What’s more terrifying? That creepy sound down in the basement, or the neighbor who has been inexplicably staring at your house every single day?
That’s the question executive producers Little Marvin and Lena Waithe constantly asked themselves and the writers, cast and crew when crafting the new Amazon terror anthology series THEM. Set in the 1950s, the first season will focus on an upwardly mobile Black family who moves from North Carolina and integrates an all-white neighborhood in Compton during a time known as The Great Migration.
The series, which garnered a two-season order from Amazon nearly three years ago, will premiere Friday, April 9; watch a teaser below:
Not only will the pioneering Emory family fight the malevolent racism and bigotry of their white neighbors but their home is haunted by an otherworldly entity that they will also have to defeat.
“Terror and horror have a different ring in the imagination,” Little Marvin says. “Let’s face it, very few of us will experience actual supernatural horror in our lives. Although, I would be totally down for that. But terror is something we’ve all experienced. So, calling the show a terror series really roots the horrors and focuses on humans first.”
The terror that Black people in America continue to face presented Little Marvin with especially fertile soil to mine, he adds.
“I started writing the show a few summers back during a time where it felt like every morning I was waking up to the same thing,” he reveals. “I’d go through my social media feeds and I would see iPhone video after iPhone video of Black folks – women and children and families – being terrorized in some way. Either by the police or by the threat of the police and watched, harassed and surveilled.”
“And it got me thinking a lot about my own experiences,” he continues. “Personally of that gaze but also a history of that gaze and the terror of navigating this country in Black skin. It’s no secret that public spaces have been weaponized against Black people since the dawn of this country. But what I hadn’t seen told in that story was the tension between the public and the private. And the most private of spaces is the home. The world outside might be crazy but in here, we have each other. What happens when that safe space turns ugly too?”
THEM, which stars Deborah Ayorinde (Girls Trip), Ashley Thomas (Top Boy), Alison Pill (Devs) and Shahadi Wright Joseph (Us), also unpacks the American dream, Little Marvin says.
“There’s no more quintessential part of the American dream than the dream of home ownership,” he expounds. “It’s a touchstone. It’s a point of great pride particularly for Black folks, to own one’s home and to pass down intergenerational wealth. But, as you probably know, that’s been anything but a dream for Black folks in this country. In fact, it’s been a nightmare. So, it’s an opportunity to tell an American dream story of home ownership but peel back those floorboards a bit.”
“When Nat King Cole and his family moved into Hancock Park in the late 1940s, they were subjected to much of the same terrors that the Emorys experience and that’s true for Chicago and that’s true for Levittown, Pennsylvania,” Little Marvin explains. “Compton was interesting in that I dug in and read tons of books and enveloped myself in the lore of this city that has an iconically Black association in the public’s imagination, culturally and musically. But as you dig in, you realize 60 or 70 years ago, it was quite white. Not only that, but the folks in East Compton were virulently protective of their whiteness. That was the lightbulb moment for me. I knew it was a story we had to tell.”