By Anne Brodie
Ghost BFF creator and star Vanessa Matsui is celebrating Season Two of her bold, fresh series now on WhoHaha and KindaTV that gets to the nitty gritty of the twenty something female experience. Matsui plays Amy and Kaniehtiio Horn is Tara, estranged friends who meet again after Tara’s death by suicide. She’s a ghost haunting Amy with endless opinions and cautions to jolt Amy out of her current, underwhelming life situation. Amy’s made mistakes, plenty of them and suffers from anxiety and depression but doesn’t enjoy being told what to do by a pesky ghost. Even so Tara cares about Amy’s well-being and they find they really do need each other. Ghost BFF is hilarious and dark by turns and its unexpectedly radical, dealing frankly with mental health and diversity issues. I spoke with Matsui about this charmingly offbeat labour of love.
Congratulations on a new season of Ghost BFF!
I did not expect a Season Two, not at all. Katie Bird Nolan, my producer and co-writer of Season One worked so hard on it and never in my wildest dreams did I think we would get a second season.
Ghost BFF is a crazy fun and original mix of horror, sci-fi, comedy, farce and drama. Wow.
My favourite movies growing up were Ghost and Clueless and anything like those. So, this is a combo of those. I remember once Kate said that I had a weird brain, I never thought of myself that way but I do have a weird brain, that’s what’s exciting about creating for the web, not for a network. You can do whatever you want to. I don’t have to follow any strict guidelines or genre rules.
Amy’s under a lot of pressures that add zing and humour and pathos. In some ways, she’s a study of coping and grace under pressure.
I had the germ of the idea for Season Two and I knew where I wanted the show to start and I knew where I wanted to be and where to end up and that’s all I knew. Then while figuring out the in-betweens I started reading a Young Adult novel Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini. He died by suicide, but his YA novels are having a resurgence of popularity and I believe two years ago, there was an off-Broadway version of the book. It’s an interesting position to be in if you were his wife or child and your loved one is receiving fame or work being brought back to life posthumously through his work.
Through the series storylines and PSAs, you’re supporting mental health awareness. That’s admirable. I hope it helps people.
We look atsuicide, anxiety, depression, and love in new ways! Tara’s suicide in Season One was just a Band Aid for what had happened in her life. Amy is to marry a guy who looks good on paper, and away her artistic self for stability. But when Tara confronts her on all these things, that are at the core of her problems, she leaves again. In Season Two there’s no Band Aid, Amy grapples with what is happening and deals with herself in a way she hasn’t before. Amy is fighting for her life. Some people think the show is really dark. It is dark but I definitely feel like there is a lot of life.
Jean Yoon is absolutely wonderful as Amy’s mom; she cares so much and knows she’s in pain.
I love her, I had admired her from afar. I’m an Asian Canadian actress, and there are not that many of us and to see someone have the kind of career, the unapologetic career she’s had, she’s an entrepreneur, writes her own shows. Her success as an Asian Canadian is all our successes. She was the first I thought of to play my mom. She did a deep dive into research, she watched Season One, wrote me a beautiful letter that meant a lot to me, and she’s a totally recognisable face. There’s a theme of motherhood that wasn’t there is Season One. I had a baby between Seasons One and Two and that had an effect on my life, and I appreciate mothers on a whole new level.
How did the characters appear to you in the first place?
I think about ghosts a lot. I love a good ghost story always and anytime someone has an encounter I want to hear about it. I’m intrigued by the supernatural. I loved The X Files and Ghost, when you can see your loved ones again.
You are a major supporter of BIPOC in the film and TV industry.
I have always championed BIPOC artists and always noticed this lack of diversity. I see it. I’m watching a movie set in New York and everyone’s white. It makes no sense to me. I always want to champion my friends of colour who are making their art. The arts are not easy for anybody but especially for BIPOC creators. I look at Ghost BFF and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where the two leads are both BIPOC and are funny, relatable and talented.