When Asher Grodman filmed his first scene with Tara Reid, who guest-starred on the most recent episode of Ghosts, he wasn’t wearing pants.
When cameras rolled for his first take with original Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman and Broadway legend Chip Zien, he was in a suit jacket, dress shirt, and tie on top and, once again, wearing nothing on bottom.
In fact, this is a recurring situation when it comes to Grodman’s role as Trevor Lefkowitz on the hit CBS comedy series. Such is the curse—or, comedically speaking, the blessing—when your first regular starring role on a TV show is playing a ghost who died while half-naked.
“Usually, 99 of the 100 people who get big breaks have pants on when they do it,” Grodman tells The Daily Beast’s Obsessed.
Grodman’s experience with Ghosts over these last two years would have been a wild ride even if he had been fully clothed while on it; this wardrobe curiosity makes it all the more fun.
Based on a BBC series of the same name, Ghosts chronicles the aftermath when a fledgling New England bed and breakfast owner (Rose McIver’s Sam) hits her head and wakes up able to see and speak with the spirits of all the people who had died on the property over the course of centuries.
There’s a Viking, a Native American, a prim-and-proper lady of the manor, and a Prohibition-era jazz singer. And there’s Trevor, the most recent of the deceased: a 1990s stockbroker who appeared to die while high, drunk, and partying with his bros at the estate one weekend. (The surprising reason he was Winnie the Pooh-ing it at the time is revealed in the standout Season 1 episode, “Trevor’s Pants.”)
Ghosts has been a vital part of what would have been considered an industry apparition itself just a few years ago: a surprising number of new network comedy hits that have been garnering buzz with critics and/or audiences. (Most recently, Night Court made headlines for scoring the highest ratings for a NBC comedy series in almost six years.)
Alongside Abbott Elementary, which has become one of the hottest comedies not just with viewers but award shows as well, Ghosts has been a critical and ratings success. Ahead of its recently announced Season 3 renewal, the series was nominated for Best Comedy at the Critics Choice Awards. Across Season 2, it’s been the top comedy on television when live and streaming viewership is combined, and its audience numbers continue to grow.
Landing a Supernatural Big Break
“I’ve been doing this for like 20 years before Ghosts came along,” Grodman says, “and those are 20 years of, basically, unemployment.”
Grodman was born and currently lives in New York City, where he attended Columbia University before getting a MFA from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. While he has worked over the last two decades—accruing a decent IMDb résumé of one-off TV roles and theater work, which he supplemented by teaching—“it was mostly just struggling and this business telling me emphatically to, ‘Please leave. Please stop.’”
Like many hopeful actors, he had weathered the pilot season grind for years, to the point that he arrived at a theory: “No one ever gets these jobs.” For him, the fruitful pivot had been to instead pursue guest-star stints, which seemed more attainable than landing one of the mythical, life-changing network pilots that then miraculously turned into the rare blockbuster hit.
“I remember when my agent sent the audition for Ghosts, I was up for a guest-star spot on Blue Bloods,” Grodman says. “I was fighting back like, ‘No, I don’t want to audition for Ghosts! I want to do the Blue Bloods guest-star slot. I’m never gonna get Ghosts!’” He laughs: “I’m very glad that I listened to my agent.”
As it happens, Grodman looks as if someone had created an encyclopedia entry for “’90s New York City finance bro” and illustrated the platonic ideal of what that type might be. Trevor, when he’s first introduced, is a walking manifestation of braggadocio, with the chiseled jawline to back it up.
He talks a big game about partying and girls, initially claiming to have died after playing “Drug Roulette” with his friends and then downing an entire bottle of vodka.
The gimmick of the series is that the ghosts are all confined to the property limits. After Sam’s accident and subsequent ability, they take advantage of being able to finally communicate with a human to find out more about their former lives and family, get revenge for their deaths, or to pester for ways to distract from the mundanity of decades—or centuries—spent haunting the same halls.
Trevor’s priorities involve hitting on Sam, figuring out ways to sext with hotel guests, and finding out how his stocks performed after he died: “My big three are Circuit City, Enron, and Blockbuster.”
