While genre fans might know Northern Irish actor Anthony Boyle best for his role as Scorpius Malfoy in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, his part in HBO’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America begs comparison to another genre property.
**This story contains spoilers for the first two episodes of HBO’s The Plot Against America.**
In the alt-history drama, which depicts the political rise of xenophobic nationalist Charles Lindbergh, Boyle plays Alvin Levin, a rebellious young Jewish man who’s forced to watch his community fall apart just as he’s trying to find his own path. As Lindbergh gains national sympathy and wins the presidency by the end of the second episode, Alvin has accrued a reputation for being a troublemaker in his neighborhood and amongst his family. And so what does a troubled young man with no other options do as the Second World War brews overseas?
Well, if you’re Alvin Levin, you jump the border to Canada and enlist because the U.S. refuses to involve itself in the war. You vow that “I’m going to kill Nazis,” the very same people who have terrorized you and your loved ones, the people who accuse you of being un-American simply by existing.
When thinking of other fictional characters who are misunderstood and breaking the rules to join in on World War II, many genre fans’ minds will likely jump to Captain America as played by Chris Evans in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. And while Evans’ Steve Rogers was more concerned with stopping “bullies” no matter “where they’re from” (killing isn’t really within the good Captain’s M.O.), he certainly approached the fight with similar steel-jawed resolve to Alvin.
“I know if I'm remembered for one thing, I'll have that [line] on my gravestone: A .gif of me saying, ‘I'm going to kill Nazis,’” Boyle tells SYFY WIRE. He’s not a violent person by nature, he insists, but he understands the weight of such a line in the context of the show and given the current state of the world. It’s a line that instantly modernizes a story taking place 80 years ago and grafts this fictional world to our own; you can feel Alvin’s very raw, very human anger, and it makes him all the more empathetic — no matter how many times he screws up.
“My initial feeling was that I'd never related to a character [more] than I related to [Alvin],” Boyle says. “Usually when I'm going to play a role, I'm usually playing someone really posh and English, and Alvin is just very truthful.
“I know he's Jewish, and I'm Irish, but we share a big family and that sort of background... when I was reading [the script], I understood,” he continues.
When Boyle first came to the U.S., he performed on Broadway as Scorpius in the New York City rendition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (for which he was nominated for a Tony Award). When he got sick while working, he fondly recalls that Jewish women were the people taking care of him — they’d make him matzo ball soup. “I feel like I was [preparing] for the role before I even knew it existed,” he says. Between that and Plot Against America casting director Alexa Fogel inviting him to meals with her family, he found his life oddly overlapping with Alvin’s in that aspect. “I sort of had a year and a half of Jewish women looking after me in New York,” Boyle says.
But after Episode 2, Alvin’s life is bound to change drastically. No matter how complicated his relationship with his family was, he won’t be able to rely on them anymore when he goes overseas.
“It just gets darker and darker,” Boyle teases. “I think those first two really set it up and really show you what we're making, sort of what we are, where the show is tonally, but then as it gets, it just gets more dramatic, it's more sort of action-packed and the stakes get higher, sh** pops off.”
The Plot Against America airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.