The internment of Japanese Americans during World War 2 has never been shown on American television, until now. The second season of the Ridley Scott-produced The Terror features a cast and crew with deep-rooted connections to the war, mostly comprising of actors of Japanese descent. And it has supernatural elements to boot. Rhodé Marshall found it riveting viewing.
The Terror: Infamy
SundanceTV (DStv channel 108)
History has a strange way of repeating itself – in life and the entertainment we consume. After a successful first season of The Terror, which was based on a Dan Simmons novel of the same name, about a real-life failed Arctic expedition in the 1840s, AMC solicited pitches for a second historical horror story to form part of its anthology series. What it’s come up with for the second season is sadly synonymous with present-day America.
The Terror: Infamy, the upcoming Ridley Scott-produced AMC horror anthology series, is set during World War 2 in an internment camp for Japanese Americans. It draws on the history of the internment as well as Japanese folklore and horror, and amazing cinema.
The internment of Japanese Americans during World War 2 is a dark and seldom discussed part of American history. This grave injustice, which had never been shown on American television, is the backdrop for an entire season featuring a cast and crew with deep-rooted connections to World War 2, mostly comprising actors of Japanese descent.
The series tells the painful story of the internment of Japanese Americans and the aftermath in Hiroshima, and centres on a series of bizarre deaths that haunt a Japanese American community and the journey of a young man (played by Derek Mio) journey to understand and combat the malevolent entity responsible – complete with authentically recreated camps in scope and scale of post-World War 2. These Japanese Americans are taken from their homes by US soldiers, only to be followed by a supernatural presence bent on inflicting suffering and death.
The Terror: Infamy stars Mio as Chester Nakayama; Kiki Sukezane (Lost in Space) as Yuko, a mysterious woman from Chester’s past; Cristina Rodlo (Miss Bala) as Luz, Chester’s secret girlfriend; Shingo Usami (Unbroken) as Henry Nakayama, Chester’s father; Naoko Mori (Everest) as Asako Nakayama, Chester’s mother; Miki Ishikawa (9-1-1) as Amy, a Nakayama family friend; and renowned actor, producer, author and activist George Takei (Star Trek) as Yamato-san, a community elder and former fishing captain. Takei, who lived through the internment as a small child along with his family, also serves as a consultant on the series, and he contributed recollections from his own past.
Max Borenstein came to AMC with a pitch for a narrative set within an internment camp, but was unavailable to write the pilot or run the show. The TV network then brought in Alexander Woo, whose TV acclaim includes True Blood, Sleeper Cell and the TV movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Woo also serves as showrunner.
“There are a number of different ways into this particular show. You could approach it really wanting to see this period in history – if you’re aware of this period – told on screen. You could approach it wanting to see Asian-American representation on screen. Or you could just want a really good scare. All of those are entirely valid reasons for coming into the show.
“Once you’re in, we wanted to take a very specific personal approach as opposed to a big docudrama historical approach that you might get from a documentary. Instead, we wanted to take it very, very personally so that the viewer feels what our characters are feeling; they are inside their skin,” co-creator and executive producer Woo told #Trending during a press junket in Los Angeles.
He continued: “And once you’re inside someone’s skin, there’s an empathy that’s built for their plight. I think, for a sophisticated viewer, it’s not very hard then to connect the dots to the plight of immigrants any time from that period to the present moment. And if it’s an empathy that they didn’t have before and they suddenly do have afterwards, then we have, I think, made a difference. It might not be an enormous number of people, but any number is significant. When an election, a presidential election, is decided by 300 votes, any number is significant.”
During the series, the characters all circle around a great piece of infamy in their lives, forming a deep contrast between the horror of a ghost story and the horror of innocent people who are unjustly imprisoned by their government.
Takei shares about being held in an internment camp as a child.
“I think I was able to inhabit my character better because I had – despite the fact that I was a child then – many after-dinner conversations as a teenager with my father and so I grew up knowing the story. My father shared his anguish. He said that the part that tore him apart the most was when he looked at us, his children – me, my brother and my sister – behind barbed wire. It really tore at him, wondering what kind of life we were going to have. The future was unknown, and when they’re pointing guns at you, following you at night when you’re making night runs to the latrine, is this the way we’re going to be living when they’re pointing guns at us? Are they going to kill us? Although my incarceration was as a child, I know what my parents felt and what terrified them and how they struggled.”
“I remember in the Arkansas camp they taught us the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. I could see the barbed wire fence and the sentry tower right outside my school house window as I recited the words “with liberty and justice for all”, too young to feel the stinging irony in those words. But I remember the barbed wire fence and the sentry towers.”