News

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

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