Showcasing an immense amount of heart and wit blended with meaningful discussions and the moral complexities faced in the afterlife, smash hit sitcom Ghosts has done plenty of things right since its debut on CBS last October. The Joe Port and Joe Wiseman-created series has managed to be a strong leader on primetime television in breaking boundaries of representation with an ensemble cast that proves everyone deserves to see themselves in the shows they watch. From a South Asian lead in Utkarsh Ambudkar to an Indigenous spirit in Román Zaragoza, Ghosts is helping to move representation on TV in the right direction with its cast and writing, and series star Asher Grodman is undoubtedly honored.
While in conversation with Canadian film and TV critic Richard Crouse during Montreal's Just for Laughs ComedyPro panel this past summer as part of the world-famous event's 40th-anniversary festival, Grodman opened up about playing the Jewish character, Trevor Lefkowitz, and how it became a moment of tremendous pride for his parents. "I've never been able to play a Jewish character. I remember growing up and secretly hoping maybe Batman is Jewish or Indiana Jones," Grodman told Crouse and eventgoers on July 30 in Montreal. "[But] 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 a while some Yiddish gets mixed in. That's so much fun and gave my parents a lot of pride, too."
With TV shaping how we understand the world, each other and our place in it through its narratives and characterizations, a study from Elon University notes that while Jews only represent 2% of Americans, they are still widely shown in modern television but not without their own set of issues. These characters are often inaccurately represented with outdated and unrealistic stereotypes and tropes that affect public perception and continue to rear its head with negative depictions. Moreover, these types of characterizations continue to enforce a kind of otherness when in relation to a dominant culture, further excluding them from a more well-rounded portrayal while crossing into insensitivity and mistreatment.
But as the show works toward a more positive narrative for Trevor and other characters like Sasappis, Alberta, Flower, Isaac and Jay, Grodman, who was bullied growing up for being Jewish, told CBS News affiliate CBS8 how getting to play his '90s Wall Street bro ghost is a humbling honor and one he doesn't take for granted. "I can't tell you how much of a thrill it is to be Jewish and be able to play someone who's Jewish where it's not falling into a stereotype," he said, adding how there were "no role models" on television or in film for him to look up to as a child.
Echoing similar sentiments to TellTaleTV, Grodman admits that while being Jewish is not a big part of Trevor, it does add another layer to his depth and personality. "Usually, there's a Jewish character in a project, and their Judaism is what defines them, right? You're in a world where everyone's Jewish. So for me, like... I feel so lucky that I get to play this character who I identify with from a cultural standpoint, but also is more than just that culture."
Grodman, whose Jewish heritage is of great importance to him, wrote, produced, directed and starred in the multi-award-winning short film The Train in 2015 alongside the late, great Eli Wallach. The film, chronicling the meeting between a Holocaust survivor and a preoccupied young man who learns about how a single moment can yield an entire life, was inspired by a true story Grodman's father told him about Holocaust survivor, Andre Mencz. With Wallach starring as Mencz, Grodman stated at a panel for the Sedona International Film Festival that the legendary actor being a part of his directorial debut was the "greatest gift" he could ever dream of. "[It] has been a highlight of my time as an actor and filmmaker," he said.
With more projects no doubt coming up for Grodman including starring in the film Out of Order! later this year, the New Jersey native will return alongside his Ghosts co-stars — Rose McIver, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Rebecca Wisocky, Román Zaragoza, Sheila Carrasco, Devan Chandler Long, Danielle Pinnock, Richie Moriarty and Brandon Scott Jones — this month for Season 2 of the smash hit sitcom, premiering Sept. 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+.