People watching Ghosts might have negative, preconceived notions about a Trevor type, the horndog dudebro. Grodman was friends with some of those people at Columbia. That’s why he may have been suited for this part: He knew who they were beyond the stereotypical, insufferable cockiness. Though, he admits, he’s also using the role to get retribution for some of his post-grad bitterness.
“Those guys got out of school and had jobs immediately,” he says. “I got out of school and was unemployed and trying to be an actor, working as a substitute teacher. So there’s also some fun in being able to play one of those guys now and make fun of them a little bit—my little unemployed self is having an extra bit of fun from those years.”
But he also remembers what it was like to hang out with those guys when they had those jobs. They were happiest when the work day was done, they had a brief respite from the stress of their careers, and they could blow off steam together. He thinks of Trevor as a puppy. “At his core, Trevor just wants everyone to be together and for everyone to have a good time.”
There is the matter, however, that a major TV network was casting for a sometimes-repugnant finance bro stuck in arrested development, saw him, and thought, “He’s the one!” Grodman laughs off any existential thoughts about it. “I have noticed a pattern in some of the roles that I’ve gotten, where I’ve been described as ‘someone who can play a likable douche.’ Now, I don’t know how I’m doing that…”
The Naked Truth
When it comes to Grodman, Trevor, and Ghosts, it’s hard not to go back to the no-pants thing. Even on a show in which a major character has an arrow through his neck in every scene (Richie Moriarty’s dead Boy Scout leader Pete), it’s an unusual wardrobe.
“The pants thing ended up being a little bit of a comfort,” he says. Prior to the series, he hadn’t done much comedy in his career. (“I did do a production of Amadeus,” he says, “which I guess is a comedy if you don’t count Act 2.”) Working with a cast seasoned in TV comedy was intimidating, but he figured that, should he ever mess up a joke or miss with his timing, the directors could always just pull to a wide shot showing him delivering the line with no pants on—which would still be inherently funny.
“The only thing that gets frustrating is that, often, I’m holding my breath and straining to hold a certain position so that we don’t turn CBS into HBO,” he says, hinting at the precariousness involved in not showing too much. “That involves working with the camera department and making sure that I’m covered. Because, for some reason, they won’t just pixelate it [if the shirt rides up too high]. Just pixelate it! Make my life so much easier and pixelate it!”
There are straps that he uses to keep things in check—and PG-rated—that are helpful. For a while, the wardrobe department experimented with using a longer shirt, but that actually made things worse. “It rides up more,” he says. “I can’t explain it. I’m sure women understand what I’m talking about more than I do.” He’s since perfected how to move in the shorter shirt while manipulating his legs to conceal anything shocking. “There’s some real physics lessons that go on.”
Some people—like this writer—might project that an actor starring on a network series on which he does not wear pants would spend his time doing constant squats and intense leg workouts. But, thanks to the pandemic and the ensuing break of more than a year between shooting the Ghosts pilot and going back into production, Groderman had already started working out, to take advantage of his newfound downtime.
“I was a guy in his thirties just coming off of what he thought was his biggest break, and now back living at home in the pandemic,” he says about the routine. He had also been a fencer when he was younger and played football, so he hadn’t even thought about working out his legs harder. “I think I got a little lucky.”
All of those frustrating milestones—and the starts and stops—eventually led Grodman to the Ghosts Montreal set, standing with bare legs, in front of an icon of his teenage years, Tara Reid. In the Ghosts pilot, Trevor regales the other spirits with a tale of his glory days, particularly a time in 1998 when he and his “Lehman Brothers boys” apparently “scooped a copter to beat the traffic to the Hamptons” in order to attend the American Pie star’s birthday party at Surf Lodge in Montauk.
Grodman shared a clip of the scene on social media, and then Reid tweeted it out herself, captioning it, “You guys are funny, this show looks fun.”
“‘You guys are funny!’” Grodman remembers. “Those four words were it. We were all freaking out, like, ‘We gotta get her on the show.’”
That it actually worked is just one more of this whole experience’s many surreal moments: “I taught for a very long time. Watching someone learn something or have something clicked for them for the first time was such a thrilling experience. This is like that on crack.”
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