WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…The Cast of Ghostwriter

If in the early ‘90s, you were a) between the ages of 7 and 14, b) owned a television, and c) literate, then you probably watched Ghostwriter.  Produced by the Children’s Television Workshop (now called the Sesame Workshop) and BBC One, it premiered in the U.S. on PBS on October 4, 1992. Despite its popularity, the show was abruptly cancelled in its third season due to a lack of funding.  The final episode was broadcast on February 13, 1995.

Ghostwriter focused on a racially diverse group of pre-teen friends who lived in Brooklyn, and solved neighbourhood mysteries with help from an invisible ghost.  While much of the young cast’s acting was painful to watch, especially in the earliest episodes (most of the kids were from non-acting backgrounds), the show was a hit with its target audience.  It was also lauded by teachers, who praised the series for teaching writing and research skills to young students, and emphasizing the importance of reading.

Generally, the members of the main cast have kept pretty low profiles since the show wrapped almost two decades ago.  So, what are they up to these days?

Todd Alexander Cohen (Rob Baker)

After Rob bid farewell to his pals in Brooklyn and left a gaping black hole in my first grade heart, Cohen appeared in a handful of commercials.  He attended NYU with fellow cast members Sheldon Turnipseed (Jamal) and Mayteana Morales (Gaby), and graduated in 2002.  He now lives in Los Angeles, where he works at the William Morris talent agency.

Blaze Berdahl (Lenni Frazier)

While Berdahl continued to perform in commercials, soap operas, and New York theatre after saying goodbye to the Ghostwriter Team, it was voiceover work that appealed to her the most.  In 2006, Berdahl became the voice of “Swiffer” products.  Most recently, her voice has been featured in commercials for Subway restaurants, Bermuda Tourism, and the Ford Focus.  With a steady supply of work to keep her busy, I guess we shouldn’t expect her to release a remix album of Lenni’s “You Gotta Believe” anytime soon.

David Lopez (Alejandro “Alex” Fernandez)

Queens-born, Colombia-raised Lopez attended Rutgers University in 2002, and hopefully graduated.  In 2004, he lent his voice to a character in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game.  He has since returned to Colombia, and probably has a very happy wife.

Mayteana Morales (Gabriela “Gaby” Fernandez)

Mayteana graduated from NYU in 2003 with a degree in dramatic arts.  She is now part of funk/R&B/jazz/reggae/fusion/hip-hop/soul group The Pimps of Joytime.

Tram-Anh Tran (Tina Nguyen)

After graduating with a degree in finance from Penn State University in 2001, Tram guest-starred on Lifetime’s Zoe Busiek: Wild Card in 2004. She seems to have made her family her top priority, crushing the souls of Alex/Tina shippers everywhere.

Sheldon Turnipseed (Jamal Jenkins)

Sheldon has fallen off the radar entirely. Maybe Ghostwriter can track him down.

William Hernandez (Hector Carrero)

At age 15, William left home because his family did not accept his homosexuality.  He continued acting, and landed parts in various obscure movies.  In 2004, he was part of the cast the Philadelphia season of MTV’s The Real World.

Lateaka Vinson (Casey Austin)

Vinson, who played Jamal’s annoying little cousin, traded in her knock-knock joke books for university textbooks. She completed her Masters in speech pathology at Hampton University.

Melissa Gonzales  (other Gaby)

Melissa took over the role of Gaby for the final two story arcs of the series.  She has since been seen as “girl two in bathroom” in a 1999 movie nobody saw called Light It Up.

Several recurring and one-shot characters in Ghostwriter have had relatively successful careers in film and television.  Julia Stiles, who played an intense young hacker in a fleece hat in season 2, went on to become a Hollywood actress and it girl in the early 2000s.  She also graced the cover of my very first issue of Seveteen in September 2000.

Jamal’s father was played by Samuel L. Jackson.  I hear he’s had a few roles here and there.

Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Ghostwriter.  Because of its “real world” setting, and heavy dependence on computers (through which the team “spoke” to the titular character much of the time), the show is now painfully dated.  Still, that didn’t keep Shout! Factory from releasing the first season on DVD last year.

Ghostwriter was a gem of a show from a time many (well, I) consider to be the golden age of children’s programming. It was an educational program, but never pandered to its viewers, never laid on the lessons too thickly.  Its (for the most part) amateur cast may not have been destined for Oscar-winning roles in the future, but they portrayed their characters to the best of their ability, and with total sincerity.

Due to the fact that most kids have access to the entire world at their fingertips thanks to the Internet and cell phones—neither of which were very sophisticated or mainstream when Ghostwriter was on the air—a reboot of the series would prove to be an incredible challenge for producers. Who needs Ghostwriter when you can text? No need to follow suspects around the city when you can gather all the information you need on them via Facebook. Mysteries could be solved with a single Google search. Ghostwriter was a product of its time, and maybe it’s best left there, along with Alex’s striped Hammer pants.


