Ghosts showrunners on their surprise hit, Season 2 plans, and dream guest stars
Joe Port and Joe Wiseman turned a plucky sci-fi-y British sitcom into one of the biggest new comedies of the year. Now they're prepping more.
Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, the showrunners of CBS’ comedy Ghosts, are blown away by the fan response the show has elicited. The series, starring Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar as a young couple who move into a haunted mansion, began as an import of a British sitcom of the same name. But it quickly became the feel-good show of the year with a season full of nostalgia, healing, grief, and pantslessness.
Now, with a renewal under their belts, the Joes are dreaming big for Season 2, including possibly reaching out to some fans for a cameo. “Mark Hamill emerged a couple months ago on Twitter as a superfan and everyone was just blown away and so flattered,” co-creator Joe Wiseman tells Inverse. “The immediate reaction is ‘We gotta get him on the show.’ We've made it clear that the second he wants to do it and is available we will happily have him.”
Ghosts Season 1 was full of enough spectral characters to generate plenty of star power on its own, from the haughty matriarch Hetty to the half-naked Wall Street magnate Trevor. Port and Wiseman sat down with Inverse to discuss the inspiration behind their characters, the love stories, and the historical ghosts they’d love to include in the future.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Inverse: What’s it been like to see the reaction to Ghosts?
Joe Wiseman: It's reaching a wide swath of people, and I'm just so grateful. We all work so hard: All the writers, the crew, the cast, everyone at the network, at the studio. Shows don't always come together. Even when they do, they don't always find an audience. So I’m just so happy that people are finding it and enjoying it.
It's the end of your first season, and you have basically as many episodes as the British version did after three seasons. Is that daunting? Do you feel like you're going to run out of steam?
Joe Port: It is daunting doing 22 episodes in a year, but I think the show is built for it. There are so many places to go and in any direction we look, there's a talented actor. We're very fortunate with all the people that we have to write for. It's got a lot of good dynamics and we also have a lot of help.
We want to do a show that is about all these diverse points of view, and our writing staff reflects that. We have a lot of fun coming up with ideas and I think it's daunting, but very doable.
What can you tell us about Season Two?
Wiseman: We just started brainstorming stories a couple weeks ago. One of the things that we love doing is delving deeper into the backstory of all the ghosts, and there's a lot of unanswered questions out there. I’m not guaranteeing we’ll answer them in Season 2, but I think we probably will answer a handful of them.
Like, how did Hetty die? How did Sassapis die? We don't know Pete's power. We don't know Hetty's power. There's also Alberta's murder mystery, that's something we teased out and something we want to keep following and see where it leads.
Port: The end of Season 1 is building towards the opening of the B&B. So we're gonna have the challenges of this young couple running a business together finally, and also the opportunity to have a lot of fun guest stars without working so hard to come up with reasons why they're hanging out at Woodstone mansion.
I think it's a struggling business, so there's going to be a lot of times when there's no guests and they'll have to resort to other money making methods and host other events. So I think there'll definitely be a lot of guests, but there'll be a lot of stories just revolving around our couple and the ghosts.
Are there any historical figures you’d like to include as a ghost?
Wiseman: Isaac, our revolutionary war character, has a one way rivalry with Hamilton. We do a lot of flashbacks. It could be fun to go back and see him and Hamilton and find out what their relationship really was like.
Port: Maybe Sam could go the the site of the famous duel and Hamilton is there as a ghost!
Wiseman: I wanna see Ben Franklin. I’m a big Ben Franklin fan, he’s my most impressive historical figure.
What was your high point of the production?
Wiseman: Creatively, the cast we put together is just incredible. You never know if it's gonna work. You can be certain that each individual person is amazing, but you never know how it's going to come together. Just watching them very quickly gel and build off each other and have fun with each other was very satisfying. I think we've created a very fun and loving family.
Port: My aunt, who lives in my hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania, is helping out in a charitable way with Baker Mansion, this Gilded Age mansion that was two blocks from where I grew up. We crib the names Hetty and her husband Elias from the Bakers.
I went to visit Baker Mansion during a break, and the people in the gift shop were telling me that they're seeing out-of-state visitors for the first time in their history due to the show. That was a highlight for me, that it's somehow reaching back to my hometown.
How did you decide on the romantic pairings within the ghosts?
Wiseman: Well, part of it is a little bit of experimentation. It's sort of like, “Let's do a scene with two people and see how it goes.’”
Port: A Viking and a hippie just seemed funny to us because they’re so diametrically opposed in terms of their philosophy about violence, but they have a lot of things in common too. Thor was very into orgies and Flower’s very into polyamory. We just try to think of things that would be funny or interesting. I really like the thing we all came up with for the Revolutionary War ghost Isaac, who is dating Nigel. I thought it was really funny that that he had also killed him. That's a very interesting place to start a relationship.
Are there any guest stars that you'd love to incorporate?
Port: Utkarsh is lobbying hard for Jean-Claude Van Damme. I get about three texts a week from him asking for Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Ghosts Season 2 will debut in Fall 2022.