JANUARY, 2020. YOUR FRIENDLY neighbourhood sci-fi magazine is in Burbank, California to visit the set of a new horror anthology series.
Set in the fall of 1953, Them (previously announced as Them: Covenant), is the story of the Emory family who move from North Carolina to the then all-white suburb of Compton in Los Angeles. The unrelenting horrors they’re subjected to by their new neighbours aren’t the only ones they endure – as supernatural forces within their home threaten to destroy them.
In the studios, the Them offices sprawl across the top floor – rooms full of folders, walls covered in photos of houses, sets and props. Office dog Finn is oblivious, chewing on a bone in the middle of the corridor.
“It has to have drool!” someone exclaims in the distance, and they’re not talking about Finn. The costume department whisk past, hands full of beautiful vintage women’s clothing – all covered in white paint…
While the commitment to the show is evident, it truly makes sense the moment we step into the office of writer and creator Little Marvin – also an executive producer, alongside others including Lena Waithe. There are framed Hitchcock posters, a Hitchcock action figure – still sealed, natch – plus retro-style lunchboxes for every horror film imaginable.
“It all comes from my lunchboxes!” Marvin laughs loudly. “Yes, I am a fan.” In fact, it all comes from the Master Of Horror himself.
“I grew up reading only Stephen King. It was all I read. I was a big nerd. So I was the kid in the library by myself, reading,” he laughs again. “I just loved disappearing into scary things. Once I was able to see scary movies, The Shining was the first thing I remember vividly going, ‘What is that?’ It just touched me in a place that I was like, ‘This is beyond’. And so I was hooked forever, a lifelong fan of horror.”
So how has that 12-year-old in the library eventually led us to Them?
“If you’re even paying peripheral attention to the political landscape and where we’re at, as a country,” he explains. “Certainly ideas of division and community and how we exclude – and how there’s a history of exclusion for some, and inclusion for others. All of those things were in my head. At the same time, just as a straight-up horror buff, I’ve always wanted to centre a family, a black family in particular, in the kinds of stories I’ve always loved. I love domestic horror, I love things that are family-driven and oriented and psychological and that the horrors maybe bubble up from that place.
“I’ve never just been a big fan of empty jump scares and just things that pop out. I mean, I love a good jump scare, but I tend to like things that roll and kind of feel unmooring and uncomfortable. Our show lives a bit more in that space. It kind of just told me what it wanted to be and I listened to it,” he adds.
What can you tell us about Lucky?
She’s a firecracker. She’s a fighter. She’s a free spirit. She’s a teacher, a mother. She was the backbone of her North Carolina Community. She’s one of those people who have a light about her, and after the terrible tragedy happens in North Carolina, that light is threatened to say the least. You just see her show up and fight every single day, and just show up and show up and show up. I’m so passionate about her because she reminds me of so many women in my life who show up every single day, no matter what they’ve been through, no matter what they’re going through. They show up and they fight. That’s Lucky, for me.
Was there anything in particular that really freaked you out?
Oh yes, but I don’t even think I can say… When people see it they will know what I’m talking about, but I think on this show I experienced doing the hardest scene I’ve ever had to do to date. I can’t say what it is, but they could probably guess when they see what it is and it was literally the hardest to date that I’ve ever had to do. And funnily enough, after I did it I felt very empowered. I felt like I accomplished something, and not much scares me now.
What was it about the script that made you want to be in Them?
When I read it, and I’m not exaggerating, it is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that I have ever read. It’s literally written like poetry. And it wasn’t hard for me to understand. It was tragic, it was beautiful. That’s the best way I can describe it. And even though it’s a period piece, I didn’t feel disconnected from it, I felt like I just understood it right away. Also what attracted me to it is that it scared me. I feel like whenever I take on roles that scare me, I discover that I’m way more capable than I previously thought I was and so this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I really hope that it sparks a lot of conversation. I think a lot of people are going to watch it and feel seen.
Would you like to do more in the horror genre?
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