Last Updated on March 10, 2020

“The Plot Against America” imagines an alternate American history during World War II, with Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated in the U.S. presidential election of 1940.

The Plot Against America, courtesy HBO

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The story is told through the eyes of a working-class Jewish family in New Jersey who endure the political rise of Charles Lindbergh, an aviator-hero who captures the presidency and turns the nation toward fascism.

Read on for plot details, cast information, premiere date, and trailer. 

How many episodes are in the series?

The Plot Against America, courtesy HBO

The Second World war era period drama is a six-part limited series.

Who are the Directors for The Plot Against America?

The first three episodes are directed by Minkie Spiro (Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife). Thomas Schlamme (Pan Am, The Frontier) directs the concluding three hours of the six-part series.

What is the storyline?

The Plot Against America, courtesy HBO

The premiere episode begins the narrative on the eve of the 1940 election cycle, as the two-term Presidential incumbent Franklin Roosevelt, as professional a politician as a democracy can produce, suddenly finds himself challenged by a political outsider.

Charles Lindbergh has won fame through his legendary solo flight across the Atlantic 13 years earlier and is, in the minds of many Americans, among the country’s greatest heroes.

But the election contest becomes much more fraught for the residents of Newark’s Jewish enclave of Weequahic when Lindbergh stakes his insurgent campaign on the promise that he will keep America out of the European war, that he will remain neutral between Nazi Germany and the Allied powers, and most controversially, he names American Jews as being war instigators and disloyal to the true interests of America. The anti-Semitism and xenophobia strike a chord with many Americans, who begin to regard fellow countrymen and outsiders alike with suspicion.

Is The Plot Against America based on a book?

Yes, it’s based on the acclaimed 2004 Philip Roth novel of the same name, available here.

Who stars in The Plot Against America?

Winona Ryder, John Turturro, and Zoe Kazan, courtesy HBO

Zoe Kazan (The Deuce, Meek’s Cutoff) is Elizabeth “Bess” Levin, an insightful mother and homemaker who fears for the future as she tries to protect her family amid the escalating political climate.

Morgan Spector (Boardwalk Empire, The Gilded Age) is Herman Levin, her proud and opinionated husband who works as an insurance agent and tries to maintain normalcy and assert himself as an American citizen even as his country seems to be slipping into fascism, anti-Semitism and xenophobic isolationism.

Winona Ryder (Little Women, The Crucible) is Evelyn Finkel, the unmarried, older sister to Bess whose own plans were arrested by years of caring for her infirm mother and is hungry to find her own place in life.

John Turturro (The Name of the Rose, Barton Fink) is Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, a politically conservative rabbi transplanted from Charleston, S.C. who seizes the reins of history to become a key figure in the emergent Lindbergh administration.

Anthony Boyle (Ordeal by Innocence, Tolkien) is Alvin Levin, the angry orphaned nephew who allows his own sense of injustice and political differences with his Uncle Herman to carry him from the streets of Newark to the battlefields of Europe and then back again.

Azhy Robertson (Marriage Story) is ten-year-old Philip Levin, the youngest of the Levin clan who copes with his own innocent curiosity and growing anxiety in a world that seems to be collapsing around him.

Caleb Malis is Sandy Levin, the Levin’s artistic teenage son who rebels against his parents as his adolescence becomes entangled with his growing admiration for Lindbergh.

Supporting cast include “The Deuce” actors David Krumholtz as Monty Levin, the overbearing successful older brother of Herman whose sole focus is on running his wholesale produce business, and Michael Kostroff as Shepsie Tirschwell, the realistic and cautious Newsreel Theater projectionist.

What happens in the first episodes?

The Plot Against America, courtesy HBO

The first hour of the series finds Herman Levin (Morgan Spector) anticipating a promotion at work and taking his family to look at a house in an upwardly mobile neighborhood, though Bess (Zoe Kazan) is wary of leaving the safety of their tight-knit Jewish community and raising a family amid growing anti-Semitism sparked by Lindbergh’s ascendancy.

As the family spinster, her sister Evelyn (Winona Ryder) has a disappointing rendezvous with a married lover, but later, finds herself charmed by a distinguished local clergyman, Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf (John Turturro).

The second episode sees Lindbergh’s increasingly popular campaign sweep through the United States and capture some in the Levin family as well as Bengelsdorf (Turturro), with Evelyn (Ryder) as his assistant and lover, becoming a fundamental asset in the Lindbergh camp, while Sandy (Caleb Malis), enamored of the aviator’s charm, celebrity, and history, begins a rebellion of his own within the family of New Deal Democrats.

Where can I watch The Plot Against America?

“The Plot Against America” airs on HBO, and will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners’ streaming platforms like the Prime HBO Add-on Channel. Rated TV-MA

When does The Plot Against America premiere?

“The Plot Against America” premieres March 16 on HBO at 9 PM EST. Watch the trailer below.

About the book The Plot Against America: In an extraordinary feat of narrative invention, Philip Roth imagines an alternate history where Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to heroic aviator and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh. Shortly thereafter, Lindbergh negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.

For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America–and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.

Available here

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to see The Period Films List, with British, historical and costume dramas sorted by era. You’ll also want to see this list of HBO Period Dramas to Stream for Free