‘Ghosts’: Danielle Pinnock on Alberta’s Shady Jazz Past & Personal Connection to the Story
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Ghosts Season 2, Episode 2, “Alberta’s Podcast.”]
In the episode, Sam (Rose McIver) and the ghosts come up with the idea to cover Alberta’s murder mystery in a podcast, utilizing the singer’s personal accounts as a way to share the most accurate version of events. The catch? When Sam pitches the idea to her editor, she’s told she’ll need an expert, and it seems like the only option is Season 1’s Alberta super-fan and historian “creepy” Todd (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll).
When he comes to Woodstone with items and artifacts, an end table uncovers Alberta’s diary, revealing that she went against her “no ratting” policy to cut down her musical competition in the past. While it’s distressing news for Alberta to have leak, she has a reason for her actions, sharing with Sam that unless she ratted on her competitor, she’d never have a shot at getting the stage spotlight because of her appearance compared to other performers.
The moment of vulnerability allows Sam to regain Todd’s fandom for Alberta and as their podcasting adventures continue, a new layer of mystery is revealed as Todd opens one of his books featuring a photo of Alberta’s former competitor Clara. It turns out some of the ghosts saw her on the night of Alberta’s murder, putting Clara at the top of the suspect’s list. Below, Pinnock opens up about digging deeper into Alberta’s story, her own personal connection to the character’s journey, and she teases what’s to come.
We’re finally delving deeper into Alberta’s past with an actual flashback. What was it like getting to bring those scenes to life?
Danielle Pinnock: It’s really exciting to get to peel back the layers on our girl who is such a delicious diva. But we do get to see some vulnerability with her in this season, which I love. And being in another outfit was a dream come true. I actually felt so fabulous having the chance to work with so many incredible black artists and musicians, singers, and backup dancers. It was the best day of work being able to go back in time with our girl Alberta.
Alberta sings from time to time, but she really got to command the spotlight in this episode. Was that exciting for you?
Yvette Cason helped me through that part so I could really allow Alberta to shine, and I’m just so thrilled that people get to see her singing in the jazz club. I know last year a lot of people on social media really wanted this flashback. So I’m grateful for our showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman and all of our writers that got to write this for her. And I’m just very curious if we will end up solving the murder mystery by the end of the season because I know people wanna know. I wanna know, but every time we get the new script, it’s brand new information for us. We don’t know anything about what’s gonna happen in the future. So as much as it is a mystery to Alberta, it’s a mystery to me too.
What was it like getting to uncover more of the events that lead up to Alberta’s death and how her actions deviated from the things she’s always preaching, like not being a rat?
I was mostly thrilled because the only thing I really knew about Season 1 Alberta is that, she’s an incredible diva. She’s a singer, she loves an audience. The ghosts have been gaslighting her about this murder all season long, they’ve been like, “oh, it was a heart attack.” I knew from the “Alberta’s Fan” episode, we have our creepy Todd who is played expertly by Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll. But she just really wanted to make her family proud amidst all of the foolish shenanigans that were going on with creepy Todd. So to find out that she was a little shady and called the cops on Clara and was a low-down rat, it was exciting because she really does have some great layers. But I hope her truth-telling about what it was like being a plus-size woman during the jazz era can get some of the fans back and on board because it must have been so difficult for her to compete with the beautiful Clara. So I’m really, really excited that these layers are being shown this season and that Alberta gets to shine in different ways.
Speaking of the vulnerabilities of Alberta and her struggles being a plus-size woman in the jazz era, as a body positivity activist, was that part of her story influenced by any personal experiences?
Absolutely. Joe Port and Joe Wiseman called me, and they were like, “listen, we know your whole Instagram and social media pages are about body positivity and we wanna add this layer in for Alberta, Are you okay with it?” And I said, “Absolutely.” The show that brought me to LA was my one-woman show called “Body Courage,” where I interviewed over 350 people worldwide about their body image and how they felt about it. Those stories ranged from a little girl on the South Side of Chicago who was getting bullied about her weight to a Northern Irish priest who had early onset Parkinson’s. And I would perform as them on stage every single night. And I was doing that show for five years.
So to be able to pay homage to my work in the body positivity space was just incredible. I felt so honored, and, of course, Alberta would’ve had some issues. But thankfully during that time period, there were other women like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainy who would’ve shared in her struggles as well too. So I want, with this character to be able to pay homage to all the incredible multifaceted size-inclusive, 1920s Black artists that came before me. I hope that I’m doing that work with Alberta.
Is there a new level of respect that Alberta has for Sam? Without her, no one could have spoken to the true nature behind Alberta’s “low-down rat” behavior.
Sam and Jay breathed new life into these ghosts. We are finding out more about them that the ghosts didn’t even know about each other, you know? So I’m excited to dive more into not only Alberta’s murder mystery but the interpersonal relationships between the ghosts. I can’t wait to see what this crush between Alberta and Pete has going on from Season 1. Will she finally go for the good guy, or is she still gonna be obsessed about all of her bad-boy bootlegger boyfriends? So I think this is a fresh opportunity for all of the ghosts to learn more about themselves through the help of Sam and Jay.
Coming back to creepy Todd. He’s discouraged when he reads about Alberta ratting on Clara. Did you ever think you’d see the day when Alberta would be worried to lose Todd as a fan?
Never [in a million years]. I mean at that moment when he rips off his shirt [in Season 1], I was cackling. He was so invested and so in it and it just took us so long to get through that scene cause everybody was just laughing. Even though creepy Todd is a very strange character, to know that she has one person that remembers her in such an incredible way, when he decides that he no longer wants to be her fan, it does crush her, because it’s like, “man, nobody gonna know about me at all.” And that’s the thing, she wants to go viral, she wants fame, she wants to be remembered.
Alberta’s reality comes to life through a true crime podcast. Can you tease whether or not that will continue this season?
[Yes, we’ll learn] even more what happened to Alberta. And the other ghosts kind of retain memories as well too. So we’ll start this piece together each podcast episode after episode.
What can you tease for the weeks ahead? Can we expect another Halloween episode?
We are doing a Halloween episode [and a Christmas episode]. We just finished shooting it. And in the Christmas episode, my very dear friend Punam Patel is coming back who plays Jay’s sister. Yeah, and the ghosts will be up to really spooky things in that episode as well as the Halloween episode too.
Apart from Alberta’s story this episode, this was overall a very empowering installment for the female characters, including Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky) and Flower (Sheila Carrasco). What does it mean getting to represent the female perspective this way on TV?
We have a really, really close relationship. Our tents are all together, the Lady Ghost Society is what we call ourselves and we just have so much fun. So now to have an episode that’s so empowering and so female-forward and strong female-led and all of those amazing things [is incredible]. I think Rebecca Wisocky is incredible and she and Sheila give a masterclass performance in this episode.
Ghosts, Season 2, Thursdays, 8:30/7:30c, CBS