Poor, Chester. He enlisted and traveled to the other side of the world to woo away from his family the spirit that he feels is stalking his life. But in "Shatter Like a Pearl," he comes to understand his plan was all for naught. In fact, Yuko's (Kiki Sukezane) mysterious fascination with Chester and Luz's unborn children remains unexplained after they die in childbirth, but the sad affair pushes her to seek out Chester in Guadalcanal.
In this week's After the Episode breakdown for The Terror: Infamy episode, "Shatter Like a Pearl," executive producer Alexander Woo and actor Derek Mio dissect the incredible moments that lead Chester to that crazy reunion he never could have anticipated.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers below for this week's episode of The Terror: Infamy!**
This week's episode splits the primary cast apart, with Chester stationed in Guadalcanal with some in his unit looking at him as an "other" amongst them, and back at the Japanese-American internment camp, Luz is spiraling into a deep depression after the loss of her children. Everyone else in the camp is required to sign a loyalty questionnaire, lest they be considered spies by the government.
Alexander Woo, Executive Producer/Showrunner: Lily Mariye, our director for this episode, is a Japanese American and her parents were interns, so she has a very personal connection. The loyalty questionnaire storyline was deeply, deeply, personally, meaningful for her.
On the opening sequence where Yuko possesses the soldier:
Alex Woo: In our opening moments, we see that she's in a bag. She's dripping and she's possessed one of these sergeants who is carrying her. They're in Long Beach, so they've got a long way to go.
On Chester's depression about his inability to be of use to his country or family:
Derek Mio, Chester Nakayama: [Alex] might've hinted that Chester would eventually enlist in the MIS and go overseas. But that was another crazy parallel because my other grandfather, who was from Hawaii, was actually in the MIS, and he served in the MIS after World War II during the occupation of Japan. Basically, Chester is a composite of both of my grandfathers.
Alex Woo: Chester's entire plan to lure the yurei away was shattered. He thought he could protect the people he loved and protect the people around him by taking the yurei away, and turns out she was back at camp the whole time. That leaves him in a real existential space of asking himself who he is. That sets the table for his first ever encounter with a person from Japan who lives in Japan, and is of Japan. His parents, of course, emigrated, but this is a face-to-face with a Japanese soldier, who [the U.S. soldiers] keep referring to as the enemy.
Derek Mio: It's kind of crazy how, what I was going through in my real life as Derek, was informing my performance as Chester. This was the first time that I had lived anywhere outside of the U.S.. We had to move to Vancouver, so I was in an apartment all by myself. I definitely felt that isolation, not being in the scenes with the rest of the cast. I just tried to draw upon that to create that isolation in Chester at this point in time.
On the intense interrogation sequences between Chester and prisoner-of-war, Tetsuya Ota:
Alex Woo: One of the big [stories] this episode is this very human interaction between Chester and Ota. It starts off as a really heated and vicious chess game between these two people where they're really digging at each other's identities, and what it means to be Japanese, and what it means to be American. And then it ends on this very lovely, human connection at the end.
Kazuya Tanabe (Ota) came to us from our Tokyo-based casting director and he just leapt off the screen. His physicality was so terrifying that we didn't even fly him in. We just said, 'We'll take him!' He was extraordinary throughout the entire sequence and I hope he has a chance to do more stuff here in the United Sates because he deserves it.
Because Lily is an actress, she did hundreds of episodes of ER, she was able to walk Derek and Kaz through that sequence in the language that actors can speak to one another. I think for Derek, having somebody who's Japanese-American and who's also an actor work through this with him was hugely, hugely valuable. And I think it showed in the performances.
Derek Mio: I don't think I've had another role where I got to speak Japanese like that. It was a lot and it was very challenging. But to be able to do all those things in one episode, and to have Lily Mariye, a fantastic director, who just brought so much care and encouragement, was special.
I think we did [the interrogation] scenes all over the span of maybe two or three days, and we saved it until the end. That episode was scheduled just to let that build. I rehearsed with Kazuya. He would come to set, and we'd read lines. We just let it gestate and then once we got to the set, we just let it explode. I think it just definitely adds to the energy.
Alex Woo: They give each other a little gift at the end. Chester gives Ota an honorable death and Ota gives Chester something that he can take to his commanding officer so that he can be thought of as a competent interrogator. Chester, who has been grasping at straws for some sort of identify, is given just that little peace.
On the terrifying reveal of Yuko showing up at Chester's camp and the ensuing vehicle crash:
Alex Woo: One of the funny things about this, and Kiki and I laugh about this, was that Yuko spends the entire episode, which spans several weeks, if not a couple months, inside a duffel bag. Yuko really is in a duffel bag the whole show and Kiki herself doesn't materialize until the very, very end of the episode. But Yuko is still very, very present. She doesn't have to be physically in front of you to be haunting you.
That bag pops up again towards the end of the episode. You know it's coming, so we wanted the payoff, obviously, to be as big as possible. Lily wanted to get a contortionist to come out of the bag. So, we had a double for that because it's not that easy to come out of a duffel bag. (Laughs)
Derek Mio: [Yuko exiting the bag] was a bit terrifying, but when it's that terrifying, it's almost comedic in a way. There's a fine line because it's so out of this world and so outrageous. We would see Kiki coming out of the makeup room, and the makeup chair was just dripping ooze. And when [Yuko] got up close that was definitely Kiki. She's a trooper. She went through so many hours of makeup just to bring the horror of that character to the show.
Alex Woo: For Yuko, [that moment] shows what's she's willing to go through to get what she wants, and even now we're not entirely sure what exactly she wants. And she's saying, "It's time to go home now," and we don't know why. Strangely, it seems oddly tender. Even though she looks like a disaster - she looks about as good as you could hope if you just crossed the Pacific Ocean in a duffle bag — but what she says then, as as freaked out as Chester is, is strangely, strangely tender. And that's where, again, we are playing on the duality of the horrifying and the sweet and lovely.
Derek Mio: This is such a special episode. Not just for the series, but for me personally, as an actor, because I love Kurosawa films, like Seven Samurai. I always wanted to play a samurai and I felt like I sort of did in that episode. And I got to act with an actor from Japan who was so skilled. Then to play a strong, leading man who's Japanese, and has to draw from his Japanese culture and his heritage to bring that strength, I mean, it was working on so many different levels.
New episodes of The Terror: Infamy air Mondays at 9PM ET on AMC.