wanted to be a director. I studied film as an undergrad and was really taken by this idea of visual storytelling, so I thought that’s what I wanted to do. But the more I studied film, the more I realized what I was really drawn to were the characters, particularly villains and anti-heroes. I wanted to understand them and their motivations. It’s not a perfect analogy but in some ways it’s like the difference between coaching a team and being on that team. I wanted to be on the field, in the trenches getting down and dirty.
How has “The Man in the High Castle” challenged you as an actor?
One of the things I really love about “The Man in the High Castle” is that although it’s technically science fiction, it’s also a period piece in a sense. It’s an alternate reality but it also takes place in our world and on some level, it’s grounded in real history. So it’s this weird but awesome hybrid that requires me to conduct a lot historical research about Japan and the Kempeitai, about the war, about life in America in the 1960’s and then sort of invert it. It challenges both my intellect and imagination, which is wonderful. And given my character is one of the villains, the biggest challenge is trying to humanize him, which can take me to some dark places.
What did you learn about yourself as a man while making this show?
That I’m shockingly bad at shaving. I’d shave every morning before set but I guess I’m just sloppy because I’d get in the makeup chair and the girls would almost always find a stray hair. If you’re reading this, sorry ladies. On a more serious note, we have such an experienced and talented cast and I learned an incredible amount from them, particularly from Joel de la Fuente who I share most of my scenes with. They say we’re our own worst critics but I think I tend to be overly self-critical. Joel really taught me to trust my instincts and to fight for my character.
The show is fiction but the issues it tackles have modern implications. In such a politically divided country, why do you think this show is resonating with viewers?
The show resonates with viewers because in many ways it’s the ultimate “what if.” What if we lost? What if America, the land of the free, wasn’t? In some ways, our show is like a fun house mirror. The image is recognizable but distorted, it’s designed to make you uncomfortable. But you know, we go one step further, we’re provocative, we invite you to question how we’re different but also eerily similar. Hopefully the show is a conversation starter. And even if you want to bench the political side, it still asks some great questions. Would I be the same person under different circumstances? What would I do if I lived in that reality and by extension, how can I make the actual world I have now a better place?
What’s next for you?
I just finished shooting a pilot, so in a perfect world that will get picked up. I’m also putting up a play next summer with some of my good friends. But otherwise, I’m currently reading scripts and trying to find a project I think would be a good fit.
“The Man in the High Castle” is streaming on Amazon now!