Note: This interview discusses details of Ghosts episodes 15 and 16, “The Christmas Spirit.”
CBS sitcom Ghosts is all about the supernatural. When it debuted in October 2021, we saw Samantha, better known as Sam (Rose McIver), have a near-death experience that results in her gaining the ability to see ghosts. She and husband Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) come to learn there are plenty of lingering spirits in the sprawling country estate Sam has inherited and have plans to turn into a bed and breakfast.
Now in season 2, the ghosts, Sam and Jay are a tight-knit menagerie, making the show more about family and connection than paranormal spookiness. Occasionally, this family expands when Jay’s sister, Bela (Punam Patel), comes to visit. In fact, she returns to the Woodstone Mansion for the holidays and brings along a platonic male friend. Despite their lacking romance, Sam is inspired by her favorite holiday romantic comedies and sets out on a mission to ignite a spark between them. However, the ghosts have their own plan for holiday romance that involves Bela.
The hour-long double episode aired on CBS on Dec. 15 and McIver unpacked it all with Los Angeles Confidential. Read more below about how “The Christmas Spirit” touches on McIver’s past roles, why Sam loves the holidays and the possibility of a musical episode.
“The Christmas Spirit” nods to your past work. What was it like to embody work again on a holiday-themed storyline?
What was interesting about this episode is I felt like I really got to nod to two of my previous projects that I'm so proud to have been a part of: A Christmas Prince trilogy and iZombie, as well. I was getting to play this Christmas-loving, poster child for A Christmas Prince fan girl. I was fortunate enough to be possessed by Thor in the episode, so I get to channel the character in iZombie. That was what I did on a pretty weekly basis was these impersonations of the people whose brains I had eaten. So the whole episode to me was actually funnily nostalgic, in a way. It was like dipping my toe into some of the things that I developed on other projects, which was really awesome.
Did you work with Devan Chandler, who plays Thor, on portraying his character’s voice and mannerisms?
It's always gonna be a bit of a co-write. I'm not able to embody him and have his physical presence or his specific voice. Devan was really generous about always acknowledging that this is Sam who is heavily impaired by Thor. It gave me a bit of freedom to not feel like I was just doing a carbon copy of somebody else's hard work that they do on the show. But Devan was really generous. He sat with me and we went over the mannerisms and just some fun ideas to play with. He helped me with accent things because Thor has such a specific accent. There were times where he'd be like, “Nope, you’re leaning too pirate.” I think in the final I definitely lean pretty pirate on it, but it was really wonderful. It was an honor to get to play somebody who I work with every day. On iZombie, I was playing characters that I never really got to meet. I would maybe be introduced to the actor who was like a cadaver on the morgue table at the start of the scene, but I would actually never really get to work with them. So it was really cool with Devan to be able to workshop this idea with a person that I was getting to play.
Why do you think a show set in a mansion full of ghosts is a ripe setting for a Christmas special— do you think it lends itself to the magic of the holidays?
I think with those Christmas movies, what often works in them is a cast of unlikely characters all sandwiched together. You bring in the extended relatives that maybe don't always think like mindedly. The idea of bringing together a whole lot of desperate people for a meaningful evening or weekend is just absolutely made for Ghosts, which is all of these people from across eras and centuries and cultures all stuck together in this place and figuring out how to live alongside each other and celebrate each other. And so I think people will really feel that sense that we actually get at Christmas time and it will translate onto screen.
Why do you think Sam loves the holidays and Christmas movies so much?
I think Sam definitely leans into the escapism of the holiday season and the fairytale. And when you watch these Christmas movies, you're often able to recreate this perfect sense of family or romance. Christmas is a painful time of year for a lot of people and I think particularly with her relationship with her mom and who knows what's happened with her dad—we haven't met him yet— but I think it's safe to say that Sam’s family life was not a cookie-cutter perfect childhood. And so I think for her to be able to imagine that it is and create the perfect circumstances she would have wished on herself as a child I think is a big part of why she gets so into Christmas.
Do you think Sam’s ability to lean into that romance has helped her with accepting and developing a relationship with ghosts?
Yeah, I think she's so eager to connect with somebody. She really really wants to belong and she wants to feel like a part of something bigger. And I think we see that in the Christmas movies and her wanting to influence Bela. When Jay’s sister comes to the house, she wants to influence her relationship with this possible suitor who she’s just bought along. She just wants to feel connected and, I think, intimate with the world around her. And I think that with the ghosts when she moved into this house, she inherited eight new family members that she didn't expect and was really grateful for that. It gave her a sense of belonging that she didn't really ever have.
In the end, do you think Sam considers a successful Christmas?
I think she does. I think it's a good reminder to Sam and to a lot of us who like to plan things and have these big ideas about how something is going to unfold that sometimes that unpredictability and the madness is part of what makes things even more special than you could have anticipated. And there is romance and there is joy and there is family, but it's just not in the sense you maybe would have written had she been submitting a Hallmark script herself.
Did you have any other highlights from filming “The Christmas Spirit?”
I love whatever Jay's sister is in town. I think Sam gets so excited. That's the family that she's been able to be a part of as an adult. And I also think one of the things people will really enjoy is the choir, the ghosts all singing. It's this incredible multi-part harmony that gives little flicks of what the cast on the show could be capable of doing if they would let us get our hands on a musical episode. So it's a little teaser in that direction I think.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Peter Yang