WATCH MAGAZINE_October 2021_Nate Burleson

GHOSTS | FOCUS

Ambudkar: I watched maybe five minutes of the original and was laughing and found it super fresh and charming. That was enough for me to want to join the Ghosts family and then, yeah, do our own thing. What excites you most about the CBS version? Ambudkar: I love that it’s funny without being mean. In that way it’s got touches of The Good Place , which is so well written and also charming. It’s also a family comedy like Modern Family , where you have this very diverse cast exploring their stories together. McIver: It’s topical, too. On the back of this insane year, we’ve all learned we have to tolerate other

We were just people playing people playing ghosts. McIver: Your character’s not a ghost. Have you not read the script? Ambudkar: Allowme to rephrase: We’re people playing people play- ing with people playing ghosts. McIver: Ah, spoken like a true freestyle rapper. Ambudkar: I’m paid by the word, just so you know. That line will cost you $6.

Let’s talk about the ghosts of your past, Rose. How did playing Tinker Bell on Once Upon a Time prepare you for this role? McIver: Tinker Bell readied me appropriately for wearing a har-

ness for all the flying sequences, which prepped me for the inevitable stunts we will be discovering in Ghosts . No spoilers for those who haven’t seen the pilot, but you might be in for a bit of a treat there if you’re a fan of my aerial work. The ghosts on the show are consigned to eternity in the outfits they were wearing when they met their demise. Is that a sticky subject around the set? Ambudkar: They actually do change their clothes in the time travel episodes. McIver: Utkarsh, we talked about this. No spoilers! Ambudkar: I mean, when the aliens come … and, uh, Brad Pitt makes an awesome cameo.

people’s living habits and how we need to cooperate to cohabitate. To explore that with humor might actually help us laugh a little at what we’ve all just expe- rienced in quarantine. Ambudkar: I also appreciate that I get to play a lead role where the ethnicity of the character doesn’t really matter. It’s so great to see that happening more. For me that slowly began with [the 2019 comedy film] Brittany Runs a Marathon . But to have this situation on TV every week, it feels really fortunate and meaningful. Did you two know each other before Ghosts ? McIver: This is one of my favorite stories to tell. Utkarsh’s wife [costumer Naomi Campbell, no relation to the supermodel] and I are good friends. She’s a fellow Kiwi and we worked together in New Zealand. Right after I was cast for Ghosts , I was invited to go to their baby shower, and I was like, “Hey, I know who that guy is! He’s that rapper—UTK the INC—who rapped at the Oscars. He’s awesome.” [The Acad-

“I love that Ghosts is funny without being mean. I also appreciate that I get to play a lead role where the ethnicity of the character doesn’t really matter. It’s so great to see that happening more.” –Utkarsh Ambudkar

McIver: Is that public yet? Ambudkar: It is now, Rose.

McIver: Honestly, I can’t wait for cosplay fans to start dressing like these charac- ters, although I don’t know who’d want to get stuck dressing as boring old Sam and Jay, right Utkarsh?

Ambudkar: Speak for yourself! I’d like to think there are plenty of young South Asian men out there who would kill to play Jay during Comic Con. Rockin’ the flannel and khaki pants. Who wouldn’t want to dress up as us? Last question: If you could be visited by any ghost from Hollywood’s past, who would that ghost be and why? McIver: I’ll go with a great old school writer-director—Billy Wilder. I just think he’d have an incredible intellect, and I imagine he’d be a masterful storyteller. I absolutely love his films. Ambudkar: I’d probably make it a ghost party: Robin Williams, Char- lie Chaplin, maybe Buster Keaton. The technical genius of the physi- cal comedy that they pulled o was so phenomenal, and I’d love to learn as much as possible from them. And maybe Bruce Lee, too. He could protect me if it turns out I’mwrong about ghosts not being malevolent spirits.

emy recruited Ambudkar to perform a rhythmic recap of the show with Questlove two-thirds of the way through the broadcast of the awards in February 2020.] Then I thought, he’d be so great as Jay in the show, so I told the producers, who were, like, Yeah, yeah, we know. We really want him. How hard was building cast chemistry during COVID? Group bonding is tricky with masks on, no? Ambudkar: It’s interesting. When COVID shut us down, we started this group text chain with the cast and really got to know each other. We were joking all the time and sharing links to things. By the time we finally met, it was like relaxing into a family. We were all genu- inely rooting for each other to succeed. We weren’t unknown actors.

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