Interviews with SPOOKED’S Richard Martin and Shyloh Oostwald
By Amy Ratcliffe on June 19, 2014
Spooked has taken Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry into new territory. Executive produced by Day and Bryan Singer, the paranomal comedy is Geek & Sunday’s first full-length, half-hour show. The four episode series focuses on an investigation team that looks into supernatural and usually spooky occurrences. But don’t worry, even if you’re a scaredy cat like me, Spooked is sprinkled with just the right amount of humor to keep you laughing instead of screaming. Beyond that, it’s also about family and friendship.
The Paranomal Investigation Team (PIT) came about because Connor (Julian Curtis) learned his mute sister Piper (Shyloh Oostwald) could speak with ghosts after they lost their parents. Connor pulls the members of PIT together – including Ashley Johnson, Neil Grayston, and Derek Mio – in hopes that it will help her recover. They’re not looking for fame or fortune, just catharsis.
We caught up with Oostwald and series director Richard Martin to discuss the challenges of making the series and balancing the horror with comedy.
Nerdist: Piper didn’t speak for much of the first episode. What was it like to convey all of the character’s feelings without any words?
Shyloh Oostwald: It was really different because I talk a lot in person. Having to show what Piper is feeling through facial expressions has been really cool! Since she doesn’t talk much, I was totally focused on the other actors. I was very relaxed in every scene, just really living the moment.
N: Your character is key to the team’s success since she can communicate with ghosts. Do you think being part of the team is helping her cope with the loss of her parents?
SO: I think Piper really needed to escape her reality, the death of her parents, so she withdrew into her own dark world. Being part of the P.I.T. team is a whole new and exciting experience for her. Spending time with her brother and all these new people is taking her out of her own head. She is really fascinated by how these people relate to each other since ghosts are what she really understands.
N: What’s been the weirdest scene you’ve filmed so far?
SO: The weirdest scene was definitely watching Connor (Julian Curtis) and Morgan (Ashley Johnson) making out. Gross!
N: Do you and your cast members try to scare each other on set? And has watching any of the finished episodes creeped you out?
SO: No, we didn’t scare each other on set, but that gives me ideas. After watching the second episode about aliens I started to freak out at all of the different noises I heard in my room that night. I hid under the covers, even though I couldn’t breath.
Nerdist: Spooked strikes a mix of scary and lighthearted. What it’s like to maintain that balance?
Richard Martin: From the start, I knew this was going to be the biggest challenge for Spooked. But after I really examined the characters, I opted to sprinkle in some lighthearted scares around the comedy and drama. So yeah, I wanted my cake and to eat it, too. I think the audiences watching the series so far have enjoyed the balance that we have shown in the first three episodes.
N: The team really seems like family – not just Connor and Piper. Will we learn more details about the other members’ backstories?
RM: Oh, absolutely. Morgan has a great scene in the third episode that really explains why she’s on the team, and then in the fourth episode a lot of their pasts are exposed in some really funny segments. It’s something I really pushed for hard in the scripts because as much fun as all the paranormal stuff can be, our audience isn’t tuning in for that. It has to be about the characters, about the team first and foremost.
N: The episodes of Spooked are as long as what you’d find on television. I know Hulu has a few commercials, but do you have to worry about act breaks as much or is the format more flexible?
RM: We always knew that we had a dramedy on our hands and wanted to film it as such. At the time of production, we still hadn’t decided on the best avenue for distribution, so a lot of the scenes I thought could be potential act breaks I would cover from multiple angles with slight changes… just in case in the editing room we decided to use it as an act out or not. Luckily, the extra planning and hard work on set paid off because as you can tell, we ended up having three commercial breaks (which was more than we anticipated when we wrote them).
N: What have been some of the challenges of production and selling the supernatural aspects effectively?
RM: If there’s one big difference between digital series and TV series, it’s the budget as everyone knows. So when trying to have alien abductions, demonic possessions and poltergeists throwing stuff around the house, it was definitely challenging. But I’ve always been a fan of doing every stunt, gag, etc, practically on set and then having VFX come in to clean it up. And I couldn’t be happier with what we accomplished. Johnny Renzulli and his Chicken Bone VFX team were amazing! They worked around the clock to give Spooked that added element to really pop. Couldn’t speak more highly of them.
N: Do you believe in the paranormal?
RM: Oh yeah, of course. Seems life would be pretty mundane if you denied yourself the freedom to believe in that which cannot be explained.