In early 2017, SYFY approached writer/director/producer Simon Barry with a simple request: Can you write us a show about ghosts?
"They were very open about what that could be, but they did know that they wanted it to be in a small town. The rest was up to me," Barry said during an interview at San Diego Comic-Con in July. "That's never happened to me. I've never been asked to pitch back a show that somebody else wanted."
The result of SYFY’s paranormal plotting is the new series “Ghost Wars,” which premieres Thursday, October 5 at 10 p.m. ET. Set in the remote Alaskan town of Port Moore, the show features former Nickelodeon star Avan Jogia as Roman Mercer, a jaded psychic medium who becomes the sleepy burgh’s best chance of survival when supernatural forces threaten its very existence.
"What's always been interesting to me about this role is the idea of an outsider who then, due to circumstance, this thing that makes him an outsider becomes the single most important thing that this town could require," Jogia explained. "He's a person who's kind of bored by it. He's kind of exhausted by the whole idea [of being a medium]. I've been living with this. I know ghosts."
As executive producer and writer Dennis Heaton put it, “He’s basically what happened to the kid from ‘The Sixth Sense’ if he didn’t get the therapy.”
“Ghost Wars” examines the town’s supernatural occurrences though the unique lens of several different characters, and represents points of in the paranormal, religious, scientific and skeptical communities. While Roman embodies a personal and esoteric connection with the “other side,” Vincent D’Onofrio’s character Reverend Dan tackles the afterlife with a faith-based (but occasionally conflicted) philosophy.
"We have a ghost story to tell, but it's also a social comment on how it affects people in real life, and what it does to them," D'Onofrio told reporters. "The good people get even better, the bad people get even worse, and then some people fall in between and surprise you on either side. It's a lot of crazy s**t. And it's constant crazy s**t."
Representing the town’s fact-based point of view on the spirit world is “Battlestar Galactica” alum Kandyse McClure, who plays a theoretical physicist struggling to find her purpose in the wake of recent career embarrassment.
How does one fail as a theoretical physicist?
"You publish a paper and your peers tear you apart," McClure explained. "You reach for a brass ring and you just fail miserably. She takes this job as a way to fight her way back to credibility. And in the midst of that, this ultimate problem lands on her lap. She's really fighting to make sense of it."
She also doesn’t get alone with Roman.
"We're sort of coming at the same problem, but from opposite ends of the spectrum," she later added. "I'm fascinated by him. He could give a s**t about me, and makes fun of my shoes most of the time."
Rounding out the colorful cast of characters inhabiting Port Moore is Kim Coates as a fisherman turned smuggler named Jimmy, Kristin Lehman as the town’s respected doctor and … Meat Loaf?
As it turns out, the Grammy-winning recording artist and beloved co-star of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Fight Club” was the very first actor cast for the “Ghost Wars” project. According to executive producers Chad Oakes and Mike Frislev, Meat nearly accepted a small role on their other SYFY network series “Van Helsing” (which is also co-produced by Barry), but ultimately passed in favor of recovering from a recent tour.
When “Ghost Wars” needed an actor to play a boisterous, angry and troubled paranormal skeptic named Doug, producers knew it was the right time to give Mr. Loaf another call.
“I don’t not believe,” Meat Loaf said of his character. “They can just go f**k themselves. I’m just not afraid of them. When we did a scene in the church, when our ghosts came through the wall, everybody in the church ducked beneath the benches and screamed and yelled. And Doug just stood there and went, ‘Come on, dude. Let’s go. You wanna f**k with me? Let’s go and try.’ That’s Doug’s attitude, and that’s Doug’s attitude towards everyone.”
For Heaton, writing the Doug character became much easier when he knew Meat Loaf was playing the part. "It also made the character probably about 90% angrier," he joked. And Meat doesn't disagree.
"That's true. I've never turned down a fight in my life," the 70-year-old singer said. "And I've never lost."
“Ghost Wars” premieres Thursday, October 5 at 10 p.m. ET on SYFY. Click here to set your DVR.