Brandon Scott Jones: Playing a Closeted, Dead Colonial-Era Soldier Is a 'Wonderful Thing'

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday March 1, 2022

On CBS's hit comedy "Ghosts," New Yorkers Samantha and Jay Arondekar, (Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar) seek solace from city life in a country mansion they inherit. It turns out they are not alone; and after a near-death experience, Samantha begins to see ghosts who are trapped in a spectral space in the mansion from all points in history. They include a '90s Wall Street banker who died with his pants off; an overly upbeat '80s scout troop leader with a fatal arrow in his neck; a Viking; a cynical Native American from the 1500s; a stoned '60s hippie; a Jazz Age singer who died from bad moonshine; the mansion's 19th century mistress; and a closeted gay American Revolution officer, named Captain Isaac Higgintoot, who is played by out actor Brandon Scott Jones.

Jones quickly became a fan favorite. In December CBS aired a marathon of episodes based on votes by the viewers, . Placing amongst the five episodes chosen was one in which Isaac confronts his feelings for another soldier, Nigel (Nigel Chessum).


Jones is no stranger to playing the deceased on television having previously played John Wheaton for two seasons on the hit NBC comedy series "The Good Place." He is featured on the hit HBO Max series "The Other Two," where he plays Drew Tarver's bff and co-worker. He also writes and co-produces the series. Currently, he is penning the feature film "Senior Year" for Paramount which will be released in 2022. Jones also starred in the Warner Bros. feature film "Isn't it Romantic," opposite Rebel Wilson, and the Oscar-nominated film "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

Jones grew up in Maryland where he dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player. He pursued the sport and was a competitive USTA junior player. Instead he chose a show business career, but continues to be a huge tennis fan.

Ahead of this Thursday's episode, where Isaac gets a female roommate, Thursday, March 3, EDGE spoke to Jones about playing a ghost (again), how he was cast, and Isaac's conflicted sexuality.

EDGE: What did you think of the initial pitch for the show?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: I remember thinking it was exactly this type of show that I really enjoy, which is a screwball comedy ensemble like "Clue." It was one of my favorite movies to watch growing up. This show completely flew under my radar. I had no idea it was happening until it popped up in my inbox. My managers sent me the script and I read it and I loved it. I thought it was so funny and clever. I thought, how has this not been done before? Not knowing it was originally a British show.

 

EDGE: I remember thinking, "What a large cast for a 30-minute TV show. How are they going to make it work?"

 

Brandon Scott Jones: I know, it's definitely a large ensemble. What works is having everybody there because it makes filming easier. It is such a good ensemble, but for 21 minutes of actual screen time for 10 characters, at times I think can get a bit challenging. I don't know how they manage it, but they do.

 

EDGE: Did you think it was going to be such a big hit?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: The cast hangs out a lot outside of shooting. I remember, one night, I was with a few of the cast members, and we were talking about the show and none of us had any idea of how the show was going to be received. While shooting the show, we are in a vacuum, away from everyone and not hearing any of the chatter. We all were just hoping everyone would like it. You have no idea what the audience's response is going to be. It is helpful that it's a very binge-able show and easy to watch. I mean, who doesn't love ghosts who haunt a house? I also love that it is uplifting in a lot of ways, too. It's definitely a nice break from everything that's going on in the world.

EDGE: How were you cast as Captain Isaac Higgintoot?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: It was a straight-up audition process. I tested for the studio and then the network. When they sent me the script, I remember reading it and thinking this character was so fun and wild and unlike anything that I had played before. I remember going into the audition and walking out and thinking, "Well, I'm never going to get the part." After, I went over to Taco Bell across the street and just ate the most amount of Taco Bell you'd ever see a human eat. I really thought I bombed. Somehow it just kept coming backing to me and I was really lucky to get the part. Every time I reread the script, I would like it more and more. I mean, how often do you get to play somebody who's not only a 250-year-old Revolutionary War soldier, but dead? It's just a wonderful thing!

 

EDGE: Are there parts of him that you identified with and connected to?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: Isaac has this desire to be remembered in a different way than he actually is. He is wondering what his legacy on this earth is, but he is also wishing that he was somebody else. He is at least wishing he was a different version of the person he is or a version that he thinks other people would like more. Growing up as a queer person, that was a narrative that I really can cling onto. I think people look at the coming-out-of-the-closet process like "before and then after," but it's really a long process of you having to accept it yourself. You almost have to come out of your closet to yourself first. I felt like this was interesting to see a character going through that phase for 250 years. I found a lot of compassion for him because I could connect with that. Then the other half of it is he has these, like, frilly sleeves on his shirt and I'm like, "This is my aesthetic." I connected with that too, because I am just waving my arms around like a very fancy man, because deep down, that's who I am.

 

EDGE: Captain Higgintoot is holding a secret. How is it impacting his well-being?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: Oh God, it's interesting because he's dead. He can't go anywhere. He's trapped in this purgatory, and so his well-being is something that weighs him down. I think he's starting to realize that. It took him being dead to start living and to start accepting who he is. I think ultimately, he wants to move on and wants to get out of this purgatory. Keep watching to find out what happens.

EDGE: What are some main motives for keeping his secret?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: I think he's a little angry that he died before his time. He had a lot of plans. He believes he could have been a founding father of this country. He is always on the edge of history, but just kept missing it. So, I think he's like, "If I'm going to be dead here, I can at least convince these other ghosts who I was or wanted to be." However, I think they all see right through it. Now that Sam and Jay moved into the house, he's actually opened up and trying to build better relationships with the other ghosts. I think the more comfortable he feels with them, the more he's going to be able to be himself.

 

EDGE: What can fans expect to see from your character?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: It's interesting when you're playing a character that's sort of trapped in one space. I'm always thinking about what more we could learn about him. I would love to see him reconcile his place in history a little bit more. I'd love more flashbacks of him like seeing him near the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I'd love to see more of his relationship with Hetty and Alberta. I think really, for me, it's all about the relationships. I would love to just see his friendships deepen a little bit more with all the ghosts.

 

EDGE: If you were a ghost, whose home would you want to haunt?

 

Brandon Scott Jones: I'm going to be real. I would want to haunt Beyonce's house because I need to know what's going on in there. Like, what is she doing every second of the day? Does she, like, wake up and make a Pop-Tart? I have to know!

 

EDGE: Tell us about your new film, "Senior Year."

 

Brandon Scott Jones: Yes, it premiers on May 13th on Netflix. It's a movie that I co-wrote and I'm in it for a bit. It stars Rebel Wilson, Sam Richardson, and Zoë Chao, Mary Holland, Chris Parnell, and so many wonderful other actors. It's a story that's actually really personal in a lot of ways too, because it's about a character who graduated high school around the same time I did, who ends up going into a coma, wakes up, and has to go back to high school 20 years later. Teen comedy is one of my favorite genres of film, so that is why I wrote it. I think that it's a really fun movie and I think people are going to love it. It's just a fun, silly, uplifting movie.

 

"Ghosts" airs Thursdays at 9:00 P.M. EST on CBS. "Senior Year" hits Netflix on May 13.