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Rose McIver has had an unusually supernatural string of roles in her latest television work: first as the lead in the CW’s iZombie, and now as Samantha on CBS’ Ghosts, a woman who inherits an old mansion and begins to see and hear its long-dead former residents after a near-death experience.
The 33-year-old New Zealand native began acting as a child, appearing in small roles and background parts, including as a schoolgirl in Jane Campion’s The Piano. It’s her work as the grounding central character on Ghosts, an ensemble comedy featuring a sea of over-the-top, improv-heavy performances, that has garnered her the most acclaim to date.
McIver spoke with THR about her interest in finding the emotional relatability in flamboyant characters and situations and the downright spooky coincidence that she’s now appeared in two separate supernatural comedies.
Where was your headspace when you first came across this script?
I’d finished five years of iZombie and had taken a couple of years of doing all sorts of other little bits and pieces. I just scratched a bunch of other itches, really. By the time Ghosts came around, I was ready again for the family that you get when you work in an ensemble comedy. When I read the script, it made me laugh so, so much. It was the start of a global pandemic when we were supposed to shoot the pilot, and throughout the first year before we got the show up and running, I was watching a lot of my other friends and people I love not have their shows go ahead, and not have studios or networks get behind them. The fact that this survived felt pretty remarkable.
How did the pandemic alter the making of the show and your experience working on it?
Normally, everything moves so fast: costume fittings, signed deals, you’re on location, you’re shooting this new thing. I think it was eight months, the gap between when I got cast and when we actually rolled on the pilot. Because a number of us had already been cast, we started these group text conversations. It really initially started as logistics. “Have you heard anything? Do you know where we’re filming?” It’s such an interesting sign of the times that [through] a group text, we actually started to build this rapport. By the time we arrived on set, it felt like this reunion and we’d all been friends for years.
Have you always been interested in the supernatural? Or is it just a coincidence that you’ve led two similar shows?
I don’t know why I keep being put in these undead situations. I’m not sure what it is about me — I didn’t know that I was the kind of person to be typecast for that. I do really enjoy trying to ground quite stylized or heightened environments and characters. That’s something that I have gravitated toward a lot in my life. I quite enjoy that experience, of trying to find what is really relatable or accessible in these stories that could be heightened.
Your character can see and interact with ghosts. What’s the challenge of playing opposite someone other characters can’t see, or filming multiple takes without other actors?
The most important thing is focus. I’m working with nine comedians, essentially, and they’re so brilliant. That’s the magic that is essential in the show, and that we need to survive. And it’s been really technically interesting. I really like being an actor who works with her crew to try to achieve things together. And when we say it’s an ensemble, it isn’t just the actors — it’s the crew, especially when people are improvising and being deeply surprising in any moment. The boom operator has to work out how he’s going to possibly try to reach across the room and grab somebody’s ad-lib line that they’ve just thrown in, or the camera is working out who they’re pulling focus to at any given moment.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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