Them star Deborah Ayorinde revealed that she had to go to therapy after taking part in the Little Marvin-created and Lena Waithe-produced Amazon Prime series.
According to IndieWire, the actress who played the tragic Lucky Emory in the series told IndieWire she was ecstatic about getting the role, but afterwards, she realized the trauma her character endured began to affect her real life.
The need for therapy came from the controversial scene involving Lucky and her baby being brutalized by a racist white gang. Lucky is brutally raped while her baby is killed in a pillowcase. After the scene, Ayorinde said that the actors were able to go to their private corners to cry.
Ayorinde said a therapist was available on set for any actor experiencing any emotional difficulty. “She’d come to set…if anyone wanted to talk with her,” she said, adding that having a therapist was a great help to her. She also said she called the therapist at the end of the day for counseling and sought additional therapy outside of what she received on-set due to the nature of the scene.
“Your body doesn’t know whether you’re telilng the truth or acting,” she said. “Every bit of fear, the fight or flight, every bit that I imagined someone going through I actually felt…Lucky required a lot of experiences in me that I’d hidden, that I was so comfrotable leaving swept under the rug. She tore that rug up!…Speaking to my family, they will tell you I was not me during that process.”
Ayorinde said the set was also closed that day with director Janicza Bravo working intently with the actors to craft the scene and create a course of action. But despite the precautions taken to take care of the actors during such a violent scene, the scene itself has caused a firestorm for the series, prompting viewers to ask if seeing such trauma is necessary for audiences to understand the reality of racism in America. Many Black viewers, in particular, are concerned that putting Black characters through harm for entertainment does more harm than good, and only serves to turn lived experiences with racism into torture porn for white mainstream consumption.
With that said, Them was the second most-watched original series on streaming, with 60 percent of the show’s viewership being driven by Black audiences.
Also, Ayorinde endured a lot of emotional work beyond what she endured during filming to get into the role of Lucky. As she told Shadow And Act, she isolated herself from her family to get into Lucky’s mindset.
“I really wanted to immerse myself in the experience of being other, of being ‘them,’ and I couldn’t do that while constantly interacting with people who make me feel like I belong and loved because that’s not Lucky’s experience,” she said.