The Terror: Infamy's Lee Shorten on his character Walt being a 'moral center' and his Captain America-like charm
Shorten discusses his very logical character whose drive is run by honor and the need to protect his family - something that is a sharp contrast with the protagonist, Chester's.
AMC's anthology horror 'The Terror' is on its second season 'Infamy', which encapsulates a shameful but surprisingly under swept past of the American history: Japanese internment camps during the Second World War. With hundreds of Japanese-Americans being lodged, inspected, and unfairly judged in the lands of America as the nation waged war against Japan, the horrors were shocking and disgraceful. But what we also see are the needs for family ties coming together and honor reigning over everything something that Lee Shorten's character Walt Yoshida is brimming with.
In an exclusive interview with MEA Worldwide (MEAWW), Shorten opened up about his very moral character who lives by a code of honor and the need to protect his family, something that is in sharp contrast with the protagonist Chester's (Derek Mio) rampant and unabashed pursuits to make a life out of the community. "I’ve always viewed Walt as the moral center of the Terminal Island community," tells Shorten about his character, who watches his own father die in his arms as suspicion pointed to his close friend, Chester. "After losing Wilson, Walt decides to do whatever it takes to protect his family and his community."
Making these choices to stick by his family and the regressive torture they are put through, while your close mate is out trying to live his dream is hard, but Shorten assures that never for once does Walt's conviction waver. "Unlike Chester and the older members of the community, Walt doesn’t believe in ghosts. So unlike his mom, I don’t think he holds Chester accountable per se. Walt’s issue with his best friend is more about Chester refusing to engage with the realities of racism and oppression. Chester doesn’t really grow up or take responsibility for his own actions, he’s always running away, being selfish, making short-sighted decisions. So if anything, I think Walt is disappointed in Chester and his perceived failure to mature."
Quipping about how the two characters complement each other, Shorten says: "When I look at Chester and Walt, one is the melody, one is the harmony. Ultimately, The Terror: Infamy is Chester’s story, so you want to build a character who can challenge Chester and his world view. Chester is kind of petulant and introspective, he’s a bit of a man child. Walt is like the older, wiser brother. I always joke that Chester is Hawkeye, Walt is Cap and Ken Uehara is Ironman."
But superhero references aside, what also helped Shorten adapt himself to the role of Walt was the "different understanding of identity and that weird disconnect in the way you view yourself and the way the world views you," as he is half-Japanese, but also adopted. "A big theme of this season is the concept of being American and what that means," and Shorten's journey in real life is what helped him mold his character on the reel.
When not playing intense characters on horror shows, Shorten also loves indulging in the genre as a viewer - something that played a big role in him being so drawn to the Japanese horror. And even though he is writing a horror feature and directing a couple of horror shorts by the end of the year, he labels 'Infamy' as a showcase of "an important part of history that I think merits further exploration. Just the honor of being a part of a project of this nature and scale, the first time the Internment story has been told like this. Plus it was a predominately Asian cast, prestige drama with elements of J horror and on AMC? What’s not to love?!"
From requesting the writer for a 'list of things they had been reading' pertaining to the show's essence, to 'searching the web/ YouTube for interviews, documentaries, photos, anything and everything that would help me develop a deeper understanding of the period and the circumstances', Shorten has left no stone unturned when it comes to doing 'justice to the material and to the history.' Basking in the glory of his latest works 'Freaks' and 'Noelle' hitting the screen, Shorten is also gearing up for the festival run of his short film 'Parabola' which also stars his 'Infamy' co-stars Mayumi Yoshida, Hiro Kanagawa, and Peter Shinkoda.
'The Terror: Infamy' airs on Mondays at 9pm, only on AMC.