Carsten Norgaard has spent the past several decades building an impressive body of work in Hollywood. From an tough as nails, ex-NHL player coaching a hockey team in the Junior Goodwill Games in “D2: The Mighty Ducks” to a swash-buckling cardinal guard in “The Three Musketeers” to fending off the deadliest aliens known to man in “Alien vs. Predator,” Carsten has brought to life a plethora of rich and complex characters on the big and small screens over the years. His range has been seen in US projects and internationally, making him one of the most diverse actors in the entertainment industry today.
2015 will go down as another banner year for the hard working actor. Carsten is currently taking on some of the most challenging material around with his pivotal role in Amazon’s critically acclaimed series “The Man in the High Castle.” Based on Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, and executive produced by Ridley Scott (The Martian), “The Man in the High Castle” explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States. Carsten is a scene-stealer as double agent and Berlin insider Colonel Rudolph Wegener, who poses as Swedish businessman Victor Baynes. All 10 episodes of “The Man in the High Castle” were released on Amazon November 20, 2015.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Carsten Norgaard to discuss his career, his role on Amazon’s critically acclaimed series, “The Man In The High Castle,” the challenges of bringing it to life and more!
What intrigued you about the craft of acting early on in your life and ultimately led to you pursuing it as a career?
I don’t come from a family in the industry or who were entertainers. I remember, very early on, my dad said to me, when I was about 5 or 6 years old, “Find something you love to do and find a way to get paid for it.” That always stuck with me. Growing up, I always loved movies because of the great acting and filmmaking that transferred you to another universe, movies like “Lawrence of Arabia.” That always intrigued me. After I got an economics degree, I decided to go to London to pursue acting over there. I did my schooling, got my first few jobs, got an agent and ultimately ended up in The States and working over here.
You have quite a resume and continue to bring amazing characters to the screen. What fuels your creative fire these days?
I am very grateful that, in our industry, you get to travel. Like Hans Christian Andersen said, “To travel is to live.” I think life is what you make out of it and if you choose to be positive, there are plenty of things to be positive about. You have to be realistic at the same time and there is plenty to be pessimistic about. I think trying to keep positive is definitely a key.
You are part of a new series which is creating a huge buzz — Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle.” How did you get involved with this amazing project?
I taped for it. I have always been a big fan Philip K. Dick and the films based on his works like “Blade Runner,” “The Adjustment Agency,” “Total Recall” and “Minority Report.” He is a very prolific writer. I knew they were going to try and make “The Man in the High Castle,” which many people have referred to as one of the crown jewels of alternative reality. When it came around, I tested for it and they responded to what I did and I got the job.
What spoke to you about the character you play and made you pursue it?
My character is a central character in the book and on the series, as well. It is a very complex character. I play a double-agent. He is a little bit of an insider, posing as a Swedish businessman, Victor Baynes, who is in reality Rudolph Wegener. If Adolph Hitler dies, there will be a power vacuum and that could potentially cause war with the Japanese. So, he travels to the West Coast to meet with his Japanese counterpart in order to avoid a war by reaching a secret agreement. He is a man who has done terrible things in his life and the guilt of those actions weigh heavily upon him and the rest of his family. He is haunted by the atrocities that he committed on behalf of The Reich and his efforts to avert war between the Japanese and the Nazi empire is his attempt at atonement. It is a very rich part, I would say.
Obviously, the story is well written and the characters are defined in those pages. What went into bringing the story from script to screen?
I think what was really interesting about this project is that it is an alternative reality from where the second World War ended and where we are picking the story up in 1962. There is a 17-year gap. Frank Spotnitz, the creator of the series, and Daniel Percival, who is a co-producer, director and writer on the series as well, are both custodians of the written word. This is a very unique project when it comes to collaboration, both in front of and behind the camera. It is extraordinary. From the actors, to the set designers to the costume designers, everyone involved were custodians of their worlds. It was a very collaborative effort. To me, collaboration is another key to creativity.
What are the biggest challenges you encountered on this project?
Without going into too much detail, I had to speak German. I had done German movies and television in the past but it is not like I do it on a daily basis, so that definitely presented a challenge. Also, portraying a character in the world we have created, in 1962, with all the complexities I had mentioned was very challenging. I would even say the freedom bestowed the project was extraordinary. America is a land of great ideas and this project is certainly a great idea and a huge undertaking. I don’t think the project would have happened without Amazon. The main challenge, I would say, when you serialize any novel is to make it dramatic but honor a great piece of literature at the same time.
What can you tell us about the process you go through when taking on a new character?
When I read the script for the first time and reach the end of it, I write down all of my initial thoughts about the world, the character and everything else. I think we all have a sixth sense within us, a certain kind of pure instinct. Those initial thoughts, the initial instinct, are what I want to remember as a project moves along. You start layering it and take a more subjective approach going into it. That is always the way I like to start with it. The collaboration on “The Man in the High Castle,” I am harping a little bit on it, but it was really unique. As I said, everyone was a proud custodian of their individual worlds.
We are entering into a new era with the way series are being released. As an actor, what is your take on this new world and is it different for you as an actor when it comes to promoting a project like this one?
That is a very good question. I never thought that this binge-watching thing, when it first came out, was going to work. Now, I am totally converted and I love it! All of these shows like “Narcos,” “Homeland” or “House of Cards,” I wait until the end of the season so I can see everything over the course of two or three days. It is like a modern way of reading a book. You can read at your discretion, depending on how much time you have or how much into the story you are. I think something as rich as “The Man in the High Castle” is really well served by this. You have to be very careful when you promote it not to send out spoilers because it hasn’t been out very long and I am sure many people are still yet to see it. I am definitely one who tells my friends not to tell me anything about certain shows! I want to be able to digest it myself!
You have a tremendous body of work behind you. What are your thoughts when you look back on what you have done so far?
I think I like certain parts for certain things and different times in my life and where I have been. Again, sometimes you go to amazing places and help create an experience that you normally wouldn’t have had. When I first came to The States and did “The Mighty Ducks,” to me it was a whole new world. Over the years, so many people who were kids but are now adults have come up to me and said, “I love that movie!” That is very gratifying. Then you have a project like “The Man in the High Castle” and how amazing it has been in terms of collaboration and richness, which is also very gratifying.
What projects are you most excited about as we head into a brand new year?
Hopefully, a season two of “The Man in the High Castle.” It is an alternate reality and I think the whole scope of the project and the world inside of it doesn’t have any boundaries. I welcome any project that challenges me and is something I haven’t done before. That is what it is all about, complex characters that you can help enrich.
What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey as an actor?
Be persistent! Luck is where hard work and perseverance meet.
That is definitely solid advice! Thanks for your time today, Carsten. We look forward to everything you have in store for us in the future!
Thank you, Jason!
“The Man In The High Castle” is available now on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video. To keep up with Carsten Norgaard, visit his official website at www.carstennorgaard.com. Be sure to connect him on social media via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!