My face aches from laughter after rehearsing! The cast of Ghosts discusses their enjoyment, fame, and final farewell for the holiday season.
I sarcastically thank the creators of Ghosts for causing my daughter to cry. The previous night, my family had watched the last episode of the supernatural sitcom and I was the only one who didn’t shed a tear.
During our Zoom call, I mentioned to Martha Howe-Douglas, Laurence Rickard, Jim Howick, and Mathew Baynton that this response will likely be seen throughout Britain. Were you considering the impact on everyone’s Christmas when you wrote this emotional piece? Baynton, who portrays the Romantic poet Thomas, wistfully responds, “One can only dream.”
The team behind Ghosts has asked me to refrain from spoiling any major plot twists from the latest episode. However, there are some intriguing details I can share that won’t ruin the experience for viewers. Firstly, this episode reveals the long-awaited secret of how the Captain died. Secondly, there is a glimpse into Alison and Mike’s future as older individuals. Most importantly, we finally discover the ultimate fates of all characters, both living and deceased. I am eager to reveal whether Alison and Mike end up selling land from the estate to make way for a golf course, or if any ghost will follow in the footsteps of Katy Wix’s character Mary and be absorbed into the spirit realm. But if I were to do so, I risk facing the wrath of the cast, who may even go as far as to decapitate me. Or perhaps they would simply haunt me for eternity, which honestly doesn’t sound too terrible.
The central idea of the show is that the ghosts are trapped within the confines of the house, creating a tragicomic theme commonly seen in British comedies where the characters are unable to escape their destiny. This concept was first seen in the character Harold in “Steptoe and Son” and is now present in “Ghosts” where all the spirits are permanently stuck with each other, similar to the Hotel California in the home counties. Another way to look at it is that the creators of “Horrible Histories” have taken a humorous approach to the play “Uncle Vanya.”
Four individuals on separate Zoom screens are nodding in agreement.
Rickard, who portrays Humphrey and Robin, believes that Chekhov is usually not portrayed as funny as it should be. In the play, the characters are both stuck in a particular place and confused about their circumstances. This leads to a struggle with existential questions, even though they are already deceased. Howick, who plays the Scout leader Pat, shares that he has been in a production of Vanya before, but it was not similar to this one.
Baynton explains that although the show may seem to center around ghosts, it is actually a symbol for the human experience. Being born into a world where everyone has different perspectives can be likened to the premise of the show. This concept of combining family sitcom elements with deeper themes is a clever aspect, similar to the works of Beckett, but also has a lighthearted element to it.
Think back to April 2019, when the creators of Horrible Histories introduced a new comedy. Did your jobs ever bounce back from the endorsement by Michael Gove, who saw it as a useful teaching tool? Baynton reflects, “Thankfully, James Cleverly or Piers Morgan countered that argument a few years later during Brexit, stating that it was a waste of license fee.” In fact, it was Morgan who, with his ability to understand the sentiments of the public, tweeted in 2020 that the show was “a disgraceful misuse of public funds.”
Initially, Ghosts appeared to be a derivative of the Stupid Deaths portion of Horrible Histories, in which the team would reenact comical deaths such as King Harold being shot in the eye at the Battle of Hastings, or Richard the Raker, a self-proclaimed gong farmer, drowning in his own feces. The titular Ghosts also met their end in similarly ridiculous ways: for instance, Howick’s character Pat, a Scout leader, died in a tragic archery accident and now bears an arrow through his neck for all eternity. Adefope’s character, a Georgian noblewoman named Kitty, was killed by a spider bite from a pineapple that had been imported from across the Atlantic.
In the first episode, a couple in their thirties, Alison and Mike, move into a family estate that Alison has inherited. They soon discover that the house is haunted. After Alison has an accident and sustains a head injury, she can see the ghosts, but Mike cannot. However, if he could, he would most likely confront the ghost of a Romantic poet who keeps making advances towards his wife.
The TV show Ghosts has been a delightful escape from the current state of the world. The actors involved have also found great pleasure in creating it. Rickard stated, “We may be very different individuals, but we share a similar sense of humor. Having that one commonality is wonderful because it creates a light, enjoyable atmosphere that we all want to continue being a part of.”
After a day of rehearsing, I find myself with a sore face from laughing. It’s a unique sensation to have a headache from simply having a good time, rather than being excessively intoxicated.
After several days, I had the opportunity to speak with Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe, who portray the characters of Alison and Mike. Ritchie expresses, “I believe the show embodies genuine kindness at its core.” She continues, “The essence of the show, in my opinion, is about people who may seem different coming together to face challenges.”
However, Ghosts also addresses significant social issues. The character of Captain, a World War II veteran, is portrayed as having a forbidden love for a junior officer. Additionally, the show includes representation of people of color, which actor Smith-Bynoe was particularly pleased to see in the Christmas special last year. He shared that he has received feedback from interracial couples who appreciated seeing a Black family celebrating Christmas on television, as it is not often depicted. This representation is subtle but impactful.
The pair’s fame has been cemented by their roles in Ghosts. Ritchie shares that he is often recognized when wearing Alison’s jumpers in public. However, there are also instances of being mistaken for other actors, such as when a woman approached him and complimented his role in Fleabag. Smith-Bynoe adds, with a laugh, that he once had someone believe he was a warm-up act for Mo Gilligan, even though he had never done so. It was a challenge to convince them otherwise.
Both Ritchie and Smith-Bynoe wish to speak with the writers. They are dissatisfied with the show’s ending. “I have no plans for January,” Ritchie says. “Neither do I.” Their argument is valid. They are unemployed in a time of high living costs, while many of the writer-actors from the show have found success in other well-paying projects. Baynton is now appearing as Fickelgruber alongside Timothée Chalamet in the lead role of Wonka, while Simon Farnaby has co-written Wonka, Paddington 2, and the upcoming Paddington in Peru.
Is it possible to create an never-ending sitcom about Ghosts, since they are considered eternal beings? The creators of Ghosts should consider making a spin-off series. Just like Cheers has Frasier, what would be the equivalent for Ghosts? According to Baynton, Mick, the ghost who resides in Button House with other plague victims, would be the main character in the spin-off called “Mick!” with a live audience. The show would have a similar vibe to Happy Days, with Baynton’s character greeting the audience upon his entrance. However, it doesn’t sound like a promising idea.
We may need to come to terms with the fact that Ghosts has come to an end. The actors have taken items from the set as souvenirs. Ritchie has claimed Alison’s sweaters, Smith-Bynoe has taken Mike’s monocle, Howe-Douglas has acquired Lady Button’s rings, and Ben Willbond has claimed the Captain’s cane. Rickard shows off Humphrey’s decapitated head for the camera.
What remains are the repeats. According to Baynton, people will likely rewatch comedies they enjoy and discover new aspects of them. He also mentions that some shows serve as comfort viewing, even to the point of falling asleep while watching. This suggests that Ghosts may be included in this category. As I observe the four screens, each interviewee expresses joy at the idea of viewers not crying over the final episode of Britain, but rather dozing off during repeats. While the show will conclude with a Christmas special, Ghosts will continue to linger in our minds for years to come.
The Christmas episode of Ghosts will air on BBC One at 7:45pm on Christmas Day.