‘Ghosts’ Actor Román Zaragoza Reveals the Importance of Sasappis Being a Native American Storyteller

In the CBS Ghosts TV show, adapted from the BBC Ghosts, Sasappis actor Román Zaragoza had his Native American backstory revealed in episode 14. While Sam (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) tried to create a website for their B&B, Sasappis offered to help tell their story, as he was a Native American storyteller when he was alive. Ghosts showrunners Joe Port, Joe Wiseman, and actor Zaragoza talked about the importance of Native American representation in the show and why they wrote Sasappis as a storyteller.

'Ghosts' actor Román Zaragoza as Sasappis
Román Zaragoza as Sasappis in ‘Ghosts’ | CBS via Getty Images

‘Ghosts’ Actor Román Zaragoza wanted a Native American Lenape consultant to help with writing Sasappis

The U.S. Ghosts cast features spirits from across American history. This includes American Revolution captain Isaac (Brandon Scott Jones), lady of the Woodstone Manor Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky), Jazz singer Alberta (Danielle Pinnock), Viking Thorfinn (Devan Chandler Long), and Native American Lenape Sasappis (Román Zaragoza). CBS recently renewed the show for Ghosts Season 2.

And as a guest star on Ghosts, Gregory Zaragoza, Román Zaragoza’s father, played Sasappis’s father. After filming Ghosts Season 1, Episode 1, Zaragoza recalled talking with the showrunners about writing his character. Basing Sasappis in Native American history needed work.

“After the pilot, I had really good conversations with the Joes – Joe Port and Joe Wiseman – about bringing a Lenape consultant into the project,” he told Observer. “If you want him to be Lenape, you should be engaging with the tribe or someone who is associated with the tribe because otherwise, it could come off a little disrespectful. I’m like, ‘I’m not Lenape. I’m not knowledgeable on the Lenape people’s history. That’s not me, so I would love to bring someone in.’

They brought Lenape Joe Baker to the Ghosts series, who “enrolled in the Delaware Tribe.” 

“He’s been such a blessing for us and so supportive, and you can really see the impact he had on Sasappis and on the show as a whole,” the Ghosts actor said, “from my costume changing from episode 1 [to] episode 2.”

‘Ghosts’ Actor Román Zaragoza said making Sasappis a Native American storyteller made him more human

In Ghosts, Sasappis stands as one of the more sarcastic characters. It happens after living hundreds of years with other spirits like Flower (Sheila Carrasco). However, Zaragoza and the showrunners wanted to make him authentically Native American.

“Having Sasappis be a storyteller, that was something that the Joes and Joe Baker were talking about because they wanted to make Sasappis that made sense to his character, not just making some stereotypical warrior or whatever other stereotypes there are for Native people. They wanted him to be this full-fledged person,” Román Zaragoza said. “And I was so excited when they said they wanted him to be a storyteller.”

And he loves that his Native American character also resonates with fans. When Román Zaragoza explored Sasappis’ history with Rose McIver’s Sam, it reached many people.

“I’m excited when I get someone on Instagram reaching out saying, ‘My kids look up to you.’ 

The CBS actor said he did not want the character to be ‘groundbreaking’

Zaragoza is happy to give more diversity to US television shows in Ghosts. However, he wants the character to go beyond that now and in Ghosts Season 2.

“One thing for me was I didn’t want Sasappis … to be groundbreaking,” he said. “I just wanted it to be another actor playing a character, and I think with the success of Rutherford Falls, and with Reservation Dogs, we’re seeing these shows that, of course, yes, have Native showrunners, but are just really good shows.”

Ghosts actor Román Zaragoza worked with Reservation Dogs creator Sterlin Harjo in 2019. He praised the creator for bringing more Native American stories to US TV.

“I grew up in a time where I didn’t really see myself represented onscreen unless my dad was in a movie or just little bits here and there,” he said. “Of course, representation is such a big part of my life, and I want that to be the impact that I can have, but also I want people to see that Sasappis is more than the color of his skin as well.”

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