[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Ghosts, Season 1, Episode 10, “Possession.”]
Ghosts is taking things to a new level in its latest episode, “Possession,” in which living Woodstone proprietor Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) is accidentally possessed by the ghost of his wife’s old relative Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky).
With Jay and Sam (Rose McIver) facing the high stakes challenge of impressing a wedding planner enough to make their home a new “it” destination, Hetty’s possession of Jay only makes the process more complicated. As Hetty takes over the living man’s body, Jay is a vessel for her enjoyment as she binges on candy, snacks, and booze.
Luckily for Jay, the possession ends when Hetty tries to drive off the property, as the ghosts are bound to Woodstone. Below, Ambudkar opens up about impersonating his own costar’s character, the challenges of keeping a straight face around the ghosts he’s not supposed to see, and much more.
What was your initial reaction to learning Jay would be possessed by Hetty?
Utkarsh Ambudkar: It’s fun to get a chance to sort of spread the wings of the character. It’s fun. You get to do an impression, pretend to be a ghost, change genders, and go back in time like 200 years? I was really excited for the opportunity to do something a little different.
How did you prepare for the “possession”? Did you start studying Rebecca Wisocky’s performance or did you want to step into the episode and give your own version of Hetty?
A little bit of both. Rebecca plays Hetty in a very specific way, and most impressions or homages to people are of folks who are strong personalities. Right? So kudos to Rebecca for creating such a distinct character. The way that she sings and the melody of her voice when she speaks, her body language, it’s all very clear. So I asked Rebecca to just read a couple of lines, and then I sort of just did my own thing, but it’s all really just based on the groundwork and foundation that she already had laid with the character.
Hetty has so many quirks that you manage to work into your performance, ranging from her trilling laugh to the way she holds her hands. What aspect of her was most important to nail down?
Well, it was sound for me. Every time something happens, Hetty does like a [makes noise], she hoots. She has the Hetty hoot, and I would do that before every take, and then you’re just in it. And Rebecca’s eyes are very expressive, so the eyes are always very wide, very intense. The back is straight because she’s been wearing a corset for 200 years, hands just so. The big challenge was getting the hands to look like a lady and not like a T-Rex. Our director Katie Locke O’Brien very often was like, “It’s venturing into T-Rex territory,” and I’d have to pull it back.
Hetty takes advantage of the situation by enjoying some booze and snacks. What was it like taking Jay from a level-headed character to someone who is scarfing down cheese puffs?
The exciting thing is that I got to eat a bunch of candy and Cheetos at work. I put it in my pockets, I put it in other people’s pockets, and I took it home to my kids. That was the most fun I had. Honestly, the goofy, more slapsticky kind of cartoony stuff is very natural. I’ve been doing that most of my career so that just fits like a glove.
But the stuff that I really enjoyed with Hetty was sort of the quieter moments, where she’s really coming to life, and realizing all the things that she didn’t get to experience as a woman during her time. Experiencing that regret and that loss for a life that she could have lived and seeing how Sam is this young, strong, opinionated, very confident young woman, and in many respects, I think Hetty’s the same. She just grew up in a time where she did a lot of cocaine and wasn’t allowed to speak her mind.
Do you think Hetty will be changed by this experience? She goes through an array of emotions in this episode.
Listen, one [experience] does not change somebody overnight. I would venture to say that she’s probably keen on repeating the experience. I’m sure she would love to have it again. I think Hetty does soften, but there’s a lot of really interesting things happening to Hetty as the season goes on. I cannot wait for people to see some of the episodes that Rebecca has coming up, because we learn a lot more about Hetty. And it just gets better and better.
If you were to ever find yourself in Hetty’s shoes, what would you do while possessing someone?
There are so many things I would do. It’d be like a free ride. I would for sure try and fly a plane. I would try to wrestle a bear, or an alligator, or a lion. Mine are all mischievous things. You’re basically giving me like a day to commit crimes, so my brain is like, “I’d rob a bank,” but that’s not great. It’s not helping anyone. It’s not doing my host body any favors, that’s for sure. Also, you couldn’t really keep the money afterward, so really, there’s no point in a robbery. You know that squirrel suit thing where people jump off the mountain and then they glide in the air? Maybe I’d try that.
Will we be learning more about the living members of the house?
I hope so. We have a lot of characters and the ghosts are so fun and rich. God willing, we get a second season and things keep moving, I’m sure Sam and Jay’s relationship will deepen and have a chance to sort of blossom. Right now, I think that we’re all just having too much fun learning about the ghosts. So that’s kind of where we’re at. For the most part, we’re just trying to help these ghosts learn how to live.
You have one of the hardest jobs on the show since you’re not supposed to see the ghosts. Do you ever slip up or has the process gotten easier as the season’s gone on?
Oh, yeah, no. I’ve gotten way worse at it. I’m constantly ruining takes by laughing or staring directly at the ghosts while they’re speaking. They’re too funny. They’re just too good. I want to watch them all the time. As long as the camera is not on me, I just stare at them and enjoy their performances. And sometimes when the camera’s on me, I forget. It’s a good thing we’re working in a digital space these days and not on actual film.
Ghosts, Season 1, Returns Thursday, January 6, 2022, 9/8c, CBS