In ‘Them,’ a Black Family Is Haunted by Real-Life Monstersavril 8, 2021
Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television, which co-produced the series, agreed, and Amazon signed an overall deal in 2019 with Little Marvin, which included greenlighting the first two seasons of “Them,” an anthology series. (The focus of Season 2 has not been announced.)
The world was, in many respects, very different when Little Marvin and I met in January 2020, but the main topic of that conversation — the racial history of Southern California — is, if anything, only more timely now. At an outdoor cafe in Silver Lake, he talked about Black homes that were torched in the postwar era, about the racial epithet posted on Nat King Cole’s lawn. He discussed the importance of using unorthodox instruments, like genre horror, to make a tale about race resonate.
“Sometimes these stories tend to be trapped in amber,” he said. More conventional segregation-era stories were often “very staid,” he added, “and you don’t get a sense of what it would mean to actually feel the impact.” Horror, he hoped, would help crack open that amber.
Weeks later, the coronavirus halted filming on “Them,” just one and a half episodes shy of completion. Still, there was plenty to edit, and Little Marvin got to work. Then in May, George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, sparking global outrage after video emerged of a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.
Floyd’s killing, and the others since, and the protests that raged through the summer didn’t change anything about Little Marvin’s approach to the material as his team completed production, he said in a video call last month. There were essential truths underpinning last summer’s events that he had been living with his whole life. “But it absolutely validated the need for it,” he said about completing the series.
“I started writing it summers back, and during a time where every morning I was waking up and grabbing my phone and seeing Black folks terrorized by the police,” he said. “So the fact that we would find ourselves in this place years later, to me, it just says that the journey was valid, and that what we’re exploring is necessary.”