Anika Noni Rose on ‘Them’: ‘I’m not scared of people’s anger’
The horror anthology from Little Marvin premieres April 9 on Amazon Prime
Amazon Studios is ready to release the first season of its anthology series THEM this weekend and theGrio caught up with Anika Noni Rose to get her take on the project created and executive produced by Little Marvin.
Intended to explore terror in America, the series is centered on a Black family who moves from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood during the period known as The Great Migration. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next-door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.
The 10-episode season stars Ashley Thomas (Henry) and Deborah Ayorinde (Lucky) as The Emorys, a loving couple excited to raise their two daughters far away from the Jim Crow South.
Anika Noni Rose plays Ella Mae, one of the only other Black faces in the predominately white area who has spent more time navigating the terrifying terrain of her surroundings than the Emorys have.
“I just knew that I wanted to do it and I wanted it to be a part of it, and I loved my character, Ella Mae. I loved what I was going to be able to explore within her. I was excited,” she says.
“I have gone through so much and been terrorized so deeply that I am a very fractured person by the time that she meets me. I liken it to a beautiful glass that has broken and you think you’ve got all the pieces and a week later you’ve got a piece of glass in your foot,” she explains.
She details what her character’s been through.
“She has been really splintered by all that has gone on around her and to her in that neighborhood and she’s holding on by a very thin thread. To be able to explore that when usually I think as Black women, we are exploring how strong we are and how how many things can be thrust upon us that we have to make it through. I think it’s important to acknowledge the vulnerability and the hurt that we’re unable to make it through as well. So I found that very interesting.”
Like the show’s creator, Little Marvin, the actress seems to be annoyed at the comparison the series is drawing to recent projects.
“I don’t think we’ve really seen anything like this. As much as we Get Out was an entryway and a welcome. It is not ‘Get Out.’ It is not ’Us.’ It is not ‘Lovecraft Country,’ so let’s just get that out of the way now before people start writing their articles.”
According to the actress, THEM gives an honest look at the atrocities Black folks faced at the time.
“It is its own thing and it is so true to the time period and the genre of the fifties and that sort of pulp genre,” she continues. “It’s also true to the truth of people’s journey, the Great Migration and thinking that they were escaping terror and horror and moving directly into a different side of it.”
While THEM includes its fair share of other-worldly entities and things that go bump in the night, the real terror is coming from the racists who do all they can to drive this Black family out of their picture-perfect community.
The relentless brutality we see inflicted on Black bodies in this particular project is jarring to say the least, and is sure to cause some backlash, particularly from those who are tired of seeing trauma like this onscreen.
“I am not scared of people’s anger and I think that there are a lot of people who should be angry, who are not. And there are a lot of people who are thriving off of anger, who have no right to,” she says.
“We saw that on January 6th, so I think that people need to feel something and I think that people; the fact that this is horror, it’s couched in horror, will make people want to watch more because it’s compelling. And I hope that in watching more and being compelled that they will realize that within this horror is terror. People are being terrorized every single day right now.”
It seems that the actress is hoping viewers connect the dots between what was happening during the Great Migration to the ongoing trauma we continue to face in the present.
“We don’t have to step back to the 1950s to see this kind of terror hoisted upon folks and we owe each other a different level of humanity. We owe each other the possibility of humane lives. We owe people the ability to just have their lives and live their lives without the fear that we experienced in this show, without the fear that we are experiencing on television, or just last night in the grocery store,” she says.
“We spent the summer watching George Floyd under a man’s knee. People deserve the space to live unaccosted by irrational hate and irrelevant entitlement. You deserve a place to live. So get angry.”
Check out the full interview above.
Them: Covenant premieres April 9 on Amazon Prime.
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