Anthology Series The Terror Returns With New – But Familiar – Horror Tale

Taking cues from the popular film genre, the AMC series tackles kaidan – think: The Ring and The Grudge – in season 2 with the story of an “insatiable” ghost.

by | August 10, 2019 | Comments

Season 1 of AMC horror anthology series The Terror took viewers north to the Arctic in the mid-1800s and stranded them there along with a starving, desperate expedition crew that was slowly descending into madness and a ferocious, definitely-not-a-bear creature that tore at survivors bit by terrifying bit. The season – which starred Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, and Ciarán Hinds as officers on the doomed expedition – has a 93% Certified Fresh Tomatometer score, was hugely popular with Rotten Tomatoes visitors, and seemingly grew its audience through strong word of mouth.

“I like to joke, ‘If you loved season 1, you’ll get none of it in season 2,” season 2 showrunner Alexander Woo told Rotten Tomatoes ahead of The Terror: Infamy premiere.

This time, the setting mostly sticks to U.S. soil, but rather than a giant, bounding beast of teeth, claws, and fur, the new season takes a more subdued tack; its terror comes in the form of a haunting.

“The yūrei is very specific. It’s the thing crawling out the television set in The Ring. It’s the spirit of a dead person – usually, in the folklore, a woman who has been wronged in life and has come back with this insatiable rage, this all-consuming hunger that cannot be – it is literally impossible to quench,” Woo explained.

The Terror: Infamy keyart (AMC)

(Photo by AMC)

The spirit of season 2 then lies in the genre of kaidan, old-fashioned Japanese ghost stories, which U.S. audiences have not seen much of on TV, aside from genre films playing on cable or on streaming services or in Japanese series available online.

This story starts at Terminal Island, between San Pedro and Long Beach in California, ahead of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and follows Japanese families into internment by the U.S. government during wartime. Woo and his team didn’t have a book to follow, as season 1 executive producers David Kajganich and Soo Hugh did in adapting Dan Simmons’ 2007 fictionalized account of the doomed Arctic expedition, but were able to research eyewitness accounts from about 125,000 internment camp survivors from archives and organizations, like the Japanese American National Museum and Densho at Heart Mountain, which was one of the camps. The goal was to recreate the world of the internment camps.

“We were the beneficiaries of some real, real geniuses on the show who built a world out of Vancouver, which is not a small task. Vancouver’s a very modern city. It doesn’t look like 1940s anything. To create not only a period world which spans two continents, and many, many states, it is no small feat,” Woo said. “To do it in a way that doesn’t fall into those images you get in your mind of World War II period pieces — it’s drab, you know? I didn’t want it to feel drab. I wanted it to feel very present, and very alive. They created a visual signature with this piece. John Conroy and Barry Dunleavy, our cinematographers, created this really gorgeous cinematic visual style that was really lush, and moody, and atmospheric.

“Then, Jonathan McKinstry, our production designer, went into painstaking detail to recreate the world from archival photos. So much so that when George Takei walked into our set, he said, ‘This is exactly how I remember it, with one exception.’ With the exception of some plates that we had, which were not chipped enough. We went and chipped them up so they would look a little more worn,” Woo recalled.

George Takei in The Terror (AMC)

(Photo by AMC)

Takei plays Yamato-san, an 80-year-old living on Terminal Island who warns members of the younger generations of the danger of the yūrei.

“Early on in the season, the characters use a bunch of different terms because they’re not entirely sure what it is.,” Woo said. “Early on they use terms like ‘obake,’ which is a term for a spirit, which is kind of neutral. It could be even benevolent. It could be benevolent, or malevolent. Then, they use the term ‘bakemono’ a little later on, which refers to something a little more malevolent.”

Infamy’s story focuses particularly on 22-year-old Chester Nakayama (Derek Mio), who has dropped some of the elder generations’ cultural observances – like believing in yūrei – for his own American experience, including dreams of becoming a Life magazine photographer and a relationship with Mexican-American Luz Ojeda (Cristina Rodlo).

