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The Terror: Infamy's George Takei on Family Separation: 'We've Reached a New, Grotesque Low'

The Japanese American internment survivor draws parallels between past and present

Liam Mathews

The Terror: Infamystars George Takei and Derek Mio, showrunner Alexander Woo, costume designer JR Hawbaker, and cinematographer John Conroy took the stage during AMC's portion of the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Thursday to preview what's to come in the horror drama.

This season of the anthology series tells the story of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II through the prism of a ghost story. It's a piece of American history that is under-remembered, and the people making the show take the responsibility of getting the historical details correct very seriously. Part of the process was checking details against Takei's memory, because he was interned when he was a child, and he remembers a lot.

"I was 5 years old when I was imprisoned, and 8-and-a-half when I came out, and the thing that impressed most about [the production] were the details," said Takei, who's also a consulting producer on the series. "When I saw the replica of the internment camp they built in Vancouver, British Columbia, I immediately recognized it. But I recognized it from the standpoint of a 5-year-old kid." His family adopted a stray dog they called Blackie, and when Blackie had been bad he would hide in the crawlspace under the barracks, and when he saw those crawlspaces, or when he heard the cacophony of the mess hall, it took him back to his childhood.

The Terror: Infamy Review: The Real Horror of History Is Scarier Than the Ghosts

Woo remembered that the first day they shot in the mess hall, Takei pointed out that the dishes in the mess hall weren't chipped enough, so the production team went and damaged them to make them more authentic.

"There were wonderful, brand new plates in there," Takei said. "And what I remembered were chipped, cracked, some of the plates leaked, so we corrected that."

Takei sees an obvious parallel between what happened to him and his community and what's happening in America right now, and the internment that's happening now is in some ways worse. "What we have is this endless cycle of repetition of this kind of horror and injustice being inflicted on minority people, and we see it again today on our southern borders," he said. "We've reached a new, grotesque low. We were together with our parents. Our families were intact. But what we see today is this incredible inhumanity of children being torn away from their families, and some being scattered to the far reaches from where they were torn away." He invoked the horrifying story of the 4-month-old baby who was separated from his family.

"I hope this show, The Terror: Infamy, will remind people that it is still existing today. It is our hope that enough people, enough Americans seeing this will try to keep this sort of thing from recurring in the future of this country to make it a better, truer democracy."

Showrunner Woo, who previously told TV Guide that the show will not "draw the line that hard" between Japanese American internment and the Trump administration's border camps, added that the story is an immigrant story about people being in an unfamiliar and frightening new place that will be relevant any time.

The Terror: Infamy premieres Monday, Aug. 12 at 9/8c on AMC.

George Takei, The Terror: Infamy

George Takei, The Terror: Infamy

Ed Araquel/AMC