A Conversation with Asher Grodman, Critically Acclaimed Actor, Director, Writer & Producer on the Power of Acting & Storytelling.

A Conversation with Asher Grodman, Critically Acclaimed Actor, Director, Writer & Producer on the Power of Acting & Storytelling.

Asher Grodman is an actor, director, writer and producer who has worked across all mediums. Asher can currently be seen starring as fan-favorite character Trevor on the critically acclaimed CBS comedy Ghosts. Written by Port and Wiseman based on the British series, GHOSTS follows a young couple, Samantha and Jay, whose dreams come true when they inherit a beautiful country house, only to find it’s both falling apart and inhabited by many of the deceased previous residents. Trevor is a finance bro who died in the late 1990s and is incredibly frustrated his ghostly roommates don’t understand his past life. Trevor died as he lived: partying at a drug-fueled rager, and now, he walks around for eternity with no pants. The series is currently on its second season, and has been renewed for a third season.

Grodman recently finished production on the film Out of Order, starring alongside Brooke Shields, Brandon Routh and Sam Huntington. The comedy follows Routh’s acceptance to work at a new elite law firm, soon realizing both legal firms are working opposite sides of the same case involving a massive pharmaceutical company. Grodman’s other recent television appearances include Succession (HBO), Chicago Med (NBC), House of Cards (Netflix), Elementary (CBS) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC). He’s worked extensively in independent film and regional theater across the country including the title role of Amadeus at South Coast Rep. Grodman is also the writer/director/producer of the award-winning short film The Train starring Academy Award Winner Eli Wallach. The Train was featured in over 25 festivals and won numerous honours including recognitions for Best Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival and the Sedona International Film Festival. Asher holds a MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and a BA in Film and English from Columbia University in New York. In addition to his work in front and behind the camera, Asher currently teaches acting for both theatre and film at Hunter College as well as instructing inmates in acting at Rikers Island.

In this interview, I speak to Asher Grodman, Critically Acclaimed Actor, Director, Writer & Producer. We discuss the power of acting & storytelling to transform our lives.

Q: How did you know acting was going to be your life?

[Asher Grodman]:  I’ve known I wanted to do this since I was around 13 or 14 years old. The experience of having a Bar Mitzvah and standing up in front of people for the first time really stuck with me, especially since I was quite shy. I often talk about this one incident where I made a grand, albeit over-the-top romantic gesture for a girl by changing the lyrics of “Brown Eyed Girl” to “Hazel Eyed Girl.” It was mortifying for her and utterly failed. However, that experience was thrilling—it was about being seen, taking a risk, and putting myself out there. There were many small moments like that, all starting from the mindset of a 14-year-old who thought, “Oh, this is fun.” Over the years, my motivations have evolved. Sometimes, it was sheer stubbornness—I wanted it to work, despite the challenges. But ultimately, I think what drives me—strange as it may sound—is the desire to feel connected, to feel alive. Despite my anxiety and the constraints that sometimes hold us back, acting connects us to something larger. It’s a business, sure, but there’s a steep thrill in the moments of performance. The thrill of feeling truly alive, of connecting deeply with someone else, even in imaginary circumstances. That thrill of creation is my guiding star.

Q: What is the power of acting?

[Asher Grodman]:  I used to be a substitute teacher in South Central LA as my side hustle to make ends meet. I really wanted to teach acting because I felt that if my bill-paying job also fed into my primary goal, it would enrich the whole process. Acting is a disorienting art form—it’s not like building a table where you can see the progress as you work. You can never see yourself act. Initially, my aim was to teach at acting schools here in New York, and those opportunities did eventually come to me. But the real opening came when a position at Rikers Island presented itself. It seemed terrifying but also amazing, and I had to try it. That experience at Rikers allowed me to refine my approach and learn how to convey information in a way that fosters flexibility and imagination without overwhelming the learners.

And Rikers, with all its challenges, was incredibly rewarding when things clicked. You also asked another question which I want to address—oh, right, why is acting so powerful? I have a perspective on this. Our world is inherently chaotic, and we constantly strive to impose some structure on this chaos. Watching a play, a movie, or a TV show allows us to experience humanity through others, taking a break from our own responsibilities. In its best form, acting mirrors our lives, allowing us to see ourselves in the stories being told. As actors, we must learn to introduce chaos and spontaneity into the structured narrative of a script, providing that very human element that allows the audience to trust us to take them on a journey that feels real and truthful. They can relax in the dark, thinking, “Great, they’ve got this. I’ll just watch.” And then there’s the intrigue—we watch stories because we want to know what happens next. Right now, I’m hooked on “Three-Body Problem” because I can’t predict the outcome, and while I wouldn’t want to be any of the characters, their humanity keeps me glued to the screen.

Q: What is the formula for a great series?

[Asher Grodman]:  …it’s a topic I often discuss with my dad: What makes a show something you’re eager to watch once but never revisit versus one you return to again and again? I think the answer ties into the “what happens next” excitement. But there’s another layer, especially with shows like *Ghosts*, and perhaps *Three-Body Problem* too, though I haven’t finished it so I can’t say for sure. From conversations with fans, it’s clear they really connect with the characters. They enjoy spending time in the quirky world of these ghosts, which makes the show rewatchable. It deals with relevant themes, yet it’s entertaining to watch us navigate through them—you feel like you’re a part of it.

