Hit Play to watch George Takei and his co-stars talk about life on The Terror: Infamy set
The Terror: Infamy is set to premiere on AMC in the UK very soon, with legendary Star Trek actor George Takei playing a big role in the show both on and off-camera.
Set during World War II, the second season of The Terror centres on a series of bizarre deaths that haunt a Japanese American community on the west coast of the US, and a young man’s journey to understand and combat the malevolent entity responsible.
But while the supernatural element might be completely fictional, the historical element of the show certainly is not. Like season 1, the show is based on an actual historical event, with horror layered on top. This series is set in the Japanese American Internment camps - something George Takei had first-hand experience of as a child.
Speaking exclusively to BT TV, Takei, alongside the cast including Derek Mio, Kiki Sukezane, Naoko Mori and more, reveal what he brought to the show during filming for the historical horror series, spilling the Secrets from the Set...
The Terror: Infamy premieres October 7 on AMC in the UK – the drama channel exclusive to BT TV customers.
George Takei: From storyteller to cast member
Legendary actor George Takei was much more than just a cast member on the show - he was actually the reason the show was made, and his own childhood stories from the Japanese internment camps weaved themselves into the script. Takei also worked as a historical consultant - ensuring the script remained truthful to the reality of what he endured as a child in the camps.
The 82-year-old actor and activist, who many fans will recognise from his long-running role as Sulu in Star Trek, tells BT TV exclusively: “It’s been my mission in life, having been imprisoned unjustly [in an internment camp] as a child, to raise the awareness of this dark, shameful chapter of American history, so that we don’t repeat this again.”
Takei says he ‘embraced’ the opportunity to tell the story of the Japanese internment camp in a 10-part TV miniseries on AMC, albeit a historical TV show with an added layer of horror.
After coming on board as a consultant to ensure the authenticity of the stories from that era, Takei then signed on as a cast member too. He plays an elderly immigrant fisherman called Yamato-san.
Explaining how he came on board for the on-screen role, he explains to BT TV: “Well I came on as a consultant, but I’m a professional actor, I’ve been at it for over six decades now, and Alex Woo the showrunner and exec producer said ‘You’re an actor: if we’re going to have you on the set, we might as well get you in front of the camera’.
“So they created a part for me so that I could do my thing professionally [as an actor], as well as my civic duty to raise the awareness of this chapter of American history [as a consultant].”
Actor/comedian Derek Mio stars alongside Takei, below, as one of the show’s main characters, a budding photographer named Chester Nakayama.
George Takei and his family were thrown into a Japanese American internment camp during World War 2, as was my grandfather and his family. Working on a mainstream television show that tells this story has been a surreal experience. So grateful for this opportunity and trying to cherish every moment. Season 2 of The Terror coming soon to AMC!
Mio, 37, tells BT TV exclusively: “It’s pretty crazy to have learned that it’s because of George that this series even exists.
“Max Borenstein, who is the creator of the show, said that he had gone to speak to George speak at a university, and it was that night Max had the idea for the show, he jumped out of bed and scribbled it down on a piece of paper, and here we are telling the story on AMC with George Takei as a consultant and a character on the show.”
He adds: “It was so special to have George be a part of this project. It’s been his life’s mission to spread the message about the Japanese American internment.”
George reliving internment camp life to his co-stars on set
Alongside the spooky, supernatural tale of ghosts from Japanese folklore, The Terror tells the true story of Japanese American internment camps.
During World War II, shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the forced relocation and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent.
One of those incarcerated was a young George Takei, who at the age of five was forced to live in the converted horse stables of Santa Anita Park, California, before being sent to the Rohwer War Relocation Center internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas.
“We were American citizens. We were incarcerated by our American government in American internment camps here in the United States. The term 'Japanese internment camp' is both grammatically and factually incorrect”— Diana Erkiletian (@derkiletian) May 27, 2018
~George Takei pic.twitter.com/pwAYtvXCY6
The Terror: Infamy showrunner Alexander Woo - of True Blood and Manhattan fame - tells BT TV: “A lot of the stories from George’s childhood we’ve put in the show, so in that [sense] some of the storytelling is shaped by his personal experience.”
Takei’s co-star Kiki Sukezane, who portrays the restless ghost Yuko Tanabe in the show, says of working with George: “He taught me about what the camps were like back when he was little and I was really surprised and also it was good to learn what it was like from the real experience.”
Naoko Mori, who has appeared in Hollywood hits like Everest, but who many British fans will recognise as the Spice Girls’ pregnant best friend Nicola in the Spice World movie more than 20 years ago, recalls Takei telling many stories about his life in the camps on set.
Mori, 47, says: “Well first of all George is a wonderful storyteller anyway, and just spending time with George is always amazing.
“Having first-hand accounts from George has been one of the most valuable things on the show.
“I remember him telling me about being interned at the age of three or four, pledging allegiance to the United States with guns pointed [at him], surrounded by barbed wire.
“That’s devastating, that’s absolutely heartbreaking, and sends such ridiculous, mixed messages to a child, you know? Just things like that.”
