*THEM is a limited anthology series exploring terror in America. The first season centers on a Black family in the 1950s who move from North Carolina to an all-white East Compton neighborhood, during The Great Migration. Yes, that same Compton…The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next-door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.
Created by Little Marvin and executive produced by Lena Waithe. The series stars Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Melody Hurd.
EUR correspondent Jill Munroe spoke with Ayorinde and Thomas who portray Lucky and Henry, the couple at the center of the series- plus Little Marvin about what to expect from the series, the inspiration for setting it in Compton, and what Little Marvin thinks about those comparisons to “Us” and HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”
Jill: Deborah and Ashley, what were your thoughts when you received the script?
Deborah Ayorinde: When I read the scripts, I thought it was so beautiful and heartbreaking. Little Marvin wrote it like poetry. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I’ve ever read. That drew me to the story, but also how much love, care and intention was put into creating Lucky. I read a lot of scripts and usually, the Black people, especially the Black women, are written one-dimensionally or one-note. I felt like this story was written by someone who truly understands.
Ashley Thomas: For me, I received the first four scripts and like Deborah said, ‘it was easy to read even though it was difficult material.’ If I can read the script quickly, then I can get into it. Looking at the character of Henry, I saw a Black man that loves his wife unconditionally. He loves his children unconditionally. Someone who is present physically and emotionally. And it’s written by someone who looks like me, so he understands the journey of being a Black man in the world. I was scared to play the role, yeah it’s scary because it’s horror, but not that element, the weight that this character Henry has on his shoulders. For me, it was just making sure I could do this piece justice and be emotionally present for the character.
Jill: Was there any significance in choosing Compton, CA. as the location for the series? Also, what was your inspiration for the story?
Little Marvin: The Compton piece was a wow, I never knew factor. I thought I knew a lot about Los Angeles until I really dug into the city and read a lot of books. When I realized, here was this place that I think occupies an iconic ally Black space in the public’s imagination—musically, pop culture, and culturally. And as I was reading and researching, I found out, not only is that not true, but 60 to 70 years ago, it was lily-white. And in East Compton, those folks were super protective of their whiteness and the block. That for me was a light bulb. I knew that was the only place we could put it.
What inspired it? I think it’s the times. I started writing it a few years back. It was waking up, looking at the news or Instagram, and seeing video after video of us being terrorized by the police or being threatened by them.
Jill: As far as crafting horror, there have been several prominent films over the last few years. At first look, some might compare THEM to some of the other movies out there, but once you get into it, there are some differences. What would you say to the audience making those comparisons?
Little Marvin: I would say watch the show first. I would also say hop off Twitter. That’s why I’m not on Twitter, because I don’t want to get involved in that. What I would say to those people that are hell-bent on making that comparison before they see it; my hope is that one day there are so many of us playing on this field, that they won’t have to compare the three or four things that have come out over the last four years against one another. Every day, there are a thousand things that come out and center white people and are interchangeable in my mind, but those comparisons are never made. So my hope is, just the same way that Lena kicked the door open for me, I can do that for the next wave. There are so many Black filmmakers and storytellers who love this genre and just need that shot. And if the playground is filled with us, then we can’t be making those comparisons anymore.
THEM comes to Amazon Prime Video on April 9.