One theory I have, which might be completely off, about why people feel such a strong connection to *Ghosts*, is that we’re tackling serious subjects like life, death, and existential questions, but in a lighthearted way. Imagine this: I’m running around without pants, there’s a guy with an arrow in his neck, and a Viking is chilling with a hippie—we’re basically a bunch of clowns making history jokes. This approach makes heavy topics more approachable.

Also, there’s a cultural instinct to revere those who have passed, as if they know something we don’t. Yet, in our show, we flip this idea on its head. Instead of venerating them, we have these lovable fools trapped in a house, while Sam and Jay are just trying to live their lives. It’s this playful grappling with big concepts that endears the ghosts to viewers, turning them into characters you want to keep close. Watching the show feels like getting a warm hug—that’s how people describe it, and I think that’s a big part of its charm.

Q: What is the relationship between cast, director and producer?

[Asher Grodman]: I’ll share an observation from my experience as an actor. In this industry, whether you’re learning to act or write, you often develop skills in isolation. It’s easy to see your own discipline as encompassing the whole creative universe. However, once you’re on set, the reality of the collaboration involved becomes apparent very quickly. I believe directors, and perhaps producers, have an edge here—they understand early on how interdependent everyone’s roles are. You might have your own lane, but you’re constantly engaged with others’ processes, supporting but not controlling them.

Specifically regarding television, it’s predominantly a writer’s medium. This is due to several factors, but mainly because the format traditionally allows for extended storytelling. For example, it’s impractical for a single director to handle every episode in a season—especially when you’re shooting 22 episodes over seven months, covering pre-production to post-production. In our case, Trent O’Donnell, who is an exceptional director, handled the pilot and the next three episodes at the start of season one, which was a significant undertaking that hasn’t been repeated since. Writers, therefore, play a pivotal role as they drive the narrative.

Filmmaking, by contrast, involves a set story from the start, focusing on the execution of telling that story. Here, writers often become the central figures, crafting the pace and flow of the narrative.

As for acting, it’s about bringing two-dimensional scripts to life, creating a three-dimensional reality, balancing the inherent chaos and the structure of the script.

Directing in television is particularly challenging. A director manages everything during their episodes but then moves on, unlike other team members who continue. Finding good directors is crucial because they help translate the script into dynamic visuals and guide the entire crew and cast in this endeavour.

Lastly, in the context of television production, writers often hold the most sway, as seen with our showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, who are also key producers. This setup underscores the hierarchical nature of television production where writers are at the top of the creative pyramid. Apologies for the lengthy response, but I hope this provides a clear overview of the various roles and their interplay in TV production.

Q: How do you build the resilience to cope with the business of cinema and tv?

[Asher Grodman]:  Well, first of all, dealing with the constant rejections and the “no’s” in this business is really good practice for resilience. Additionally, heading off to Montreal for seven months to shoot the show helps because it kind of segments your life into a distinct compartment. There’s this odd trend that I’m glad we’re moving away from, where we used to label episodes as “the Trevor episode” or “the Alberta episode.” We’ve shifted away from that because it frames everything through a business lens, which isn’t the most helpful perspective.

Ghosts is quite unique in that we have a very collaborative cast—it’s truly an ensemble. In many other shows, due to the way actors are trained and audition, everything is very solitary. You often rehearse a scene, do your blocking, and then everyone retreats to their trailers. That’s not how we operate. On our set, we block a scene, and then everyone heads back to our common area. We all hang out together and workshop the scene, suggesting things like, “Hey, it would be funny if I did this, could you try that?” We’re constantly playing with the lines and riffing off each other.

This kind of teamwork not only enriches our performance but also helps us handle the external pressures of the industry. When you’re part of a cast that’s this engaged, it creates a strong, tangible connection that makes all the other stuff—like the inherent rejection in the business—seem less daunting.

Q: What does legacy mean to you?

[Asher Grodman]: Legacy? Only if I want to drive myself crazy, I think. No, that sounds terrifying. No. I think there’s a very fine line you have to watch because this acting and storytelling business constantly reminds you that you’re never really in control. Getting caught up in ego—thinking ‘I will do this, I will hit this mark’—can make for a tough journey.

There’s a difference between recognising the impact your work has on fans and the audience—like that amazing feeling when someone tells you your performance moved them just as much as your favourite films moved you. That’s something wonderful, and I’d love to continue creating work that stays with people in that profound way.

But aiming for a ‘legacy’ feels a bit too much like venturing into ego territory, a place some might navigate well, but I find it risky. It’s a short step from there to burdensome expectations and then to crippling disappointment. I wish I were better at letting go of these concerns, but in this business, focusing on how others perceive you isn’t just unhelpful—it’s impractical. It’s such a public-facing job, and the truth is, nobody really knows why certain things resonate. Every interview I do, I’m asked, ‘Why do you think people love this show?’ And my answer is always a guess because truly, no one knows. Trying to keep a finger on the pulse of something so subjective is challenging, let alone tying your legacy to it.

Thought Economics

About the Author

Vikas Shah MBE DL is an entrepreneur, investor & philanthropist. He is CEO of Swiscot Group alongside being a venture-investor in a number of businesses internationally. He is a Non-Executive Board Member of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and a Non-Executive Director of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Vikas was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List and in 2021 became a Deputy Lieutenant of the Greater Manchester Lieutenancy. He is an Honorary Professor of Business at The Alliance Business School, University of Manchester and Visiting Professors at the MIT Sloan Lisbon MBA.