Cape Town - Is it a historical drama series with a frightening supernatural twist, or a horror drama anthology set in a real (but already horrific) historical era that you probably don’t know much about? Either way, The Terror: Infamy is guaranteed to get your attention.
In a very different take to the first season of The Terror, the new season takes place during World War II in America and focuses on the Japanese community living there.
When Pearl Harbor is attacked, Japanese American citizens find themselves a target of the US government and are forcibly interred in concentration camps.
However, in The Terror, this isn’t the worst of their worries – there is also a strange, malevolent spirit linked to Japanese myth and legend that seems to be preying on the community – with devastating consequences. One young man, Chester Nakayama, finds himself at the centre of it all.
Miki Ishikawa stars as Amy, one of Chester’s closest friends, who sees herself as more American than Japanese — she’s even dating a hakujin (white person). Amy’s patriotism is tested as the story progresses.
Miki started her career as a child actress, appearing in Nickelodeon’s show Zoey 101 as Vicky, and later going on to become a singer and performer, joining a group called the TSquad, who were signed to Disney.
She performed alongside Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers and went on to appear in a few movies, including Funny People. She’s also had regular guest appearances on drama 9-1-1 – but it is in The Terror: Infamy that she finds her biggest role yet.
It’s a much more serious, dramatic role for you. How do you feel about this?
It is a very trying and difficult role, and I had to pull from different experiences to parts I have played in the past. I found it extremely challenging, as some pretty horrific things happen to her. She is really driven to her limit.
Being of Japanese descent, how did the storyline impact you?
I am second generation – my family are all from Japan – so I could use my upbringing to draw on many of the feelings Amy might have had, although she is from a different generation. I had to try and put myself in her shoes and draw from the things that people have told me over the years.
Do you speak Japanese?
I speak fluent Japanese – so there were elements to this that helped me a lot in the role. Although my character doesn’t speak too much Japanese in the show, a lot of the first generation characters do, so it was important that I could understand the nuances around this.
In the series, there’s a lot about Japanese myth and superstition. Did you know much about this before?
Japanese are very spiritual and superstitious, so I was brought up like this. I didn’t have to learn too much about this aspect of the culture. It is very normal for me to hear ghost stories from my family members.
How would you describe your character?
Amy is quiet in the beginning, but she has a rebellious streak and wants to find her own way. At the same time, she respects and upholds the tradition of [her] parents. As she starts working, she develops her own opinions and with her new position has a duty and responsibility to make life easier for herself and her people. She realises she must fight against injustice and becomes a strong character.
Are you alike in any way?
I have a lot of similarities with her. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with everything she does, but I am also outspoken and have strong opinions and believe in speaking out against injustice.
Was it difficult to play her?
It was in many ways. In the journey, we see her go through; she endures a lot of things that are heart-wrenching. I prepared myself for it, but it was hard. I knew I had to find a way to get the strength – and no matter how difficult it was at times, it was still a wonderful experience.
What was the mood like on set?
The subject matter is very dark and heavy, but we just realised that we couldn’t let it affect us. The cast became like a family, all out there together, and we ended up having so much fun shooting. It was important every day to keep the morale up, so we made it as much fun as we possibly could.
Where was it mostly filmed?
We shot mostly in Canada, and Mother Nature came in and snowed a bit, which impacted shooting days. The rest of the filming took place in Oregon, so there were two locations which were, in fact, real, which made it fascinating to draw from what people would have been feeling in these places.
Do you have a favourite scene?
There were so many beautiful scenes. I particularly enjoyed the scene playing alongside C Thomas Howell [from Animal Kingdom]. He told a whole lot of stories onset and is a fantastic actor and person.
Are you a lover of horror?
I’m a huge fan of horror – I loved being able to see what goes on behind the scenes. You know that it is scary, but you can laugh about it on set. It was fantastic to see the make-up process. What I love is that that the series has a great way of infusing horror and the supernatural.
Why would you encourage people to watch it?
There really is something for everyone - family drama, friendship and love, a cross-over of interracial relationships, the supernatural, horror and history.
How do your family feel about it all?
Everyone is really excited for me and about the fact that this time in history is being focused on. A lot of people don’t know much about it and not a lot of it is taught in American schools. It will be great if more people become aware of what actually happened to the Japanese in America during World War II.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
The Terror: Infamy starts on Tuesday 13 August on Sundance TV (DStv 108) at 21:00