Based on the prescient novel by Philip Roth, “The Plot Against America” takes place in an alternate-history version of America, in which the United States turns toward fascism during the Second World War. The story is told through the eyes of a New Jersey working-class Jewish family, as aviation hero and xenophobic populist Charles Lindbergh (Ben Cole) runs for President of the United States.
Starring Zoe Kazan, Morgan Spector, Winona Ryder, and John Turturro, the six-part series comes from executive producers and longtime collaborators David Simon and Ed Burns (“The Wire,” “Generation Kill”).
The trailer actually does a little more than simply tease the impending conflict that would occur with a Lindbergh presidency in this world. Like the novel, the story and the trailer follow Herman Levin (Spector) as he goes from believing that the American people will see through Lindbergh and “what he is” to quickly realizing that Lindbergh’s supposed anti-war message is at the expense of the Jewish people. “There’s a lot of hate out there,” says Herman. “And he knows how to tap into it.” There’s also a lot of fear, as Herman’s wife, Elizabeth (Kazan), suggests they “have a back-up plan” in case they need to leave the States.
But while the Levins brace themselves for the possibility of the worst, Conservative Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf (Turturro) and his new wife, Evelyn Finkel (Ryder), are Lindbergh supporters trying to assuage people’s fears about the man — especially Herman and Evelyn’s sister Elizabeth’s — despite his message. “Admittedly, Mr. Lindbergh made statements grounded in anti-Semitic cliche, but he did so out of ignorance,” argues Rabbi Bengelsdorf. Evelyn is adamant that Lindbergh is a hero, and Bengelsdorf endorses him, saying “This is not an evil man, not in any way,” even as all the evidence piles up to the contrary.
Hate, fascism, and a presidential candidate who’s tapping into fear to win an election? Simon and Burns may be traveling back to the ’40s, but they’re still staying focused on the present. “The Plot Against America” premieres Monday, March 16 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.