ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy talks to School Spirits showrunner and executive producer Oliver Goldstick and co-creators and executive producers Nate and Megan Trinrud about the mystery drama series. The trio discussed the appeal of mysteries and the real-life experiences behind the show’s concept. The series is currently streaming on Paramount+.
“In the series, Maddie, a teenage girl who remains in the afterlife investigates her mysterious disappearance,” reads the synopsis. “Maddie goes on a crime-solving journey as she adjusts to high school and the afterlife, but the closer she gets to uncovering the truth, the more secrets and lies she uncovers.”
Spencer Legacy: Oliver, you’ve written and produced some hugely beloved movies. What is it about School Spirits that really captures your interest and excites you?
Oliver Goldstick: The central character [and] the idea of different teenagers from different times interaction. I like the disconnection metaphor. I have two teenagers and they have been living in their rooms for almost two years. When I read it, one of them had to go back to school wearing a mask and didn’t know how to navigate that. And I thought, “This really resonates.” As I read Little Lies – anyway, 2010 – smartphones are put in the hands of children. They have never been there. The whole idea of cyberbullying, even though I knew about the stories on MySpace and there were a couple of big news stories, it was the beginning of something. The idea that you can be bullied 24/7, that it’s inevitable.
I know this show resonates. I knew it would touch a chord. And I felt it when I read School Spirits, and I’m not trying to be pretentious here, but I feel like it resonates more than just being, “Oh, just another YA series,” that there’s something about it that’s innovative and relevant. And funny, by the way. Did I mention that too? They’re fun characters and I love that it’s not easy to categorize, that it’s a show that’s heartfelt but scary and it surprises you, and not many things can, you know? At unexpected moments in each episode,
Nate and Megan, a ghost solving their own murder is a compelling idea. When did you first come up with that concept and how did it actually come about?
Nate Trinrud: Well, I think we had the idea almost a decade ago. Megan and I had an atypical early 20s. We were both in college and left our small town for the big cities, and soon after we both arrived at our different destinations, our father — who struggled with alcoholism — very sick. So we went back to our small town, back to our parents’ house. We lived in our childhood bedrooms for years while we tried to figure out what our new life would be like.
And I think there was a moment where we were talking about, “What are we going to write to talk about this?” And at that moment, we were like dead inside. So for us, we wanted to write a story about someone who feels dead or dying and trying to find out what it feels like to be alive again. That’s why we always say School Spirits isn’t just a coming-of-age story – it’s a coming-of-age story. For us, that has become more helpful in processing our own situation and sharing it with other people.
Megan Trinrud: I think that’s a big part of it too, as we start to process what we’ve been through, we realize that our story is not that unique. There are many people going through the same thing at the same point in their lives. We thought that by talking about it in this format it would be a good way to have a bigger discussion with people who are facing the same issues.
Nate Trinrud: And again we just love the film Ghost from 1990.
Megan Trinrud: We love the movie too Ghostyes.
Oliver Goldstick: There is hope at the end of this journey for them. I think for Nate and Megan as writers, it’s not nihilistic. In the end, you don’t know the worst thing that happened to you, and I think that made me a writer because we were going through a difficult time. We haven’t gotten out of it yet, but it was a bleak time in 2021 when I first read the script. I feel like they’re trying to write something that’s really inspiring but also inspiring to young people.
Oliver, you have experience writing mystery series like Pretty Little Liars. What is it about that genre that keeps bringing you back?
Oliver Goldstick: Because there’s a machine — it’s so much fun! I love the twists. I love the twists and turns. At our age, tell me if I’m crazy, high school, it’s very dramatic. High school is a time in your life where people change and you think you trust someone on Thursday and you go back to school on Monday and it’s like, “Who are you? Why did you pierce that? That hurts ! I can’t even look at you! Get that out of your nose!” I mean, whatever it is, like you think you know people but you don’t, because everybody’s trying on identities. Everybody’s trying to figure out who they are.
And I think adding an element of murder, a murder mystery to that or mystery element, really drives a show in a compelling way because you want to know, where is it going? And I said before, Spencer, that I’m working on a show – mate Little Lies — where the bad girl comes in, right? It was very interesting because it didn’t come up with Maddie. He is not a target. So what happened to this guy? Why? This is not a clear story. It’s like you have to peel off the skin of an onion to say, “What’s going on? How did this happen to this person?”