The first season of Amazon’s horror anthology “Them” pulled no punches, featuring a number of scenes so brutal that even the actors struggled to shake them afterward. Episode five in particular drew a strong reaction from viewers with its violent flashback scene revealing the past trauma that haunted the central family.
“I don’t think there was any amount of preparing myself that I could have done to play this scene, to be honest with you,” star Deborah Ayorinde said during a panel for TheWrap’s Screening Series, which also included series creator Little Marvin and co-star Ashley Thomas. “Because your body doesn’t know when you’re acting and when you’re not. And for me, I felt every bit of what someone who was actually going through that would feel — what I imagined they would feel.”
“I remember shooting that scene, and in between every single take, some of the other actors who were in that scene would go to one room and break down, and I would go to one room and break down. And literally, that would be our thing,” she added.
Led by Ayorinde and Thomas and created by Little Marvin, the 10-episode “Them” tells the story of a Black family in the 1950s who moves to an all-white neighborhood in Los Angeles and is haunted by both supernatural and real-world threats. Episode five, titled “Covenant I,” reveals the reason for their relocation, including a graphic depiction of gang rape and infanticide.
Little Marvin said the scene “came full bore from a nightmare.” He wrote the idea down and tried to “resist” it for several days afterward, to no avail.
“Over the course of the next 48 hours, it kept haunting me,” he said. “It was making me feel some kind of way inside, thoroughly and emotionally and physically. As an artist, I feel like it’s our responsibility, our duty to explore the things that terrify us.”
“I felt like I was in that scene,” Thomas said, recalling the fraught day of filming. “Because it’s such a big part of the piece, and I made sure that I came to visit Deborah that day on the set and be with her in those moments. Because I think we were a family for real on this show.”
The season — and that scene in particular — was met with criticism from some viewers who accused the show of gratuitousness in its depiction of violence against Black characters. But the creator and stars said they didn’t pay the criticism much mind.
“At the end of the day, if you can sit in the truth of something and in the authenticity of something, you have to be prepared,” Marvin said. “We knew going in, that was going to be a scene that was going to cause people to have reaction.”
“My biggest objective was to make sure that it was true that anyone who had actually gone through that would be like, yep, I believe her. And maybe someone would actually believe them,” Ayorinde said. “To be honest, I already knew that people would feel something, but that is where I feel like I’ve done my job, if you watch it and you feel something — no matter what you feel.”