FOX’s highly anticipated new action-comedy, “Ghosted,” starring Craig Robinson (“The Office”) and Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) about the partnership between two polar opposites – a cynical skeptic and a genius “true believer,” who are recruited to investigate unexplained phenomena in Los Angeles – all while uncovering a larger mystery that could threaten the existence of the human race. Robinson, Scott, Ally Walker (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Executive Producers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten brings this show to life which will premiere on Fox this fall.
I interviewed executive producers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten at San Diego Comic Con in a roundtable interview.
Can you guys say your names into the recorders, just so for transcription?
Kevin Etten: Yes, Kevin Etten.
Tom Gormican: I’m Tom Gormican.
So what was it that inspired you to take this approach for the story? I love that we’re getting a lot of really fun and different genre shows these days.
Tom Gormican: This approach for this particular subject matter?
Speaker: Yeah, yeah.
Tom Gormican: Well, you know, when you watch these things, I’m always thinking that … Genre shows, they’re super fun, and you get hooked with these premises, whether it’s ghosts, aliens, whether the paranormal stuff, but it rarely leads to comic conclusions and we sort of thought that it would be a fun way to … A new take on the genre.
Jamie: This series is being described as X-Files meets Ghostbusters. Can you kind of tell us how each of those shows and films have sort of infused itself into this particular property?
Tom Gormican: It’s like those but way worse. You can thank us for that.
Kevin Etten: We were aiming for … Yeah.
Tom Gormican: Kevin and I. Tom Gornican.
Kevin Etten: I mean, we talked about both of those. We talk about Ghostbusters all the time, in terms of kind of if you re-watch it, those characters are not making jokes, they are … It’s real, and there’s a real grounded element to that comedy that I think we are attracted to, and also it feels like Bill Murray is a regular guy, a skeptic who is kind of thrown into this crazy situation, that’s what makes it funny.
Tom Gormican: It slips into a parody or something like that and that’s one of the things that we’ve been very careful to try to stay away from in this, is that it should stand on its own. We’re not sending up those genres, we’re not trying to-
Kevin Etten: Yeah, we’re trying to create our own little Ghostbusters, X-Files universe where they really believe it, the audience believes it, and the comedy comes out of them being actually freaked out scared, really trying to figure out what happened. The X-Files is just … We’ve been going back and re-watching and just the storytelling … And we can’t do it, because we only have 21 minutes, but the twists and turns in those episodes are just incredible. The other thing we want to do is what the X-Files did so well was the skeptic/believer dynamic, carry that through but also … It was so great because in X-Files they would always be that … She would always have that rational realistic explanation of this paranormal event, which always made it, to me, feel scarier and realer and just cooler.
Tom Gormican: We gave that to Craig, and Adam is the true believer.
Can you talk about … How much comedy is in the script and how much is sort of improvised on set? What’s this dynamic there?
Kevin Etten: I’d say 70/30, is what I’m breaking it down, 70 written, 30 improv. I mean, wanting the script to be as funny and tight as possible, but then when we get on set, letting those guys do their thing, you know?
Tom Gormican: The danger, or the problem I should say, is that we only have 22 minutes when you edit it down, but those guys are hilarious. They’re improving all the time and making things better, and so it’s really, really fun.
Kevin Etten: There was a scene in the pilot that … There was one scene that … The last scene we shot that I think was completely improvised. We read it out loud and shot it, as written out loud, but then we’re going, “Ah, doesn’t feel right,” and so we all worked together-
Tom Gormican: The scene when they were kidnapped.
Kevin Etten: Yeah.
Tom Gormican: In the van, and it’s Craig and Adam talking to each other.
Kevin Etten: And then they just let them kind of go and found it in the edit room, it was cool.
What lead you guys to Robinson and Scott? Were you familiar with their previous work?
Tom Gormican: Yeah, we were familiar with all their work, but neither of us knew Craig or Adam, we never worked with them. Craig and I have the same management company, and I came up with this … Wrote about a 15 page early script treatment, and sent it to him. Craig jokes now that every other word was like, “badass detective” like super cool, like amazing, and we laugh about it now. He read it, and he was like, “Oh that feels like me.”
Tom Gormican: I went to see Craig and he was like, “I want to do this show, let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s do it.” Get Adam Scott. And I didn’t know Adam, so I called his agent, who happened to be my agent, strangely, and she put me with him, and he was like, “I want to work with Craig, I want to work with Craig, this sounds so fun.” They have the natural chemistry, that’s not something that we had to create, that’s not something that’s in the writing, that’s them, they’re like really great together, they’re really good friends and a total odd couple in real life.
