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WonderCon 2021: ‘Them’ cast & creators share how the show explores 'the terror of being Black in America'

By Vanessa Armstrong

Little Marvin, creator of the first installment of Amazon’s new horror anthology series, Them, started writing the show three years ago when he regularly woke up to cell phone videos of Black people being terrorized by the police in public spaces.

“It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows, public spaces have been weaponized against Black folks since the dawn of this country,” he shared in the show's WonderCon panel today. “But what I hadn’t really seen was that tension between the public and the private space, particularly the home. If the world outside is crazy — your neighbors are crazy, your colleagues are crazy, the world is crazy, but here we’ve got each other…the jumping-off point was, ‘What if the home turns on you too.’”

During the panel moderated by Tananarive Due (UCLA Black Horror & Afrofuturism professor and executive producer of Horror Noire), Little Marvin was joined by special makeup effects designer Howard Berger and cast members Deborah Ayorinde ("Lucky Emory"), Melody Hurd ("Gracie Emory"), Shahadi Wright Joseph ("Ruby Emory"), Alison Pill ("Betty Wendell"), and Ashley Thomas ("Henry Emory") to discuss the upcoming series and what viewers can expect.

Check out the full panel here:

"Right out of the gate I asked [Little Marvin], ‘Tell me exactly what this is about.’ And he said, ’It’s about the horror and terror of being Black," Berger said.

Them, which takes place in the 1950s, follows the Emorys, a Black family who moves into a predominantly white neighborhood and are terrorized not only by their neighbors but by a supernatural force that lurks in their basement.

The trailer, released earlier this week, reveals that things go horrifically. Which is also evident in the two clips shared during the panel today: one that showed the Emory family moving in while Pill looks on with chilling blatant racism; and one that showed the youngest Emory, Gracie (Melody Hurd), running into a very tall, very creepy supernatural being sitting in the kitchen.

The show sounds thoroughly terrifying, and Due even joked that people will want to sage their television after watching. The desired message of the series, however, goes beyond simply scaring those who watch it.

“If you’re able to come away from the show with a greater understanding that the word segregation is not from the distant past but is, in fact, part and parcel of the way we live today, there’s no greater hope I have than that for creating the show,” Little Marvin said at the end of the panel.

Them premieres on Amazon on April 9.

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