George Olson and Danishka Esterhazy Talk SurrealEstate “I Put a Spell on You”
[Warning: Spoilers for the episode.]
Tonight’s fun new SurrealEstate found Luke caught up in an especially bewitching woman, Kay, played by Tara Yelland, Susan trapped in her house, and Zooey learning the ropes. In the next part of my conversation with showrunner George R. Olson and producing director Danishka Esterhazy, we talk about the episode.
First up, it was emblematic of the show’s hopeful nature that as hella threatening as Kay’s ritual was, all the boys and Luke survived it. “The Roman Agency wins again,” laughs Esterhazy, who had a ball directing and staging that moonrise scene. “I just really loved these scripts that I was lucky enough to direct this year.”
“But I think because of a natural love of female-driven gothic horror, the penultimate scene in Kay’s attic was my favorite that I just loved putting together. I loved that set that we built. And I love Tara Yelland’s performance. I think she’s so charismatic and fascinating and scary and wonderful.”
Susan’s house gets a little too close for comfort tonight, and Olson says Susan’s predicament was a fun play on the show’s overall theme of people loving their home, and the darker side of the spirits they help being trapped and unable to leave. “Well, if there’s one thing we learned about Susan in Season 1, it’s that she loves real estate. She loves houses, and in the first episode of Season 2, she says, ‘I think a house is like a soulmate. You can look at a thousand other houses, but when the right one comes along, it’s magic,’” he explains.
“And that really sets up this unhealthy relationship she eventually gets with this house. It is a safe place at a time when she’s feeling very vulnerable. It’s a little bit analogous to people who have unfinished business in a house and in a space, and playing with that a little bit.”
“Sarah [Levy] is just so wonderful at the finer points, just the little moments. And she just did a phenomenal job of portraying a woman who’s feeling that way, but never coming off as a damsel in distress or as anything other than the strong-willed, really smart woman that she is. And that was just enormous fun to have playing in the background as we go follow our different stories about the metaphysically engaged properties.”
Esterhazy adds that it also reflects where we are in the world after the tumult of the last few years. “It’s a very universal experience, the love of home. And I feel like that’s even been amplified after we’ve all gone through the pandemic where we’ve all spent a lot more time at home than we had planned to. And now with so many people working remote, too, people are spending so much time at home in new ways,” she shares.
“And I’m a nester. I love my home. I love my decorating and making everything reflect my personality and be welcoming to my friends and family. And I’m super invested in my home. And I think a lot of people can really relate to that experience. So it’s a fun theme for us to explore because, of course, it gives us this great juxtaposition, too.”
“You have all these people who love their homes or wanna love their home, but they’re being driven from their homes because of the hauntings. And so it brings that satirical, but yet true side to the Roman Agency that everybody there feels like they have a calling and that they’re doing something that helps people.”
“It’s not just about making cash, it’s about finding people their forever home. It’s about rescuing people who need to leave their home and move on. It’s about releasing spirits who can’t let go of their home. So there’s a lot of really great dramatic material for us.”
Getting to see an expanded role for Zooey in Season 2 is an extra treat. “One of the things I love about George’s writing is that the characters are so three dimensional and they have so many places to grow and change. They’re not locked in like a cardboard 2D caricature. They have a lot of depth. And that includes Zooey, who’s so much fun this season,” shares Esterhazy.
Zooey finding her footing as a realtor will play out over the course of the season as she takes what she’s learned from both Luke and Susan, and now, Rita, and puts her own spin on it. “A big part of Zooey’s journey in this season is she becomes a real estate agent. She respects Susan so much. That relationship has been really, really fun to watch develop. She started out rolling her eyes every time Susan comes into the room and you really get to see them [grow closer],” Olson points out.
“And she looks at Susan as such a mentor. So, if Susan becomes less and less engaged in the agency, Zooey’s someone who really feels it and really feels a void there. She has so much respect for Luke, but it’s not the same.”
“One of my favorite scenes was actually the scene between Zooey and Rita in the office when Rita takes her under her wing. It’s so unexpected. And it’s so hilarious. And then they actually find some common ground, which is also hysterical,” adds Esterhazy.
“I also love the way that Zooey wants to be more than a receptionist. She already is. She’s already an essential part of the team, but she wants more authority and more respect and more duties and so she’s going to get her real estate license. And she’s very competent, but it’s such a bad fit, which I also love. Her personality is not naturally attuned to real estate agent.”
“As much as Susan is a people person, Zooey is not so much,” laughs Olson. She lacks the gene that makes small talk and makes sales happen. And so watching her struggle with that is going to be a journey that follows through the whole season.”
“Zooey is so smart and you don’t often see someone that self-aware. She totally knows who she is, and that’s part of the charm of her. She is so incredibly comfortable in her own skin, and can someone like that function in that particular role? We’ll see.”
SurrealEstate airs Wednsdays at 10 pm/9c on Syfy in the US and CTV Sci-Fi and Crave in Canada, where you can also catch the episodes online after they premiere. ICYMI, our all our Season 1 and Season 2 coverage is here.
Photos courtesy of Duncan de Young/Blue Ice Pictures/Syfy.
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