“The genesis of this comes from my co-creator Max Borenstein, who had actually heard George Takei give a talk 20 years ago, and was inspired to pitch this idea to AMC of telling an internment story through this genre lens, and specifically using the kaidan – or Japanese folk tales/Japanese ghost stories – at the center of it, and that would be the genre component of it,” Woo related.

“You see in the first few episodes, to the immigrant generation, the older generation, the ghosts are very real. They are as real as you or I,” he said. “It is not a figment or a superstition or any sort of made up hoo-ha. To Chester’s generation, this is just some sort of weird old-country belief that he does not believe, until [a point when] he’s pretty sure it’s real now. But early on, he completely pooh-poohed the notion. And that, to me, is a great illustration – one of many – of the rift between the immigrant generation and the American-born generation, the Issei and Nisei, in our show.”

Derek Mio as Chester Nakayama - The Terror _ Season 2 - Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/AMC

(Photo by Ed Araquel/AMC)

Chester feels confined and complains early on that his parents moved from one island to a smaller island, but he thinks of himself as wholly American with access to all of America, Woo said.

“Chester is, for me, an illustration of what it’s like to embrace a country that doesn’t embrace you back, you know? As we find out in subsequent episodes, his Americanness is challenged,” Woo said. “And so the yūrei represents something that is organically part of the culture of his father’s generation, and he has to confront his own Japaneseness in order to deal with it. He has to accept it and then understand it and then find a way to confront it. And that’s why we felt that that was an appropriate angle into the supernatural part of the story.”

The series also stars Kiki Sukezane as Yuko Tanabe; Shingo Usami and Naoko Mori as Chester’s parents, Henry and Asako Nakayama; and Miki Ishikawa as Amy Yoshida. Casting was done in the U.S., Canada, and Tokyo, resulting in a cast made up of actors from Japan and those of Japanese ancestry.

“George is arguably the most notable living person who’s ever lived with the internment. He’s also a working actor in our business. It seems obvious, and natural for us to at least offer him a role in our show. He says he’s made it his life’s work. He’s declared this many times, that this is his life’s work: to bring awareness to this period in history because there’s so many lessons from that that could be taken from that to the present. To our delight, he agreed enthusiastically to be part of our show,” Woo said.

“The casting of the rest of the show was a monumental feat by our team of casting directors. We have Carrie Audino here in L.A., and she’s won Emmys for Mad Men and West Wing,” he said. “We had Yôko Narahashi in Tokyo, and we had the casting directors in Vancouver as well: Corinne Clark and Jen Page. That entire team scoured four continents to find the cast where — we’re very proud of this —every single Japanese and Japanese-American speaking role is portrayed by an actor of Japanese ancestry. The original idea behind that was, there’s a lot of Japanese focus in the show. Obviously, we need people who could speak the language.

Kiki Sukezane as Yuko - The Terror _ Season 2 - Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/AMC

(Photo by Ed Araquel/AMC)

“As we were going through the casting process, we found that so many Japanese-American actors, or Japanese-Canadian actors, had such a personal connection to the internment, which is probably not surprising, because, if your family has been here since the ’40s, you lived through the internment [and/or] your family lived through the internment. So many people had such deep investment in it that we felt we should just cast wall-to-wall with actors of Japanese ancestry, because they brought such an investment to the material.”

Woo noted that he is himself of Chinese ancestry and feels connected to the heart of the story: the inevitable rift between a generation that immigrates to a new country that will perhaps never accept them, and their children born in that country who lose pieces of their cultural identity in their assimilation as naturalized citizens.

“There are resonances for almost anyone who has a generational connection to having an immigrant experience,” he said. “In this country, frankly, you don’t have to go very far back to get to an immigrant in anyone’s family. This story, as we came to explore and meet with people and talk with people, is the story of the Japanese-American people, but it’s not specifically exclusively a story for the Japanese-American people. There’re lessons from this that speak to anyone whose family has been touched or shaped by the immigrant experience, which really is just about everyone.”

Yuki Morita as Masayo Furuya - The Terror _ Season 2 - Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/AMC

(Photo by Ed Araquel/AMC)

Production designer McKinstry returned to the series from season 1, but other contributors to season 2 are new, including co-costume designers J.R. Hawbaker and Tish Monaghan.

