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The next installment of AMC’s historical horror anthology series The Terror might be set in the 1940s, but the story it tells “has a chilling resonance for us today,” series regular George Takei said at a press conference at San Diego Comic-Con.
The Terror: Infamy is set in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, when the U.S. government rounded up more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry, stripped them of their rights and property, and detained them because of a fear they were a threat to the country’s security. The show, which focuses on a series of bizarre deaths that haunt a Japanese-American community, marries the real-life nightmare of the camps with elements from the “rich tradition” of Japanese ghost stories and horror, co-creator Max Borenstein explained, adding that it isn’t the supernatural elements that are the most terrifying thing about the new season.
“The made-up stuff is far less horrifying than the reality of it,” Borenstein said.
A personal story for Takei
For Takei, the story told in The Terror: Infamy is a deeply personal one. As a child, he was interned with his parents and siblings, an experience he also explores in his new graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy. But many Americans aren’t familiar with this dark chapter in U.S. history.
“They don’t believe something like that happened,” said Takei, who described his parents’ experience during the war as “harrowing” and said that people are “aghast” when they he tells them about his childhood experiences.
“This is part of American history,” the actor, who also served as a consultant on the show, said. “It happened in the United States to American citizens of Japanese ancestry.”
A completely different show from Season 1
Season 1 of The Terror told the story of the Franklin expedition, a group of sailors who became marooned for years in the Arctic during a failed attempt to discover the northwest passage. But Season 2 tells an entirely new story, one that those involved in the show recognize has an unfortunate timeliness.
“It’s amazing how we’re repeating history,” actress Cristina Rodlo, who plays a nursing student named Luz who has a relationship with a Japanese-American man.
Takei wasn’t the only person involved in the production with a connection to the real-life history of Japanese internment. Star Derek Mio’s grandfather was also interned during the war.
“This was a very special project for me personally,” he said, adding that shooting the scene where some of the characters are taken away to the camps as “probably the most emotional experience I’ve ever had acting.” Mio plays a nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) named Chester Nakamura who attempts to understand and combat the malevolent entity that is behind the deaths in the community.
Co-creator Alexander Woo described the show as “an immigrant story” and one that he hopes will connect with audiences on an emotional level. “I think there will be a deep empathy that’s built,” he said.
The genre element of the show also provides a way to tell the story in a unique way. “It’s historical, but you’re not watching a documentary,” Borenstein said. “Genre is one of the great instruments to make something meaningful and powerful … it disarms people.”
The Terror: Infamy premieres Monday, August 12 at 9/8c on AMC.
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