When CBS's newest single-camera comedy Ghosts premieres Thursday night, the sitcom headlined by Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar will open the door to some very "meaningful conversations" thanks to the cleverly written series' take on American culture. The Joe Port- and Joe Wiseman-created show adapted from the BBC Studios series of the same name follows a struggling young couple whose dreams finally come to fruition when they inherit a beautiful country home. However, as luck would have it, the home is also haunted and inhabited by many of the estate's deceased residents spanning multiple generations — some even before the U.S. was a country.
With the show's refreshing comedy balancing apt social commentary through its characters — both living and dead, McIver tells PopCulture.com exclusively ahead of the Thursday night premiere that Ghosts most skilfully acts as a smart and funny springboard for such conscious conversations. "When you gather 10 different actors together, you're just going to find different dynamics between those performers," she said. "As the train starts leaving the station, writers and the actors all start picking up from each other what's working, what's not — all sorts of original ideas start popping up as you go."
While she admits that some of the characters are obviously "direct comparisons" of their BBC counterparts, there is a smart "re-imagining" taking place that most cleverly sets the show apart as its own within the context of American culture. One such model she shares is with the character of Sasappis, played by Native actor Román Zaragoza. "[His character is] an original custodian of the land and that could only apply here in America. There's a lot of opportunities through flashback and through conversations between these different perspectives to actually have some quite meaningful conversations," McIver said. "That's stuff we're really excited [about]. We've already begun exploring it and I feel like it's a journey that could just get more and more interesting as the series progresses."
In addition to being charmed by the large ensemble as a reason for her attraction to the series, the New Zealand-born actress tells PopCulture she's really just smitten by the "family dynamic" behind Ghosts. "I hadn't worked on something that was quite so large in its scope in how many characters it services — I thought that was interesting," she said. "I love the fact that it's really a very big unlikely family kind of comedy."
Sharing how the writing from Port and Wiseman had just "lept off the page" for her, McIver says it's all very "funny and brilliant" to see come together. "Once the cast started being assembled, I just got more and excited about everybody involved and I think I'm surrounded by people with very, very experienced backgrounds in comedy, and it's been great to bounce off all of these people and hopefully bring something quite distinct to life," she said, further crediting Australian director Trent O'Donnell for crafting a superb pilot and many of the show's episodes.
Boasting a cast of actors who are most proficient in comedy from television and to the stage, McIver can most certainly also hold her own with comedy chops and timing reminiscent of Lucille Ball. "It was definitely a good reminder of being around these people and people with a lot of technical training, it gets you match set again," she said humbly. "It's like piano or something where you practice it, and you practice the rhythms and you get back into listening to it again and trying to hit in those exact moments. It becomes a science. So, it's great to be surrounded by people who are really hardworking and dedicated and professional about it, even though they have a good time while they're doing it."
McIver, who is a big fan of the BBC version, shares that while she didn't watch the whole thing because she "didn't want to get too carried away with trying to do some impersonation," it was important for her to "get lost and try to create this story" for herself and the cast to reimagine it as an American history piece through the lens of humor. "I only watched the first few, but I'm a huge fan," she gushed while revealing her admiration for Charlotte Ritchie — the actress playing her British counterpart along with the other cast members, many of whom are also the BBC series' creators and serve now as the executive producers on CBS's version. "All of the creators and the people who've originated the series, we are mega fans of theirs and we're really grateful that they've let us be part of the family and been so supportive on this journey."
As the show impeccably ties a message of inclusivity into its narrative, McIver is most thrilled for audiences to finally getting the chance to dig in with the spirits. After all, the show is all about "accommodation" for the 32-year-old. "It's about understanding each other and being willing to tolerate people who think differently from you. This is a group of people who have such a collection of vastly different life experiences. You may or may not agree with what lots of people think, but there's certainly something to be learned from everybody," she said, further drawing equivalences to everyone staying in close quarters for the last year and a half. "We have all been stuck in such close quarters with people, it's a nice way to parallel that and think about what we can and can't take away from what's been so challenging about being holed up with people that you love, but you might find quite a lot."
With the hope that people are "able to see some of their own experiences reflected" in the show as a sort of escapism, McIver knows we all have "a lot going on" in our lives at the moment but hopes Ghosts can lift our spirits, so to speak. "At the end of the day, to be able to put something on television that makes you laugh and reflect without having a morose tone to it, I think will be hopefully a really good time for the audience," she said. "It's amazing what you can communicate when it's made palatable through jokes and when it's wrapped in something that's a bit sweeter to the taste. Hopefully, we're able to reach a few people and make a few people laugh."
Ghosts premieres Thursday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. ET with a one-hour premiere featuring two back-to-back episodes on CBS and available to stream on Paramount+. Those interested in seeing all Paramount+ has to offer can click here for a free streaming offer. Disclosure: PopCulture.com is owned by ViacomCBS Streaming, a division of ViacomCBS.