C. Thomas Howell, who plays Major Bowen on The Terror: Infamy, talks about why he took this role, his character’s feelings for Amy and how that played into Ken’s death.
Q: How did you prepare for this role that is so deeply rooted in history?
A: There was really not a lot of research as far as a historical perspective, but there was a ton of information online which I certainly took advantage of. George [Takei] also lived through it personally so listening to him was also helpful.
Q: Over the season, it’s been hard to tell whether Major Bowen is there to protect the prisoners or if he’s their enemy. How would you describe the nuances of this character?
A: Bowen is there to do a job and that job is to maintain order. It’s not easy running a camp filled with thousands of people. And it’s even tougher when you have people breaking the rules to suit themselves. Bowen is actually a good man. He’s a company man who spent his life in the army. He doesn’t tolerate insubordination or lying and stealing. Perhaps he crosses the line when he allows his feelings for his secretary to come into play. But that’s what I enjoyed playing — the struggle with his own conflicting feelings and choices when things become personal for him.
Q: Major Bowen experiences Yuko when she takes over his body. How does this experience change him and his perspective on those around him?
A: I would’ve enjoyed exploring that more, but, when Yuko possesses him, I think he goes into denial about it. His own fears put up a barrier and he doesn’t want to admit what really happened. I enjoyed the physicality of that scene.
Q: He tells Ken he made up all his talk about ghosts. Why does he go out of his way to lie?
A: He lies to Ken only when his own men step in within earshot. As a leader it’s important to keep things in line. Set an example and not let the inmates run the asylum so to speak.
Q: Major Bowen has Ken killed despite knowing he was just trying to help sick people. Why does he make this choice?
A: Killing Ken had nothing to do with him helping others. Ken kidnapped him, held him captive as well as breaking his arm. That, mixed with his feelings for Amy, left him no choice emotionally. So he took care of the existing issue, to set an example, but secretly his motive was to be with Amy who he had hoped to marry after the end of the internment.
Q: Amy sends a tape recording of Bowen to Washington. Is he surprised by her betrayal?
A: The betrayal from Amy breaks his heart. Though he was willing to forego her attempt to have him arrested, things don’t really turn out the way he had hoped.
Q: He’s toying with Amy and finally confronts her. This is the most evil we’ve seen him. Is the camp getting to him or has he always been this way?
A: When he confronts Amy, he gives her a chance to let go and commit to him. When she denies that, he loses it emotionally and, sadly, things get out of hand.
Q: What are you most excited for people to see this season?
A: I’m very proud of this piece. The way it’s shot is phenomenal. Our DP [director of photography] did a fantastic job as did all of the departments. It’s quality television mixed with great performances and solid writing. I love the mixture of the horror elements along with the historical meaning and exposure of what these people actually went through. Personally, I look for roles that contain broken people, who are capable of doing terrible things… then finding ways to inject humanity and hopefully understanding so people watching struggle with their own emotions when viewing the piece. Bowen gave me that opportunity and I’m very pleased with the outcome. I hope those who watch feel the same.
Read an interview with Miki Ishikawa, who plays Amy Yoshida.
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