Lauren Ash shares a moving story during the Not Dead Yet panel at SCAD TVfest.
SCAD TVfest hosted a screening of the Not Dead Yet pilot episode. Actors Lauren Ash and Josh Banday appeared on stage for a panel after the episode. Showrunners David Windsor and Casey Johnson, plus executive producers Corey Marsh and Dean Holland, joined the actors. The Q&A session was moderated by Patrick Gomez from Entertainment Weekly.
The ABC series finds Nell Serrano (Gina Rodriguez) back working at the local paper after a failed engagement. The only job available to her is obituary writer with a closet for an office. Her good friend Sam is still working there as well as an old nemesis, Lexi (Lauren Ash), who is now her boss. On the home front, Nell shares an apartment with roommate Edward who has very specific rules for Nell living there.
Nell’s frustrations at work (and home) increase dramatically when the dead people she is writing about start visiting her, and only her, wherever she goes. Nell eventually embraces the deceased visitors and uses their time together to inform the obituaries she writes. Moderator Patrick described the format as kind of like a “procedural sitcom”. There is generally a new guest star each episode playing the dead person meeting with Nell. Both Nell and the deceased appear to benefit from their time together. Of course, Nell is the only one seeing these people. Therein lies a great source of comedy.
Filming with the dead
Lauren and showrunner David Windsor commented on the unique filming logistics for scenes with the ghosts and Nell. Lauren pointed out the challenge of not looking at the ghost actors when filming scenes where Nell is communicating with the dead. Showrunner David Windsor explained how Gina Rodriguez would film the scenes with all the actors and then film them again for wide shots without the actor playing the dead person.
Josh Banday plays Nell’s direct supervisor, Dennis, who is in charge of the “Metro” section of the paper. While Nell is struggling and learning lessons from the dead people she encounters, Josh points out that she is not alone. Other characters in the show are also rebounding from different life experiences and trying to figure out how to move forward. This is especially apparent in Lauren Ash’s character, Lexi, who puts up a confident front while facing pressure from her father who owns the newspaper.
The first obituary that Nell writes is for Monty played by Martin Mull. Lauren shared how emotional she was when she learned that Mull would be on the show. She said she called her mother crying as she recalled watching Mull as Colonel Mustard in Clue as a young child. It was this movie that first made her want to become an actor. Lauren wrote a lengthy letter to Martin Mull describing the impact he had on her from early on.
David Windsor called it “a dream as a writer” to create stories for so many different beloved guest actors that vary in age groups. Mull, Rhea Perlman and Brittany Snow are just a few of the actors playing the ghosts that Nell encounters. Executive producer Dean Holland also chimed in to say that there is “a solid chance [we’ll] see Martin Mull again”.
I look forward to following Nell’s journey with her departed cohorts each week. We can probably all learn a thing or two!
Thank you to SCAD (The Savannah College of Art and Design) for hosting the Not Dead Yet screening and panel discussion.
SCAD TVfest offers a unique opportunity for students and the general public to celebrate all things television and streaming. As the only entertainment festival in Georgia dedicated to television, SCAD TVfest spotlights the best in design, creativity, and innovation in television and digital media by bringing together luminaries and professionals to discuss current industry trends and showcase the best work on the small screen.
SCAD, dubbed “The University for Creative Careers” has a global presence with over 16,000 students studying across more than 100 different degree programs including both undergraduate and graduate studies. Learn more about the university at SCAD’s website.
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