“The world really came to life in the costumes,“ Woo said, describing how Hawbaker met with Terminal Islanders and found archival photos of clothing worn during the period to help define each character over the course of several years. “[They] were able to build a world using both vintage pieces and pieces they created.

“The kimonos, specifically, which are incredibly labor intensive — it usually takes over a year to build a kimono, and we had to build several of them, and the multiple versions, because you need one for the double, you need one for the stunt person. They get dirty, they get bloody,” he said. “There were these fabrics that J.R. specifically found that had this shimmer to it, this ghostly shimmer to it, which it was really astonishing. … We had an entire kimono team … The kimono wrangler, the kimono designer, the people doing the dyeing. It was its own production; I don’t even remember how many people, but it was a large team just to deal with the kimono.”

Even with elaborate costuming and exacting production design from another time, Woo wanted the story to come alive for modern viewers.

“The idea of using a supernatural element to begin with, the idea was to use that genre toolbox as a way for the audience to access the emotions of the historical experience,” he said. “Because when you’re doing a period piece, there’s frequently a danger of it feeling like a museum piece, of feeling that you have to stay removed: It happened 75 years ago, and looking at it through glass, it’s encased in amber, and I feel safe from it. And we don’t want our audience to feel safe, we want them to feel what those characters are feeling, which was this constant, ambient dread and terror.”

The Terror: Infamy premieres Monday, August 12 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

