Stars of Montreal-shot ‘Ghosts’ talk about the hit series

Pop Goes The News – Eight of the stars of the hit CBS comedy series Ghosts were at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival last month for a spirited conversation.

Rose McIver (Samantha), Brandon Scott Jones (Isaac), Richie Moriarty (Pete), Sheila Carrasco (Flower), Danielle Pinnock (Alberta), Asher Grodman (Trevor) and Román Zaragoza (Sasappis) were joined by show runner Joe Port.

Based on the BBC series of the same name and shot in Montreal, Ghosts follows married couple Samantha (McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) as they open a bed & breakfast in a historic mansion in upstate New York. After a near-death experience, Sam discovers that she can see and communicate with the ghosts of people who died on the property over hundreds of years.

(It’s been hinted that Jay might also be able to communicate with the ghosts in Season 2 since he fell through the floor and hit his head in the Season 1 finale.)

There were 18 episodes in the inaugural season and production runs until December on 22 episodes for Season 2, which premieres Sept. 29 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS (and on Global in Canada).

Here are some highlights from the Ghosts panel at JFL:

Were the stars surprised by the success of the show?

Asher Grodman: “I think it surprised all of us but on the page it was so different than anything else and it was so joyful…

Rose McIvor: Except the UK version.

Asher Grodman: “…and I think we all, in making the pilot, had this idea that if we could just survive the pandemic … if this can just somehow get on the air, it could work.”

Danielle Pinnock: “The wildest thing is getting noticed on the street now. I’ll be out on the street looking like Harriet Tubman and … I went to the movies looking crazy last week and the man doing the popcorn was like ‘Ghosts! Alberta! Oh my god, we love the show so much!” and I’m literally looking like I’m on the underground railroad. I’m like, I’ve got to get dressed up now!”

The stars of the original UK series have been helpful.

Joe Port: “They were involved early on … They were incredibly helpful. They would read drafts and send us their thoughts. All their ideas were very helpful.”

Pete Moriarty: “They’ve also been personally very lovely to us. We are in touch with them all the time. They are huge supporters of ours and just been very lovely … They’ve been cheerleaders of ours since the beginning, which has been hugely helpful.”

Asher Grodman: “I got to discuss costume management with Simon Farnaby, which was a very special moment. He gave me some tips. We had a discussion about elastic straps.”

Producers knew they found Hetty when they saw Rebecca Wisocky.

Joe Port: “When we got your audition it was like, ‘That is it.’ It was like, one hundred percent that is Hetty. It can’t be anyone else. I can’t imagine anyone else playing that part.”

Román Zaragoza wanted to make sure Sasappis was not a stereotype.

“For so long native representation on TV and film has been so surface, very stereotypical, borderline offensive and my father, he’s a native actor (Gregory Zaragoza) and he’s been in the business for a long time and he’s played a lot of characters that are just there to die or there for a laugh – never really a three-dimensional person.

“I wanted to bring myself to this character and I wanted him to be the voice of reason, I love the idea of making him a storyteller, not like a warrior or these stereotypes that we’ve seen for years. 

“To have my father play my dad on the show was just amazing. We’ve never played father and son before. We’ve actually barely ever worked together because I wanted to stay away from his career, I wanted to go my own path. So to have us work together was just amazing.”

Alberta is nothing like Danielle Pinnock

“I’m a homebody, I love watching reality TV – Selling Sunset is my jam. If I could stay in my pyjamas all day, I would. And Alberta’s a murderer, you know what I mean? She loves to drink, she’s the life of the party, she’s the bestie that, you know, it’s like, ‘Sis we gotta go home it’s 3 am now’ and she wants to stay on ’til 6.

“So I love playing her and she just gives me such a confidence. And I love the fact that she may have a crush on Pete. It’s been such a blast playing this character and I’m excited for what’s to come for Season 2.”

Flower’s surname, Montero, is special to Sheila Carrasco

“[The writers] reached out about her last name, which they don’t have to do as writers, and I gave them a short list of possible last names that I thought would be kind of groovy to have for Flower and they happened to choose the last name of my abuela because we couldn’t use Carrasco. So it really means a lot to have that inclusion in the role.”

