Talk about a spiritual awakening.
Hetty Woodstone, the fussy, stuck-in-her-ways — and very dead — matron that Rebecca Wisocky portrays on the CBS comedy Ghosts, seemed content to spend her inexplicable purgatory just as she'd spent much of her life: wandering the halls of her family's mansion and bossing around anyone she deemed inferior (read: most everyone).
But Hetty's worldview has slowly evolved, first with the introduction of more contemporary ghosts, including jazz-era singer Alberta Haynes (Danielle Pinnock) and permanently high former cult member, Flower (Sheila Carrasco). But Hetty's biggest changes have come since her fourth-great-granddaughter, Sam (Rose McIver) and her husband Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) inherited the place last year. Thanks to a fall that allowed Sam to communicate with those who are stuck spending their afterlives on Earth, Hetty's been introduced to more modern ways of thinking.
In the second season's fifth episode, "Halloween 2: The Ghost of Hetty's Past," the livings' attempted séance brings back a spirit from Hetty's past that only the ghosts and Sam can see: Hannah Rose May's Molly, a woman who worked for Hetty's family and whom Hetty hates because she'd had an affair with her husband, Elias (Matt Walsh).
But, as Hetty soon discovers, that relationship was not as simple as it seemed at the time. Through a conversation with Sam and Molly, Hetty gets a lesson on power dynamics and learns that Elias was as much a snake to Molly as he was to Hetty.
So does this make Hetty a feminist?
"She fancies herself a feminist and then she'll do and say things that contradict it. But she's coming along," Wisocky tells Metacritic with a laugh, also noting that Hetty still says plenty of politically incorrect things and has plenty of prejudices (a hatred of the Irish, for example).
What other feelings have this episode conjured for Hetty? Here, Wisocky explains more.
Hetty got a standalone episode last season where she got to banish her husband Elias to hell. This episode gives us another reason why he was deplorable. Were you surprised that this episode's storyline was so connected to that one's?
Her accidentally conjuring the person she'd least liked to see in the world is a wonderful irony to throw at Hetty. She deserves to be punished, I think, a lot, so my only request [to the writers] was, don't let this resolve her ridiculous hatred of Irish people. It is, sadly, very period accurate. And so, they managed to do that by the end.
Molly is Irish. Is this the reason why Hetty hates the Irish so much?
No. She says that at the end. I think the line is something like, "Isn't it ironic that the one Irish person I deigned to take the time to get to know is actually the only good one?"
She can say the most horrible things. And also the most raunchy things. I asked the Joes [creators and showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman], "How are we getting away with this on CBS?" They said, "Because your character is not in any way aware of the double entendre." It's true. It's a wonderful device. So you can expect Hetty to continue saying and doing rather blue material.
It's pointed out in the show, but the relationship between these two women was a story of power dynamics and how one man controlled both of them. Was that something that was interesting to explore from a modern lens?
One hundred percent. It's one of the ways in which Hetty gets the lesson and allows her to feel simpatico with someone that she previously loathed and blamed. But then, she moves on and says something very selfish. The show has so many opportunities — and it's taken them, I think, in a very gentle and funny and responsible way — of dinging some of our collective shortcomings as a society over the last several hundred years.
You have red hair and so does Matt Walsh. Is there a chance that Hetty might be Irish?
That's my dear hope. You'll notice every person that you've met from her family, and from her house, all look exactly alike: this very, like milk-toasty, pale, red-headed people. I pitched an idea, which I doubt that they'll do: Wouldn't it be so great if Sam takes an Ancestry.com test? And there's a lock of Hetty's hair that's left behind somewhere and they run it and she actually ends up being largely Irish. That will be a wonderful punishment for her.
When she was alive, Hetty was the lady of that house. She's wearing the clothes she died in, which is a full dress and corset and not, say, a nightgown. This suggests she died doing some kind of activity. Are we ever going to learn the specifics of how she died?
I don't know whether we'll find out. I suspect that we will. But I think that there's certain questions like that, that they're going to keep running as long as they possibly can. I can't imagine that it didn't have something to do with morphine.
I was curious because syphilis is mentioned in this episode...
That was my hope for a minute, although I don't know. You know, I think she might have been battier. Yeah, it could syphilis; it could be morphine. I think those are the two most likely scenarios.
I asked Joe Port and Joe Wiseman about this a few weeks ago, but has there been any word on the show doing a musical episode?
Here's how I'll tease it: There's not necessarily one yet. But we have a musical director and sing several songs together in the Christmas episode.
There's a double episode for Christmas that is jam-packed with lots of really fun, cool things and returning guest stars that people will love and new guest stars that people will love. I don't want to tease too much, but there's a really surprising little cliffhanger at the end of the Christmas episode as well.
Ghosts airs at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays on CBS.
Get to Know Rebecca Wisocky:
Character actor Wisocky is known for stealing scenes in such TV series as CBS's The Mentalist (Metascore: 65), ABC's Devious Maids(63), and Apple TV+'s For All Mankind(73), as well as films including Amsterdam(48) and Blonde (50), and numerous stage productions. Despite having a reputation for playing stern or steely characters, she is a very nice person.