Eiji Inoue, who plays Hideo Furuya on The Terror: Infamy, talks about the research he did for this role, Hideo’s memories of Yuko and what he’s most excited for viewers to see this season.
Q: How did you prepare for this role that is so deeply rooted in history?
A: I always respect the script, no matter what, because it’s the Bible for the actors. I got the scripts after Christmas, at the end of December, and I started making choices for my character, choices like why he’s an alcoholic and why he beats his wife, how much he loves his son — that’s my key for the character — and I made up my own story behind the character. Because Hideo lived in the 1940s, I also researched the culture. I needed to know about the people’s mentality of that period, like pop culture, songs, what kind of song is popular among the fishermen.
Then I did research about Terminal Island, the community, and the first generation and second generation Terminal Islanders invited me to their New Year’s party in January. Before I flew to Vancouver [to film], I joined the New Year’s party and spoke with them. Also, I knew Derek [Mio]; we worked on an independent film together five years ago. Me, Derek and Miki [Ishikawa] went to the L.A. Maritime Museum in San Pedro, to see an exhibit about Terminal Island. Derek [who had relatives from Terminal Island] said, that’s my auntie, that’s my uncle. It was so impressive. And I did that and I read documents and I watched the documentary that the Terminal Island community produced. And Japanese American internment camps — I played a character before, a kibei nisei character in a play, Our Hearts Were Touched With Fire, back in 2000 at the Japan America Theater, and they cast me to play a kibei chef. Kibei is a Japanese American born here but is sent to Japan to be educated. My character came back to the States at the age of 15 or 16, so his Japanese is perfect but his English has a little Japanese accent. That character I played before so I’m familiar with the history of Japanese American internment camps.
Q: Hideo lost his wife suddenly and his neighbor, Chester’s mom, suspects it’s evil spirits. Does he think she’s crazy?
A: Hideo starts sensing that everything that’s happening has to do with his past. At the same time, I think he believes in evil spirits. He doesn’t want to believe, but he accepts it. He’s the kind of guy who’s not the humble guy. He’s willing to dare the spirits. That’s his attitude, but, in his deep soul, he’s scared, but he doesn’t want to show it.
Q: Hideo attacks his own son in the mess hall. Is he losing it?
A: My interpretation is that Hideo was still struggling against Yuko‘s spirit inside of him, and then finally the spirit took over in the mess hall. That’s how I wanted to play it. But I was directed to play it so that I’m already haunted when I enter the mess hall, so I changed it. It was a very difficult scene. I got a standing ovation from hundreds of extras. I remember that was the second take from the last. They all stood up and applauded me. That’s something very nice and special. I really appreciated it.
After I came back from Vancouver, finally I started recovering, mentally and physically. I lost a lot of weight too. I didn’t realize how much damage I got through playing the character. I was surprised myself. In the funeral scene [in the first episode], I always asked Josef [Kubota Wladyka, the director], is that shot a close up or medium? For medium, I saved my energy, but close up I used a lot of tricks — imagining my real wife in the hospital and my daughter’s asking, “Dad, why she doesn’t move?” It brought up real emotions. Finally I was getting a headache. I think we got seven takes for the close ups, so every take I nailed it, but my temples hurt after that.
Q: Hideo reveals to Chester that it felt like someone was haunting him. What is going through his mind at this point?
A: Hideo wanted to warn Chester because [he likes] this guy. So I tried to warn him, but because it’s coming from Hideo, Chester has the kind of attitude where he forgets about it. He doesn’t want to accept the reality, that evil spirits are haunting us or chasing us.
Q: We learn that he’s met Yuko before, and he called her exquisite. He doesn’t remember her, does he?
A: He didn’t exactly remember he said that she was exquisite, but he remembers her. I played that Hideo remembers. In the final scene, when Yuko is on [top of] Hideo on the ground biting his tongue off, at that moment, Yuko said, you told me I was exquisite and then Hideo realizes. He remembers Yuko, but he doesn’t remember what he said to her. He didn’t remember Yuko at the beginning, but after everything started happening, he [became] blind and…saw her and she disappeared on the street and then gradually [he] remembers. Everything with her was so long ago and he wanted to forget the past. It’s a bad experience.
Q: He’s not the first in a series of bizarre deaths, but he does suffer the most. Do you think that speaks to something about Yuko?
A: Yes. That’s everything between Hideo and Yuko. Hideo is very special to Yuko, so that’s why I think he suffers the most.
Q: What are you most excited for people to see this season?
A: A lot of people didn’t know about Terminal Islanders and the Japanese American experience of World War II. Even Japanese Americans today didn’t know. They don’t know about the experience. They don’t know about the bravery of the Nisei [second generation] soldier, who fought in Europe and even Asia. So I’m excited to tell this as a human story — their extreme struggle, their bravery, hopes and dreams — to the global audience, especially because this is told from a Japanese American point of view.
Read an interview with Shingo Usami, who plays Henry Nakayama.
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