Producers are proud of being able to use the phrase “sucked off” on the show.

Joe Port: “We figured out that as long as you say ‘sucked off’ and it is a bow to a ghost ascending to heaven, you can use it. If it’s interpreted in any other way… It’s a wonderful joke that we hope… we want to bend it, not break it.

“There have been drafts where we go too far. When Hetty’s husband was sent down to Hell, Alberta says ‘Oh my god, he went down on us’ and we were very proud of ourselves. But in the first draft of that script there was a page of ‘going down’ jokes … and we were just sort of like, we’re breaking it, we’re not bending it. So we showed some self-restraint and we pulled back on that.”

Brandon Scott Jones loved Isaac’s coming out scene in the episode “Thorapy.”

“It’s something that you want to get right. That process of coming out is a very, very personal one and everybody has their own journey to get there and whatever it is that you do as an actor, you want to do it as authentically as you possibly can.

“John Blickstead and Trey Kollmer, they wrote this really lovely scene that really hit on something, which is this idea that when you come out it feels like everything that you had before is like a lie. That, to me, was my favourite line of that whole scene simply because it really heightens and underlines what Isaac’s been going through, which is 250 years of being in the closet. As somebody who spent 20 years in the closet, you feel like that’s a long time, and then to do it for two and a half centuries is wild. The world that you built for yourself feels fake and it was nice to be able to have a moment like that where you authentically got that character’s experience.”

If the ghosts can walk through walls, how can they sit on sofas?

Joe Port: “If a ghost did a handstand would they go through the floor? Can they lean on furniture?

“We want to be able to shoot this. They just have to be able to walk around and not fall through things. We do play with it. The ghosts often times ask questions that we don’t have answers for, like ‘Why do we sleep?’”

Rose McIvor: “Because the ghosts wouldn’t leave an indentation on any beds they sit on or anything, there’s big wooden planks that are put on things. We had a guest star go sit down on a sofa and nearly broke their tailbone. It’s like rock solid. It’s brutal. But the detail that does into that stuff is amazing.”

Why can’t Sasappis and Thorfinn go beyond the property lines if they died before there were property lines?

Joe Port: “So, the short answer is there’s a range. It’s not a registered-with-the county property line thing. It’s a range and we fudge it a little bit. Since they died where the house is so they have the same typical range as the rest of the ghosts.”

Asher Grodman loves that Trevor is, like him, Jewish.

“I’ve never been able to play a Jewish character. I remember growing up and secretly hoping maybe Batman is Jewish or Indiana Jones. And to be able to play this dude who is Jewish but his purpose of being there is not to be Jewish. He’s got all these other things that he’s doing and then every once in awhile some Yiddish gets mixed in. That’s so much fun and gave my parents a lot of pride, too.”

Rebecca Wisocky knows what’s it’s like to be in a haunted house.

“One of my first jobs coming out of college, I was the cleaning lady at a haunted museum. [New York City’s] Merchant’s House Museum – a museum that was built by a wealthy family in the early 1800s and it is preserved intact with the original furniture and artwork and some of the personal belongings of this Tredwell family that happened to live there.

“I would give tours sometimes but I mainly… I cleaned the toilets there! It was haunted by Gertrude Tredwell and I always kind of felt a presence but I never saw her but lots of people did.”

Pete’s arrow has gone through some subtle changes.

Richie Moriarty: “We were shooting a scene in Season 1 and Román made the choice in a moment that Sas is standing next to Pete to lean in and whisper something to me and the tip of my arrow caught his eyelid.”

Román Zaragoza: “It hit me right in the temple. After that they changed the tips.”

Richie Moriarty: “Here’s the crazy thing: The arrow started with a legit metal tip. It wasn’t super sharp but it was metal so it poked people. Midway through Season 1 they turned it into a styrofoam tip. It looks metal but it’s styrofoam so if it makes contact with someone it’s not going to blind them.

“Spoiler alert for Season 2… we shortened it by like a quarter-inch on each side because it was a little wider than my shoulders, which is just dangerous.”