ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with School Spirits stars Peyton List, Nick Pugliese, and Sarah Yarkin about the Paramount+ series. The trio talked about acting like a ghost and getting into character. The series is now available on Paramount+.
“In the series, Maddie, a teen girl stuck in the afterlife investigating her mysterious disappearance,” reads the synopsis. “Maddie goes on a crime-solving journey as she adjusts to high school in the afterlife, but the closer she gets to uncovering the truth, the more secrets and lies she discovers.”
Spencer Legacy: Peyton, what was it about Maddie that really pulled you in when you first read about her?
Peyton List: I loved the parallels between the living version of Maddie and then the version of Maddie who was dead. I loved all the flashbacks and getting to … I felt like I was playing two different people. So that was what drew me in initially.
Nick, Charlie really stood out to me. He’s a ghost from the ’90s. He has this really interesting balance of being eternally young, but very wisened. How did you go about playing someone who’s essentially both 16 and 40?
Nick Pugliese: Well, I’m 40, so … no, I’m just kidding.
Sarah Yarkin: Kind of …
Nick Pugliese: Honestly it was in the writing, I didn’t have to … it wasn’t too much of a stretch of an imagination because just the way he’s written is so likable and charismatic and supportive. I don’t know.
Sarah Yarkin: You didn’t bring any of that to the character.
Nick Pugliese: That’s an easy cop-out. I was just reading the words on the page.
Sarah, Rhonda has a really powerful moment in episode three when she discusses her passing. How did you go about getting into that heavy headspace for that scene?
Sarah Yarkin: I’m always there. No. I’m always crying — I do cry a lot. I don’t know.
Nick Pugliese: That’s true.
Sarah Yarkin: It’s so interesting because I think, as an actor, when you’re like, “And then you have your emotional scene,” there’s all this pressure to be like, “If I don’t get there, I fail.” But there’s something about Nate and Megan [Trinrud], the creators of our show, that even when they would tell me bits and pieces of our characters, or they’d be like, “You know what, there is a thing.” Or we were in the classroom once and they said, “This is the room you died in.”
The way them and Oliver [Goldstick], our showrunner, would explain my character, even just talk to me about her … I would get very emotional. Like it actually felt — I don’t know, in some psycho way — very personal when they were like, “You died in here.” And I stood around and I was like, “What? Like this room I’ve been in this whole time?” So I don’t know. There something, I think, when you’re with a character for a bit of time, you sort of just start to feel really personal about it. She is just elements of me. So when I was telling this story, I was like, “Yeah, this is my story.”
Peyton, Maddie’s the newest ghost at first, so she isn’t really used to people not seeing her. What was it like to play this unique role where most of the other actors have to ignore you?
Peyton List: It took a lot of getting used to. It was awkward at first. We didn’t do rehearsals purposely before starting, because I just wanted everything to just come naturally. So having to adjust to that was weird, I think, for a lot of people in the background who couldn’t look at me, because we can do anything. We have the freedom to do anything and mess with people in the living world. But yeah, it was a challenge.
Nick, there’s a really good scene during Field Day where you destroy a tackle dummy with a javelin as Milo [Manheim]’s character talks about getting out frustration. How fun was that to film?
Nick Pugliese: That was a lot of fun. It was really tiring because I just made that choice that it was going to be crazy at the beginning of the day and then I just had to keep it up. But you know, what’s funny is a lot of the sounds that I’m making in that I actually had to go in and dub over after the fact. So I was just in this sound booth making those like javelin grunting noises.
Sarah Yarkin: I did hear you make them on the day too,
Nick Pugliese: Yeah, I was also doing it on the day.
Peyton List: Nothing made me laugh as hard throughout the entire shoot as that scene. That was it.
Nick Pugliese: That was fun. That was a fun day.