George’s quest for authenticity: ‘The devil’s in the detail’
Having grown up in an internment camp, Takei takes the portrayal of the camps on the TV show incredibly seriously.
Naoko Mori tells us that Takei was “brilliant” and “wasn’t shy in saying ‘this isn’t right’” while Derek Mio agreed that Takei’s presence on set was “invaluable”.
Mio, who identifies as yonsei, or fourth-generation Japanese American, says that Takei pointed out many times when things were inaccurate.
He says: “There were instances where we would be on set in the internment camp, in the mess hall, and George pointed out some inaccuracies with the silverware or the plates, or the uniform for the cooks, and people made the changes accordingly. So to have that first hand account was so valuable.”
Showrunner Alexander Woo goes into more detail about that specific moment on set when Takei was particular about a certain set of props.
Woo tells us: “On the first day, we shot in the mess hall [where meals were served]. George noticed that the plates weren’t chipped enough. He said: ‘These are too nice, everything looks clean.’
“So we went back and chipped a whole bunch of the plates, so there were times when something wasn’t quite as he remembered, we would make those adjustments.”
Of that moment, Takei explains: “We had a stack of very sturdy plates, but they were brand new from the store. I didn’t remember them as being that polished. They had chips in them, some had hairline cracks, and dribbles from the sauce that was served on them, so we corrected that.”
Takei continues: “[Just] little details like the cooks had white restaurant worker caps on. We didn’t have those in the internment camps - we had men who got a piece of white cloth and made a headband out of it.
“So these little touches, the devil’s in the detail, so we tried to make it as authentic as possible, both in the preparation and on the set itself.”
Sci-fi fangirling: ‘It was pretty surreal having George on set’
With a film and TV career spanning 60 years, including that iconic Star Trek role and its hit movie sequels, not to mention becoming an influential and powerful voice for social justice, marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, Takei is something of a legend in Hollywood.
This didn’t go unnoticed by stars of the show, who admitted feeling rather star struck at times by his presence.
Naoko Mori, who plays photographer Chester's mother Asako Nakayama in the show, comes from a similar sci-fi background to George, having appeared in the British sci-fi series Torchwood.
“Obviously it’s George Takei, he’s a legend!" she admitted.
“Especially for me having done shows like Torchwood in the sci-fi community, just having the opportunity to be in the same room as Sir George - I call him Sir George - let alone work with him, having that sci-fi crossover, there’s a big part of me that was fangirling at the beginning completely.”
Speaking of the absolutely fabulous @GeorgeTakei ... here's a cheeky pic of us from @theterroramc 😊#DoctorWho / #Torchwood meets #StarTrek ...?? 🚀— Naoko Mori 森尚子 (@naoko_mori) June 6, 2019
Sir @GeorgeTakei : I love you more that pasta (and as much as rice) ❤️#theterror #theterrorinfamy #ザテラー pic.twitter.com/7wtSnSwT6B
Derek Mio was also taken aback by the fact he got to work with Takei. Mio himself has a personal history with the historical element of the show as both his grandfathers were Americans of Japanese descent living under oppression in World War II.
Mio says: “For me, being a Japanese American actor, and working with one of the most legendary actors, period, of Hollywood, it was pretty surreal.
“I couldn’t help, in our scenes with each other, I’d just go blank, or start laughing, as it was just ridiculous that I was in this position, and us having such a close personal tie to this storyline was pretty special.”
Kiki Sukezane, who you might recognise from TV series like Heroes Reborn and Westworld, adds: “I was really honoured to work with George because I knew of him, everybody knew him. He’s sooo funny and so cute on set!”
Takei didn’t seem fazed by the attention, telling us he made friends on set - despite the serious subject matter: “We’re actors, we’re not living the characters 24/7. In between shots, we’d chat with each other and share gossip. I made a lot of new friends!"
George’s ‘passion and energy’ for the project
Takei’s influence on set was undoubtedly more than just overseeing practical matters like props and scripts. Showrunner Alexander Woo says his presence was felt by everyone on the set.
He says: “As as a leader of the cast, he brought a passion and energy to the entire set that everyone fed off of. Really within a couple of weeks everyone felt like we were doing something really special.”
Of Takei’s influence over filming, Mio agrees that all the cast took his lead, treating the material with a certain level of respect, but also kept things light as he so often would on set.
Mio recalls: “It was very special. He would always remark how great this is that as an Asian American [actor], I’m playing a romantic lead, which we don’t see hardly ever on television or film, so it’s pretty ground-breaking in that sense too. But to have his support just meant everything.”
Showrunner Alexander Woo summarises: “It was a delightful set, everyone was very professional and felt very passionate about it.
“It was a very special set because we had not just George, but cast and background actors in fact, whose families were interned [in the camps].
“We did count in fact there were 138 immediate relatives of our cast and crew who were interned, so there were even background actors who felt that they were walking in the literal footsteps of their parents and grandparents.”
The Terror: Infamy premieres on AMC (BT channel number channel 332/381 HD) on Monday, October 7 at 9pm, exclusive to BT TV customers.
Images: AMC / Twitter / Naoko Mori / Miki Ishikawa