Devan Chandler Long chatted about playing Thorfinn, one of many haunting spirits on the new CBS sitcom Ghosts.
Ghosts is based on a BBC series of the same name, created by and starring the writers-actors from CBBC’s Horrible Histories. In the CBS adaptation, Devan portrays Thorfinn, a Viking and the oldest ghost residing at the Woodstone country estate.
Prior to Ghosts, Devan had appeared in projects such as Doom Patrol, The Rookie and Bosch. He is also one of the few actors to appear in television series for both Marvel and DC. Read on below for Devan’s full interview with Courageous Nerd. Alternatively, listen to the audio version on our YouTube channel, linked below.
Welcome Devan and thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.
Devan Chandler Long (DCL): Absolutely, thanks for having me.
What first inspired you to start acting and to pursue it professionally?
DCL: It was never even on my horizon, as a kid. I just didn’t even think it was possible. Growing up, I loved movies. We didn’t have TV, but we did have VHS movies. I’d watch them over and over again. I just fell in love with the whole industry, but I just didn’t think it was a possibility.
I grew up playing football, went to college for that and played a little bit professionally. When that journey came to a close, I kind of had this void in my life, you know? I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I’d devoted my life to one facet and when that gets taken away, you lose your identity. I completely lost my identity. I went from signing my name with a number after it to just having a name.
I kind of wandered, you know, for a couple of years. I had an opportunity to come out to Venice Beach. Didn’t really have an intention to get into the industry at all. I just wanted to be in the sand. A friend of mine mentioned he had an agent and he could go out for some commercials or TV stuff. I was like, “What?” He was like, “Oh, it’s fun. You get to dress up and be these characters. “I was like, alright!” I literally couldn’t get any other kind of job. Although I think I had applied for some job selling artwork.
So, I heard if you book one job, you can get good money for a couple days, so I was like, “Okay, let’s check this out.” Got an agent, I convinced this agent to give me a shot. I got really lucky and booked a couple of jobs, a couple of commercial jobs. It was intriguing, you know? It was commercial work, so not really heavy stuff. Mostly for my look – big forehead, big guy stuff. One thing led to another, opportunities kept presenting themselves. Eventually, TV opportunities came along. I followed my instincts and was very curious about pursuing the craft. I took some classes and fell in love with it.
You currently play ‘Thorfinn’ on the new CBS sitcom Ghosts. Had you watched the original BBC series before shooting your version? As an actor, do you appreciate that kind of resource?
DCL: Yeah I did watch it and it’s great. Those guys are fantastic, every one of them. A lot of people don’t know, but they’re actually producers on our show. They’ve got their hands in both cookie jars. I love what they do, all their characters are so fleshed out. I just love the tone of the show, it’s very dry and they don’t rush anything. It’s a beautiful show, what they have over there. I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to take it and put our wrinkle on it.
Thorfinn perhaps most resembles Robin (played by Laurence Rickard) from the BBC series. As Laurence Rickard and the other co-creators of the BBC Ghosts are Executive Producers, did your cast have any discussion with them about the project?
DCL: No one talked to me about anything! You never know what’s going on behind the scenes when shows get started. A lot of people, lot of producers, lot of writers. Everyone’s got their idea of something. When they’re doing the casting process, they don’t want to tell you anything like that. They just kind of give you the idea and see what you bring to the table. I guess they just liked my version of Thorfinn. No one ever talked to me about… essentially, when I got the character description from the first audition. He’s cod-obsessed, kind of lovable, big old lumbering Viking.
I read the breakdown and said, “Oh, okay, I think I know this guy.” I’ve been hanging out with this guy for quite some time. Literally, I just brought him to the table.
If any ardent fans of the BBC version are hesistant about this adaptation, how would you pitch the CBS version to them? Why should they check it out?
DCL: I’m not in the business of convincing anyone to do anything. You just kind of lead by example. People will come and find it. If you’re curious and want to look at it, it’s on you. I think this show will find its people. It might take some time but it already seems to have found a good base here in America and everyone overseas. Maybe on a boring Sunday, people will be like, “Let’s see what this thing’s all about.” If they check it out, I think they might be pleasantly surprised.
In addition to Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar as living characters, you are also working alongside your fellow ‘Ghost’ ensemble. Considering the characters are supposed to have spent decades with each other, did you discuss their ‘lives’ together before Sam and Jay turn up?
DCL: All the time. We’re always talking about backstories. When plots come up on episodes, we’re like, “Hold on, wait, if this happened then and Pete died here… so he would’ve known about this. Would we have seen that? Where was I? I probably saw everything happen.” There are all these things. At the end of the day, you can only use these ideas to inform your approach to the episode. It’s scripted, so we can’t just… we do improv a lot, which is really fun.
It’s great that the ‘Joes’ (Joe Port and Joe Wiseman) and the directors allow us to improv. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. It allows us to inform a lot of the way characters develop throughout the season. They, the writers, are getting a chance to see who we, the actors, are. Everything’s just been blossoming. As each episode goes on, we’re learning more and more about each other. Just fleshing everyone out. But yeah, we do have a lot of conversations about our characters and how they would respond to certain plot points.
As well as Ghosts, you’ve also appeared in several other projects. Is it true you have appeared on shows for both Marvel and DC?
DCL: Yeah, that is true! I play a superhero on Doom Patrol for HBO Max – Flex Mentallo, that’s DC. And then, I’ve done two projects for Marvel. I played a small role on Runaways, a mysterious character as well as Agents of Shield. So yeah, I’ve done a little bit of both. Doom Patrol, I’m such a fan of that show. It was an honour to be part of that show. I think they just got a Season 4. Everyone over there is just fantastic. Such an interesting show – all the characters, storylines. If you haven’t watched it you should watch that show. It’s a wild ride.
Without giving too much away, what can you tease about Ghosts going forward?
DCL: Well, I’ll know more tomorrow. We have five more episodes to shoot. I have no idea what’s going to happen, from episode 14 to episode 18. It’s exciting, I have no idea. Initially, we had 13 episodes so I knew we were going to do 13. Obviously, that’s not the end of the season. I’m just as excited as everyone else to see where it goes.
In these next few episodes, we’re going to see more scenes and plots arise about what ghosts can and can’t do.
To wrap this up, what do you hope to accomplish in the coming months as we head into 2022?
DCL: What do I hope to accomplish? I’ve always just wanted to… having had my start as an athlete and being on a team, I’ve always loved being on teams with great people. Being around creative people, collaborating, coming together. Just uniting… whether you’re winning games or as an actor on a great project with an ensemble cast. Putting something quality together.
I’m just so grateful right now to be on this cast with everyone, top to bottom. Behind the camera… everyone’s so great. The fact that we get to continue doing what we’re doing and people are enjoying it? That just makes me happy. We can goof around and people can sit at home and enjoy that. That’s the gift right there. My job is to put smiles on people’s faces. That’s all that really matters to me. If we can put smiles on people’s faces, my cup’s full.
Thanks again for taking the time, Devan. Take care and stay safe!
DCL: Thank you very much, I appreciate all the words. We’ll see what happens! The Universe knows best.