Ghosts, from the team behind Yonderland and Horrible Histories, has such a strong comedy premise that it’s no wonder America wanted its own version. ‘A young couple inherits a money pit mansion filled with the ghosts of people who died there throughout history.’ It’s a workplace comedy without work, forcing a varied gang of characters who wouldn’t usually be friends to spend time contained in a single location. The extra genius is that these characters aren’t just separated by class, money or education, but also by the centuries, which makes their conflicts even bigger and their connections – when they happen – even more meaningful. It’s colourful and daft and funny and filled with lovely surprises. Where else would you see a caveman playing chess with a sleazy early-90s Tory MP?
Not in CBS’ American remake, which was ordered to series in March this year and will air on Thursday nights in the US from the 7th of October. In the American show, it’ll be a late-90s finance bro and a Viking explorer, in Woodstone Estate, not Button House. While some of the Ghosts characters, such as Jim Howick’s Scout Leader Pat, have been translated more or less intact, others have been rethought to fit with the new US context. (Plagues being what they are, the plague pit ghosts in the basement have successfully made their way over the Atlantic.)
Speaking to press at the launch of series three, co-creator Laurence Rickard explained that US showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman had been clever about the changes they’ve chosen to make: “A lot of the character dynamics are the same, but they’ve changed where those characters come from geographically and their point in history.”
Based on the first trailer and official CBS character descriptions, here’s how the new US Ghosts gang will shake out:
1980s Scout Troop leader Pete, played by Richie Moriarty, looks the the closest to his UK counterpart, 1980s ‘Adventure Club’ leader Pat, played by Jim Howick. (In the first series, the Scouts didn’t allow use of the official name in the UK series, presumably to protect its reputation – silly really, because any organisation should be proud to call Pat a member.) Pete is described as “overly upbeat”, “kind, earnest and sincere.” He’s Woodstone Estate ghosts’ self-appointed activities director and was killed when accidentally shot through the neck with an arrow while teaching archery to his son’s Scout troop.
The US versions of Ghosts’ still-alive leads Alison and Mike, played in the original by Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe, are Samantha and Jay, played by iZombie’s Rose McIver and The Mindy Project and Never Have I Ever’s Utkarsh Ambudkar. An early difference seems to be that while Alison and Mike don’t really have careers, patching together work from various places, Samantha is a freelance journalist and Jay is an up-and-coming chef.
Not all jokes translate across the Atlantic, which probably explains why the brilliantly named “Fanny Button” will be known as Hetty in the US. Played by Rebecca Wisocky (Star Trek: Picard, Devious Maids), Hetty is described as society woman from the 1800s and the wife of a robber baron. Like Martha Howe-Douglas’ Fanny, she’s a distant ancestor of Samantha/Alison, who inherits the house as the last surviving relative of its previous owner.
Though ‘sleazy politician’ is a type recognised around the world, the specificity of Simon Farnaby’s character Julian Fawcett MP and his brand of early 90s Tory sleaze has been swapped for something more recognisable in the US: a late 90s finance bro. Asher Grodman (Succession, Law & Order: SVU) plays Trevor, a moneyed frequenter of B-list celeb parties who died trouserless at a “drug-fuelled rager”, hence his eternal state of undress. Another difference according to the trailer is that Samantha’s head injury doesn’t happen as a result of Trevor trying to kill her by pushing her out of a window, but when she trips accidentally over a vase he was able to move using his rudimentary special power.
Here’s the first real departure: instead of caveman Robin (Laurence Rickard), the CBS series has 11th century Viking explorer Thorfinn, played by Bosch and Doom Patrol’s Devan Long. Robin and Thorfinn are both the oldest ghosts in their respective groups, and share the ability to manipulate electricity. Sometimes. If they concentrate really hard. Thorfinn loves cod apparently, while Robin of course, is more of a bum man.
Another new creation: Jane the Virgin’s Sheila Carrasco plays 1960s hippie Flower, who died during the summer of love when she was attacked by a bear while on hallucinogens at a music festival. Described as “loving love” and hating rude people, personality-wise she sounds a little like Lolly Adefope’s 18th century golden-hearted dimwit Kitty, perhaps with some of Katy Wix‘s Mary’s space-cadet qualities? Or maybe she’s entirely her own thing.
Isaac, “a well-meaning but pompous and long-winded Militiaman” from the late 1700s has The Captain’s military background, but is closer to Regency poet Thomas in historical period. He’s played by Brandon Scott Jones, who’ll be recognised by fans of The Good Place as trashy gossip columnist and bad person John Wheaton. From the trailer, Thomas appears to have inherited Mary’s power of creating a bad stench that humans can smell (while hers is the smell of burning, related to her having been burned at the stake, his is down to having died of dysentery.)
Danielle Pinnock (Young Sheldon, Get Shorty) is playing another original character with no UK counterpart: prohibition-era lounge singer Alberta. She’s described as something of a diva who’s seen it all, she’s saucy, tough and in possession of a maternal streak that makes her the “den mother” to Woodstone Estate’s ghosts.
Román Zaragoza will play the US group’s second oldest ghost, Sassapis, a Native American from the 1500s described as “sarcastic, droll and over it. Being trapped in a never-ending in-between world is bad enough, but for Sasappis, being trapped with these other idiot ghosts makes it even worse.”
Hudson Thames will play ‘Crash’, who, judging by his name and look, is a 1950s James Dean-style ghost. His neck scar could suggest that he was beheaded, which would make him like the BBC original’s Sir Humphrey (also played by Laurence Rickard), but that would be where the similarity stopped. Thames might be recognisable to fans of Mad Men after playing Mitchell Rosen, a season six who’d been drafted to serve in Vietnam and was the son of Don’s mistress Sylvia.
Ghosts (US) will air on CBS on Thursdays from October 7th. Ghosts series 3 starts airing on BBC One and iPlayer in the UK on Monday August 9th.