What does it mean to be … I see you have a button saying, “I’m Being Ghosted” on it?
Kevin Etten: Yes. “I Got Ghosted”.
What does that mean?
Kevin Etten: I don’t know. I just got this outside the laser tag exhibit. We played laser tag.
Tom Gormican: It’s terrible English.
Kevin Etten: Yeah, it is bad English.
Tom Gormican: Which we love.
Kevin Etten: We just talked to another … A reporter who said, “I don’t know if you guys know this, but us millennials,” not us, “us millennials” meaning the young reporter, “use the word ‘ghosted’ as like”-
Tom Gormican: She was like, “Old people like you.”
Kevin Etten: What ghosted means, you know like, not call somebody back or not whatever it means.
Jamie: Ignoring emails.
Kevin Etten: Ignoring emails.
Tom Gornican: We sort of see us like that. “I Got Ghosted”, ghost being someone leaves without telling you. There’s a lot of people that disappear in the pilot, there will be a lot of people that disappear during the course of the show.
Kevin Etten: And there will be ghosts.
Tom Gornican: And there will be ghosts. In episode two.
I noticed this takes place in Los Angeles, and I’m curious, was that sort of decision because you guys shoot in Los Angeles, or was there something in particular about that setting that seemed like a really fun backdrop to kind of set this comedy within? Because LA’s got a weird energy all of its own, so …
Tom Gornican: That’s a huge part of it. LA has a really trend energy, like there’s so many like, anachronistic buildings, you have no idea what time you’re in, you could be in the ’20s or the ’80s or the, you know, 2017. There’s all these strange things that happen in Los Angeles. So we thought it was kind of a perfect place to set a show like this. That said-
Kevin Etten: Adam has a family here, I have a family here.
Tom Gornican: Yeah.
Kevin Etten: In LA, yeah. Tom lives alone. No loved ones.
Tom Gornican: I guess I’ve got … I don’t have a family, this feels like an attack on my life now. But it’s also a cool place to shoot, but we will, like X-Files, I guess that’s shot in Vancouver, pretend that we’re lots of other places in the country, so the show should feel like it has some scope to it, it’s not just LA.
Kevin Etten: Yeah.
Are you taking inspiration from like actual ghost stories, like actual events?
Tom Gornican: We’re just pretty much open to stealing from anybody. In fact, if you guys have some story suggestions, things that you want to share. We’re definitely-
Kevin Etten: We’re taking inspiration absolutely from real events, but kind of trying to disguise as much as we can and make it into our own. We’ve balanced the writing staff with … There’s a significant group of two or three writers who are really like, sci-fi nerds who really know the genre, who know every movie, every show and then there’s definitely an element of just the more hardcore comedy people. It’s a cool mix of that.
Tom Gornican: Taking inspiration from all these things, and all of our favorite old movies, from the like, punk rock, sci-fi, repo men kind of stuff, all the way to, you know, pop, Ghostbusters and Alien, and X-Files. The things that we really, really enjoy and putting a little bit of a comic spin on it.
Jamie: We’re obviously seeing like a lot of ghosts and paranormal activity on this show. Can you talk to us about the special effects? Do you use like practical effects, or CGI?
Tom Gornican: I think the filmmaking is really … This is kind of an important thing to us, it’s going to be a real mix of practical stuff, you know, prosthetics, and in-camera effects, with like CGI enhancements. Part of that is a throwback effect, it sort of has a nostalgic feel or quality to it, in the pilot when we take his head off, it’s a combination of prosthetic, there’s some CGI that enhances it, we shot it with a green screen bib. The cars being lifted up, that’s straight from repo man, with like, it glows and is lifted up, and it’s really cool, but part of that is also practical, this is a half hour show, we don’t have-
Kevin Etten: The money.
Tom Gornican: The money that like Stranger Things has. It is. The budgets on these things are significantly lower.
Kevin Etten: The less you show … I think, you know, yeah the budgets get cut in half, and so you have to get really inventive about-
Tom Gornican: Kevin says like we have a ghost arm. But it’s because you can’t afford the whole thing.
Kevin Etten: Shoot over the arm.
Jamie: Sam Raimi style.
Tom Gornican: Sam Raimi style, exactly.
Kevin Etten: Thanks a lot you guys.
Tom Gornican: Thanks guys
Kevin Etten: Appreciate it.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and multimedia space for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association and executive producer of the Black Girl Nerds Podcast.