Scare tactics

Scare tactics

May 23, 2024


Deborah Ayorinde, the star of Prime Video anthology series Them: The Scare, introduces the series and dissects a key scene that leaves viewers unsure which side of the law her LAPD detective character is actually on.

In the first season of Prime Video’s “terror anthology” series Them, Deborah Ayorinde took the lead in a story that follows a black family moving from North Carolina to an all-white LA neighbourhood during the Great Migration of the 1950s.

As the plot develops, the family’s seemingly idyllic new home becomes a ground zero for negative forces, both next-door and otherworldly, that put them under threat.

Now the British actor is back for the second instalment in the series, Them: The Scare. This time she plays LAPD homicide detective Dawn Reeve, who is assigned to a new case: the gruesome murder of a foster home mother that has left even the most hardened detectives shaken.

Against a backdrop of turbulence in 1991 LA as the city teeters on the brink of chaos, Dawn is determined to stop the killer. But as she gets closer to the truth, something ominous and malevolent grips her and her family.

Created by Little Marvin, Them is produced by Sony Pictures Television and Amazon MGM Studios.

Here, Ayorinde tells DQ more about the show and her character, and picks out a key scene that leaves viewers in doubt as to whether Dawn might be the story’s hero or villain.

After a first season set in the 1950s, Deborah Ayorinde finds herself in 1991 for Them: The Scare

Introduce us to Them: The Scare.
The Scare is the second instalment in the Them universe and it centres on my character, Dawn Reeve, who is an LAPD detective and she takes this case no one else wants to touch. There is a killer on the loose. It’s 1991 and, being the badass that she is, she’s like, ‘You know what? I want to take it.’ But also she feels very drawn to this case. So as she begins to unravel the mystery of the case, she begins to unravel the mystery of herself as well.

What are the themes that link seasons one and two?
Them is always going to centre on family and love. This season is no different. We also explore the sometimes rather horrific experience of being ‘other,’ of being ‘them,’ in a very different way from the first instalment, but we still stay true to the roots of the show. People can really expect some bittersweet nostalgia with it being set in 1991. It’s not as far removed for a lot of people as the first instalment, which took place in the 50s. People can expect to enjoy that bittersweet nostalgia of a lot of the amazing fashion, hair and music that was going on at the time, but also some unfortunate things that were going on as well.

The British actor plays LAPD homicide detective Dawn Reeve

Tell us about a key scene that happens in the series.
There’s a scene in episode six when my character is taken into custody. She’s stripped of her badge, she’s stripped of everything and she’s questioned about all the murders she was tasked with solving.

The reason I picked that scene is, for me, that’s Dawn’s rock bottom. She’s lost everything at this point. The way I wanted to play it is not only that she’s being accused of doing these horrific things but also, in her mind, she’s like, ‘Did I?’ That plays into the fact we’re all the hero and the villain. All of us. I love those characters where they are not written as just one-note. ‘You’re the hero and the villain, actually. We have empathy for you in this moment but we’re also kind of scared of you as well.’

Being able to play that was so meaty for me. It was really beautiful to just be with her in that moment of her losing everything, trying to be the hero, trying to do the right thing, trying to save everyone and, at the end of the day, she needed saving herself. That was one of my favourite scenes.

How do viewers see Dawn in that moment?
The things she finds out about herself in those moments make the audience question her. Every time I watch my work, I watch it as a viewer, not just as someone in it. So when I watched it, I was pretty clear Dawn was not responsible for these things, but I wasn’t clear – and I feel like other people weren’t clear – about her level of participation. Are her hands really clean? Are they? Is it all in her mind? You have no idea. I think we’ll be on the edge of our seats in that moment, but then also having the knowledge we have, watching those scenes and being so frustrated, like, ‘Oh gosh, we see things you don’t see.’

Ayorinde says she gets ‘very scared’ watching the series, despite having acted in it

As an actor, what was it like preparing for and shooting that scene?
Our jobs as actors are quite invasive. We act out people’s most private moments, the moments they’re most ashamed about and embarrassed about. All those things, we do them on stage and on screen in front of however many people, and for me, that’s the fun of it. That’s the therapy of it.

I love that scene in particular because it was her rock-bottom moment, and I love playing characters’ rock-bottom moments. I take all the characters I play and I really hold them dear. I almost look at it like I’m supporting them through that moment. It helps me to understand them more. It was weirdly fun for me to play that scene and play around, and just be in that moment with Dawn. It was meaty – that’s the best way I can describe it. Every time I do scenes where there’s a lot of emotion, it’s not easy but, at the end, I feel so relieved. I think most people hold on to the things that we as actors are able to express. This scene was definitely an example of that for me.

With the rise of horror on the small screen, what it’s like to make a series you hope will scare viewers?
It’s so funny because, in real life, I’m a softie. So it actually works well for playing in a horror because you just play the actual fear you’re feeling. But the funny thing is, usually the people who play the worst, scariest people on screen are, in real life, the sweetest. From the first instalment to this one, the people playing these creepy, weird characters are the nicest people, so that actually makes it so much easier. But I think my biggest thing is I watch my work like a viewer so, when I watch it back, I find myself getting terrified and going on a journey just like anyone else. It’s just fun, and it’s a lot more fun than I think people on the outside would expect. I definitely still do get very scared.

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