‘Ghosts’ Star Asher Grodman Grew Up on a Haunted NJ Farm

The Califon native talks Garden State haunts and how he found his voice in his first comedic role.

Asher Grodman

“I believe in ghosts and often experienced a creepy feeling walking around the land that surrounds my family’s home,” says Califon native Asher Grodman. Photo courtesy of Emily Assiran

Despite growing up on a haunted farm in Califon, Asher Grodman never imagined his breakout acting role would involve portraying a pantless spirit on one of television’s highest-rated sitcoms.

In the CBS show Ghosts, adapted from the British television series of the same name, Grodman, 35, stars as the ghost of Trevor Lefkowitz, a Wall Street trader who died of a heart attack while half clothed. Since his untimely death, the character is now spending the afterlife at Woodstone mansion with other spirits who have perished at the site. (Rounding out the cast of spirits are two other New Jerseyans, Teaneck native Danielle Pinnock, who plays Alberta Haynes, a 1920s Prohibition jazz singer, and Maplewood resident Richie Moriarty, who portrays Pete Martino, a scout troop leader.) Ghosts airs Thursdays at 8:30 pm; the season two finale premieres on May 11.

In addition to the ghosts, the series, filmed in Montreal, also features two live humans who inherit the mansion and decide to turn it into a bed and breakfast. The pair happily interact with the mansion’s ghostly residents; Grodman’s own experience of growing up in a haunted house was much different.

“I remember hearing stories about how our home, built in the 1700s, was haunted by friendly ghosts who guided soldiers through a nearby swamp,” Grodman says. “While I never witnessed any ghosts, out of respect for the past, I’ll say that I believe in ghosts and often experienced a creepy feeling walking around the land that surrounds my family’s home.”

Ghosts or no ghosts, Grodman has fond memories of growing up on a farm with his parents, Marc and Pam, his younger brother, Zane, and a menagerie of pets, including horses, geese, five cats and 14 dogs.

“As a kid, I used to love hayrides, making s’mores around the campfire and spending time with farm animals,” he says. 

Grodman attended elementary and middle school at Far Hills Country Day School, and continued his education at Newark Academy in Livingston. School was where he got his first taste of acting.

“I was a shy kid with anxiety issues, but when I was in seventh grade, my mom encouraged me to try out for the school play,” Grodman says. “I agreed because I had a huge crush on a girl in the show. When I was supposed to sing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in front of the entire school, I changed the lyrics to ‘hazel-eyed girl,’ trying to impress her, but instead she was mortified.”

Although Grodman didn’t find romance, he did discover a love for storytelling and being part of the theater community. He continued acting in high school and, after graduation, went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in film and English at Columbia University, where he also competed on the university’s fencing team. He then moved to San Francisco for his master’s degree from the American Conservatory Theater.

In the years that followed, Grodman landed roles in popular television shows including Succession, Chicago Med, House of Cards, Elementary, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and returned to the stage to appear in regional theater productions, including the title role in Amadeus at South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa, California.

“There were also countless auditions and periods of unemployment,” says Grodman, who also used those times to pursue his passion projects. 

He wrote, produced and directed Academy Award-winning actor Eli Wallach in the 2015 short film The Train.

“The movie was inspired by a story my dad told me about Holocaust survivor Andre Mencz and how a single moment in time can change a person’s life,” Grodman says.

In the film, Grodman portrays Adam, a preoccupied young man who reluctantly agrees to take time out of his busy day to meet with his girlfriend’s grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, played by Wallach. The film won Best Short at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in 2015. The Train marked Wallach’s last film, and he died in June 2014, before its release.

“Eli was mesmerizing in the film,” Grodman says. “He was a joy to work with and would come to the set each day with these amazing stories that just captivated everyone on set.”

While Grodman continued to audition for acting roles, he also worked to perfect his craft and found satisfaction helping other aspiring actors. He remembers teaching acting to teen inmates at Rikers Island in the Bronx as one of his most challenging jobs.

“Gaining their trust and watching them experience breakthroughs was very rewarding,” he admits. 

Buoyed by that experience, Grodman later applied to teach acting in both theater and film at Hunter College in New York City, where he now works as an adjunct professor when he’s not filming Ghosts.

“I think my experiences have helped me to become a better acting teacher,” Grodman says. “I love working with the students; they’re curious and excited about finding their unique voice as actors.”

Grodman found his own voice in Ghosts, his first comedic role. While on the outside his character appears to be a superficial finance-fraternity bro, Grodman saw a different side of Trevor. He also appreciates the opportunity to play a Jewish character, who shares his culture.

“I’m a Jewish kid who grew up in a not very Jewish area and was bullied,” Grodman says. “I see Trevor as the little brother of the group, since he’s the most recently deceased.”

Today, Grodman splits his time between Montreal, where Ghosts is filmed, New York City, where he lives and teaches acting, and his family’s farm in New Jersey, where he visits frequently with his dog, Zazie, a yellow Labrador retriever.

“I love bringing friends from New York City to rural New Jersey to enjoy the local farmers markets and the scenic trails,” he says.  

Linda Childers is a California-based writer whose work has been featured in The Cut, Shondaland, USA Today, and The Boca Raton Observer. 

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