[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 1, Episode 14 of Ghosts, “Ghostwriter.”]
Ghosts is back and digging into Sasappis’ (Román Zaragoza) past in the latest episode, “Ghostwriter.”
As with each passing episode of CBS‘s hit comedy, the series continues to peel back layers of the spirits haunting Woodstone. While Sam (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) prepare to launch their B&B website, she learns that Sas has a past as a Lenape storyteller. In an effort to help boost future business, Sas tries sharing some stories and perspectives that Sam might be able to utilize on the site. When she is reluctant to take in his ideas though, Sas takes things into his own hands, with the help of Trevor (Asher Grodman) and his touch-sensitive gifts.
When their plan goes awry, Sam is annoyed to learn the boys have accidentally deleted the file on her computer, but not mad as she’s been putting off the website for her own reasons. Ultimately, it leads to a sweet and moving final sequence in which Sam and the other ghosts give Sasappis a stage to share some stories like he used to with his dad (who is also played by real-life father Gregory Zaragoza).
Below, Zaragoza opens up about sharing Sasappis’ stories, working with his father, and the importance of Indigenous representation on the show.
Most of the ghosts have had a great backstory episode this season, what was the collaborative process like behind yours?
Román Zaragoza: It was an incredibly collaborative process. I’m very grateful for the Joes — Joe Port and Joe Wiseman. Ever since we shot the pilot they’ve been so open to having discussions on where they wanted Sasappis to go and what I was thinking. We also brought in an amazing Lenape consultant by the name of Joe Baker, who is in rural Delaware tribes and he’s the executive director of the Lenape Center. So having him was really helpful because the Joes started pitching [ideas and] they didn’t want him to be just this stereotypical native warrior. He wanted to really stay away from that stereotype.
Joe Baker talked about how, in Lenape culture, storytelling is very powerful and is an interesting profession. [When] the Joes decided that he was going to be a storyteller, I was just really excited about seeing a native character be a storyteller.
You’ve worked on other projects with your real-life dad Gregory Zaragoza and this episode is just your latest collaboration. Are you hoping to make it a tradition? How did it come about?
It’s been such a fun experience. I really became an actor because of my father and I really look up to him. We haven’t really worked together too much. The only times we’ve worked together professionally was on Stumptown in 2019, which was such a blast, and I played his nephew. But we never played father/son before so this was the first time. And the Joes were like, “Hey, we know your dad’s an amazing actor, can we talk to him about potentially bringing him in?” And my dad was so excited and we had a great time. He came to Montreal where we were shooting and it was surreal. The set that they created, the costumes, seeing my dad in there, it was so incredible. And we got some amazing photos and videos that we’ll definitely cherish forever.
Considering that you’ve followed in your father’s footsteps, was it purposeful irony that Sasappis’ dad makes a comment about how you have the storytelling gift, but he doesn’t?
Yeah, I think it was just stars aligning. It was funny and it was really special because I feel like a lot of the conversations that we had in the scene were some conversations my dad and I have had before of, “This is a hard profession, are you sure you want to do this? You can go be a professional soccer player, you can go do something else.” And I’m like, “No, I want to do this.” It’s been nice to have my dad’s guidance through all this. And it’s a little bit different from our characters in the show, but we definitely can relate.
The storyteller aspect also feels a bit like a metaphor for representation in sharing stories. As a Native American performer, is that something that resonates with you?
It is. What was really cool was I harnessed my dear friend, Brent Florendo, who lives in Ashland, Oregon, and is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever seen. He’s Wasco and he’s from Warm Springs Reservation out there. And so I called him up when I got the script, and I honestly don’t know what is in the final cut, but I wanted to introduce the storytelling techniques that he does, and so we had this really good conversation.
And every Native person is different, but it’s really respectful to always check-in and be like, “Hey, I would love to potentially use this technique, would that be all right with you?” And we had a nice discussion about how that works with storytelling and passing down stories, because once a storyteller tells you a story it’s yours, and you have to pass it down to someone else. It’s the oral tradition. But it was nice to check in with him and I was able to really bring his energy to the screen, which was fun.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen people from Sasappis’ past, are there more on the horizon? What should viewer anticipate for the rest of the season?
Well, we’ll see Sasappis be a good friend to some of the other ghosts and to Sam and Jay, even though sometimes he doesn’t want to be. I think he has a good heart, he really does, but he’s easily jaded. He’s easily annoyed at his current situation, but he’s learning to really love it. And I think that’s been a really fun arc to play through this first season of going from being over everything to embracing this family that he has. Even though this family doesn’t look like the one that he grew up with, it’s one that he’s embracing now.
[And in the] second season, it’d be fun to see potentially someone who’s my descendant. That would be really cool. I think it’d be really fun to get more contemporary Native representation in the show. We actually have some Native actors coming into this season that are not just playing Native characters, which is really exciting. But we’d love to see that, some more contemporary Native characters.
The fans of Ghosts are so supportive, have you felt that on social media? What is it like getting to see their reactions each week?
It’s been incredible to see. The fan art — oh my gosh — is so incredible. I’m floored by it. It’s such a dream to have that and have such talented people drawing and painting you. And there’s just so much love on Twitter and Instagram, it’s almost hard to keep up. Before this show, I wasn’t really on social media as much, but now I understand the draw because you are able to really connect with people that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to connect with. And it’s really nice to be able to interact with people that are fans of the show, it’s just amazing.
Ghosts, Season 1, Thursdays, 9/8c, CBS