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2 New Characters Are Killing It on CBS's Ghosts

The Emmys should pay attention to the guest stars on the supernatural comedy.
  • Mike Lane and Nichole Sakura in Ghosts (Photos: Bertrand Calemau/CBS; Primetimer graphic)
    Mike Lane and Nichole Sakura in Ghosts (Photos: Bertrand Calemau/CBS; Primetimer graphic)

    The guest acting Emmys typically go to Saturday Night Live hosts or A-list actors doing one-off appearances, but if anyone deserves to be nominated for Guest Actor and Guest Actress in a Comedy this year, it’s Mike Lane and Nichole Sakura. They may not be famous, but their current arc on Ghosts epitomizes how much a performer can add to a series in a short amount of time.

    These two first joined CBS’s supernatural sitcom on the January 5 episode “The Perfect Assistant.” Lane plays Freddie, the exceptionally organized and perpetually perky assistant that Sam (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) hire to help manage their booming B&B business. Sakura plays Jessica, the ghost who lives in Freddie’s car. Right away, they both create interesting new dynamics for the major characters.

    For one thing, because Sam and Jay have to be somebody’s boss, they must interact differently with each other and with the ghosts in their house. Sam can’t just talk to the spirits whenever she wants, since she understandably doesn’t want to tell her employee that the building is filled with phantoms that only she can see. That means she has to create a new way of getting through the day, which includes ignoring ghosts who are literally yelling at her to get her attention. Anytime a character has to reinvent the wheel like that, there’s potential for comic gold.

    Meanwhile, the ghosts themselves want to interact with Jessica, but since she can’t leave the immediate vicinity of the car where she died, they have to come to her. That births a new social order, particularly after Sasappis (Román Zaragoza) gets a little crush on the new girl. If he wants to flirt with her, then he has to miss whatever’s happening inside. If he wants to hang with his friends, then he has to leave Jessica alone. This causes some deliciously silly complications, particularly in the episodes that will air in the next few weeks.

    Those bits are even funnier because Freddie and Jessica arrive as fully formed characters. WIthout giving too much away about what happens in the rest of their episodes, Freddie’s keen eye for detail causes problems for people trying to hide the presence of undead spirits. And while Jessica is a fun, flirty party gal, she’s also got a knack for getting other people in trouble. Credit Lauren Bridges, who wrote “The Perfect Assistant,” for understanding the potential here. Sam and Jay are rarely asked to rely on an outsider, and because they need him, Freddie often gets the upper hand. And because Jessica has no problem lying to get what she wants — or in later episodes, speaking very bluntly about her personal life — she also has the power to drive storylines. These two aren’t just around to make a few jokes: They can sustain an entire narrative.

    Lane and Sakura’s performances keep the energy high. Lane plays Freddie as not only an eager beaver, but also a guy who stands up for himself. In the January 12 episode “The Help” and the February 2 episode “Ghost Hunter,” he makes an elegant transformation into an intrepid truth seeker who will not let his bosses control him, no matter how much he enjoys building their reservation system. Sakura pops by making Jessica seem so interested in things. Even when she’s manipulating people, she doesn’t lean on the character’s cynicism. Instead, she plays with the idea that Jessica just wants to be stimulated at all times. This makes sense, since she’s trapped in a sedan for the rest of time, and when she savors the smell of take-out food in the front seat, Sakura makes it feel as exhilarating as winning the lottery.

    Freddie and Jessica also have an impact because they’re the focus of multiple, consecutive episodes. Ghosts has introduced several delightful recurring characters, including Jay’s sister and the uptight neighbors next door, but this duo is the first to appear for several weeks in a row. It’s exciting to see the series experiment with this type of storytelling and pull it off so well. The show has already demonstrated that its primary characters and locations can serve as metaphors for the American experiment and deliver refreshingly sex-positive comedy. This new approach to introducing characters bodes well for the freshness of future seasons, no matter who's dead and which rooms they happen to haunt.

    Ghosts airs Thursdays at 8:30 PM ET on CBS. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Mark Blankenship has been writing about arts and culture for twenty years, with bylines in The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, Fortune, and many others. You can hear him on the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs.

    TOPICS: Ghosts, CBS, Lauren Bridges, Mike Lane, Nichole Sakura, Rose McIver, Utkarsh Ambudkar