Mild spoilers below for HBO's The Plot Against America.
One of television's most powerful and outspoken voices, David Simon took on the controversy-centered novel The Plot Against America as his latest HBO project. Following in author Philip Roth's footsteps, the show tells the alt-history story of aviator-turned-celebrity Charles Lindbergh's successful run at the U.S. presidency, and how it turned the country against itself, not unlike what's playing out in the current political climate. Star Morgan Spector knew early on that it was a special project, and now audiences are seeing just how gripping it is.
Morgan Spector, who plays Jewish family patriarch Herman Levin, spoke with CinemaBlend about The Plot Against America at this year's Television Critics Association winter press tour. The Homeland vet talked about his Philip Roth fandom, the relevance of Plot's storyline, who he thinks the audience should be made up of, and more. Read on!
On The Effectiveness Of The Plot Against America's Alt-History Approach
While most people know Charles Lindbergh for his impressive piloting efforts (to the point where even his plane's name is famous), or perhaps for the kidnapping of his infant son, there are likely many that are unaware of Lindbergh's xenophobic and racist views, or that he pushed hard against U.S. intervention in World War II. The Plot Against America takes Lindbergh's troublesome popularity up a notch by having him beat Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1941 presidential election, sparking a chillingly awful downward spiral.
I asked Morgan Spector if he enjoyed (for lack of a better word) taking on an alt-history project like this, akin to Stephen King's 11/22/63, and he answered with:
While it's not exactly in the sci-fi genre, The Plot Against America's build-up is even easier to comprehend now than it was back in 2004 when the book was written, considering how much society has been changed by partisan politics. (Thank goodness they didn't have social media back in the 1940s.)
On The Plot Against America's Relevance
In a very similar vein to the above topic, The Plot Against America star Morgan Spector talked about how in tune the miniseries' focus is with today's culture. When I asked him about jumping from the more currently relevant Homeland to the arguably more timeless story at the heart of Plot, here's what Spector told me:
To Morgan Spector's point, there are tons of movies that have come out over the years that, when viewing things from a modern perspective, absolutely seem politically motivated in one way or another. Whether that was actually the artists' intention, or whether it's because society is now so politically inclined, is quite hard to discern without personal input from those involved. Not much guesswork to be had with The Plot Against America, though.
On Who The Plot Against America's Audience Should Be
Regardless of the subject matter, HBO programming draws in audiences from all sides, whether it's for crime dramas like The Wire, cringe comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm, or inspirational miniseries like Band of Brothers. And Morgan Spector hoped for The Plot Against America's audience to be equally well-rounded, with all manner of viewers taking in the anti-fascist story matter together. In his words:
I also asked if Morgan Spector if he thought The Plot Against America might hold a candle to 2019's Chernobyl in terms of striking a resonant chord with audiences, and he said he would be perfectly fine with that, saying it was "cinematically ambitious" and "stunningly photographed."
On The Plot Against America's Building Tension
For its first two episodes, The Plot Against America took a fairly methodical approach to introducing the story and all of the major players involved, including John Turturro's Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf and Ben Cole's Charles Lindbergh himself. But that isn't to say they were slow or boring. It's more like the set-up in a horror movie, right before the evil monster strikes for the first time.
In that sense, fans shouldn't worry about The Plot Against America maintaining that same pacing, as everything kicks into high gear for the rest of the season. Here's how Morgan Spector put it:
As one might imagine, the story doesn't get wrapped up and tied off with a big bright bow in Episode 3, so definitely keep tuning in to see how harrowing The Plot Against America gets as Charles Lindbergh takes control.
On Tackling Philip Roth's Work As A Fan
Suitably enough, Morgan Spector was already a fan of Philip Roth when he landed The Plot Against America, which definitely helped inspire his performance. When I asked about his process for getting into the role, Spector brought up conversations he had with the miniseries' director, Minkie Spiro and show creator David Simon about "what their vision was" for Plot. He then said he dove back into Roth's work to help him get to then place where he could imagine himself within the character's life.
It couldn't have been very heartwarming for any of the core actors to get into the imaginative work of playing these characters, considering their lives become flipped upside-down by Charles Lindbergh and this actions. But thankfully, acting isn't always about taking on the easiest roles, which makes a project like The Plot Against America all the more worthwhile on both sides of the camera.
The Plot Against America airs on HBO on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.