television Ghostbusters Sneak Peek anime Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt AMC Crunchyroll documentaries foreign universal monsters slashers Ovation Discovery Channel binge rt archives unscripted Arrowverse Lifetime summer TV Super Bowl Apple TV+ quibi Best Picture boxing Horror Paramount Plus spanish The Walt Disney Company 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards art house 2017 Disney football Hear Us Out 20th Century Fox Summer Walt Disney Pictures cancelled spanish language diversity basketball Exclusive Video Interview batman superhero comiccon vampires Family Trivia CBS All Access Fall TV new york Starz Opinion Showtime American Society of Cinematographers Mindy Kaling President rt labs action-comedy rom-coms child's play Chilling Adventures of Sabrina summer preview Broadway Adult Swim Fox News witnail latino Universal 79th Golden Globes Awards feel good cartoon deadpool Tags: Comedy trailers VOD 99% doctor who young adult Elton John best DC Universe Oscars golden globes mcc Columbia Pictures critic resources New York Comic Con First Reviews lord of the rings 24 frames E! cooking debate festivals blockbusters Turner comedies classics disaster Amazon Studios mob harry potter movie composers Sundance Now Neflix Martial Arts Netflix crossover Hallmark Christmas movies TIFF USA Spike spider-verse know your critic scorecard Mystery films based on movie Winners casting true crime gangster Black Mirror Reality live action MGM Reality Competition Best and Worst 2015 hispanic heritage month streaming movies Baby Yoda Vudu concert hist TV renewals ViacomCBS directors leaderboard Warner Bros. OneApp Superheroe romantic comedy 2020 comic black Election 73rd Emmy Awards screenings political drama jamie lee curtis Black History Month Cosplay movies Thanksgiving Box Office blockbuster GoT breaking bad GLAAD Emmy Nominations SXSW 2022 zombie social media sequel MSNBC criterion monster movies serial killer twilight Extras series dragons BET Awards Sundance Disney streaming service indie Logo Comic-Con@Home 2021 1990s christmas movies Freeform live event TCA Winter 2020 Hallmark VICE Christmas IMDb TV Mary Tyler Moore The Witch comic book movie A&E Countdown interviews TCA 2017 streamig WarnerMedia Marvel Television BET nature dc Rom-Com Pixar book adaptation cops The Purge toronto scary movies Infographic Best Actress space adenture trophy high school IFC The Academy game show Tomatazos Toys comic book movies period drama Peacock Tumblr thriller Kids & Family target franchise popular Awards Tour heist movie BBC One aliens Musicals nfl TV One olympics Universal Pictures Rock Mary poppins Esquire independent Crackle Hollywood Foreign Press Association adaptation Turner Classic Movies Instagram Live green book Certified Fresh Pop Avengers Nickelodeon game of thrones National Geographic 71st Emmy Awards Women's History Month crime thriller critics Anna Paquin stand-up comedy Photos what to watch RT21 ID PaleyFest Film Festival historical drama reviews Alien supernatural NBC CW Seed women Syfy Paramount Network Brie Larson TV Land Animation japan Polls and Games 94th Oscars comic books 2021 South by Southwest Film Festival Television Critics Association hidden camera miniseries psychological thriller telelvision FX on Hulu name the review theme song tv talk WGN YouTube Red HBO Quiz award winner teaser Funimation obi wan E3 crime drama Grammys south america NYCC Podcast Apple The Arrangement transformers rt labs critics edition Music suspense black comedy technology MCU AMC Plus sports USA Network Pirates kids dexter Rocketman spider-man zero dark thirty superman cancelled TV shows travel golden globe awards docuseries Chernobyl Pride Month cars TLC Marvel BAFTA BBC America 2016 joker Premiere Dates kong obituary Heroines japanese werewolf justice league TCA Awards RT History ABC Signature 21st Century Fox Disney Channel stoner Focus Features HFPA DC Comics A24 NBA FXX remakes ghosts cinemax Character Guide biopic Ellie Kemper Awards Fargo Teen Valentine's Day die hard dreamworks war ITV Amazon Prime Food Network Nominations elevated horror cults cats CBS PlayStation chucky Netflix Christmas movies Comedy 45 docudrama medical drama hollywood Rocky Sci-Fi dark Shondaland Fox Searchlight razzies Drama MTV First Look Holiday Masterpiece TV movies video king kong french Disney Plus Red Carpet Winter TV Trailer Legendary dceu Marvel Studios Biopics mockumentary all-time Cannes Tokyo Olympics scary mission: impossible comics Song of Ice and Fire Paramount spain Lionsgate Classic Film children's TV singing competition Stephen King YouTube Premium marvel cinematic universe Pop TV Star Trek IFC Films Britbox science fiction laika CMT blaxploitation Musical Wes Anderson Western DGA Comic Book TV canceled TV shows zombies Dark Horse Comics Star Wars sag awards Endgame El Rey YouTube Comedy Central GIFs book screen actors guild ABC Family Holidays Academy Awards anthology romance Mudbound Oscar Spring TV VH1 Travel Channel asian-american king arthur OWN a nightmare on elm street worst FX nbcuniversal Spectrum Originals legend free movies ESPN prank satire Year in Review Amazon sitcom documentary dogs 2018 SXSW DC streaming service Cartoon Network revenge Schedule indiana jones Film Lifetime Christmas movies rotten movies we love crime CNN Superheroes Emmys BBC HBO Go saw Paramount Pictures archives natural history Comics on TV ratings robots kaiju australia marvel comics X-Men adventure vs. 72 Emmy Awards richard e. Grant TNT stop motion psycho Best Director Marathons Apple TV Plus sequels rotten Action strong female leads Set visit aapi Trophy Talk finale dramedy police drama emmy awards new star wars movies festival Watching Series animated fast and furious royal family History news LGBTQ Creative Arts Emmys video on demand james bond Lucasfilm Hulu ABC Country Mary Poppins Returns LGBT Disney+ Disney Plus wonder woman worst movies SundanceTV parents biography spy thriller Tubi versus new zealand Sony Pictures 4/20 90s toy story PBS boxoffice Calendar spinoff Amazon Prime Video Sundance TV reboot Bravo San Diego Comic-Con 2019 TCM renewed TV shows Image Comics summer TV preview discovery See It Skip It posters Pet Sematary italian Television Academy fresh genre venice pirates of the caribbean facebook streaming Pacific Islander politics Video Games TruTV Shudder sopranos jurassic park FOX cancelled TV series Nat Geo broadcast slasher TBS SDCC talk show The CW Fantasy Prime Video The Walking Dead YA DirecTV halloween Acorn TV Tarantino canceled international cancelled television godzilla halloween tv Epix TCA Binge Guide 93rd Oscars Captain marvel 007 HBO Max Writers Guild of America hispanic APB mutant Best Actor scene in color