29 responses

  1. Love this! I remember tuning in to PBS to catch it. And my sister and I still say “are you laughing at me!?” like that creepy blob from some story arc on the show.

  2. Thank for the information because my mom and I who were both fans of the series have been wondering for the longest what happened to them. I was in love with the series and was very disappointed when it went off the air. I even had my own pretend “Ghostwriter” team, I was in charge of course but we did get close to solving a few mysteries of our own. I even bought the entire series on DVD on a website known as IOFFER.Com and I had bought the pilot episode on VHS while I was still in elementary school from AVON, most of my friends didn’t follow the series like I did but this was the best show ever in my opinion.

    I even checked out the books based on the show and my personal favorite was the story where you read one side from Gaby’s point of view and the other side you read from Alex’s point of view and then you later go to a section in the middle and you solve the mystery from both points of view! I was so sad when the show went off the air because I always hoped the kids would find out who Ghostwriter really was, sadly it wasn’t meant to be!

    I also remembering owning a computer like the kids did, I used to pretend I was a team member sending messages back and forth to Ghostwriter, of course no one wrote back but still it was a great time in my life!

    Alysia Victoria Parker

  3. Thank you for this post. This was one of my favorite shows on tv and still is to this day. I now have two little girls of my own and too my surprise the 7 year old is getting to watch it at her school. Her teacher must have bought the dvd.

    She came home talking about it one day and I thought she was speaking of a cartoon. She brung it up again today so I decided to look up the cast and found this website. When she saw the picture of the cast members she became so exited saying “that’s them mommy!” Her class loves this show. I was pleasantly surprised.

    So it goes to show you a show of quality will still appeal, even to this techonology laden generation. Im going to try to buy the dvd myself.

  4. I’m from Argentina and I remember watching the show almost everyday. It was so cool. Now that I think about it, it could have been one of the reasons why I ended up studying journalism! It was great, I just remembered the name “Jamal Jenkins” out of the blue and decided to look it up in Google. I found this post. I guess that me and a lot of people appreciate it. Nowadays I see my little cousins watching tv and there aren’t shows like “Ghost writer”, it’s a shame.
    But anyway, “Ghost writer”… those were the days!
    Thank you for posting this. Makes me wanna get the episodes and watch them all over again, and I’m 20 years old!

    • Im 25 from Brazil and I used to watch it around 2001/2002. I jyst love the mistery around it, the “ghost writer” itself. The coolest part that it was adapted to local language (portuguese) even in the graphic signs, wich is very unusual to brazilian foreing media standarts. Another exception is El Chavo del Ocho.

      Well, I love to read, and one of the things that pushed me in the direction of literacy was Ghostwriter (coming from a country with a horrible education, a lot of functional analphabetism).

      I would love to find the dubbed episodes so I could show to my nephew. Sadly he just watch those dumb shows that airs on tv, or even in the internet.

      How I miss the good kids shows I used to watch!

  5. Reblogged this on Write a blog on a log, Sam I am and commented:
    So for the past two weeks I took a trip down memory lane and pretty much rewatched all the Ghostwriter episodes. The show was one of my favorites as a kid and I was truly inspired by the show to really enjoy reading. Looking back, I have to say that this was probably one of the most important shows in my life. I can say it has a foundation to my career now as a writer. I really wish the show lasted longer but there’s a part of me that’s happy that it got to where it did.

  6. I wasn’t old enough to see this in it’s original broadcast, but I used to watch it when it aired later from 1999-2000 on Noggin channel. I instantly loved it and I recently found the old episodes online. I showed it to a few of my younger cousins and they also really enjoyed it, I’d say a second generation series would be great if done correctly, but we’ll sadly probably never see one. Great series nonetheless!

    • In retrospect, I would have liked to see troubled Victor join the GW team after Rob left. He enjoyed writing, and he came from a very different upbringing than the rest of the kids. He would have added some more diversity to the team.

      I also think that it would have been cool if Rob was secretly closeted. Though the climate of the time would never have allowed a gay character on a kids show.

      The problem with a show like GW is that it can’t have a long shelf life. It was aimed at the <12 demographic, but featured characters on the brink of adolescence. So it needed to remain innocent enough for kids even as its characters were maturing, hence why the producers brought in characters like Casey, Hector, and Gaby v. 2.0. As silly as it sounds, if done well, I wouldn't be opposed to an animated reboot of the series! At least it'd keep the characters from aging.

  7. I loved Ghostwriter as a child, and I despise the fact the kids don’t have this type of programming this day in age. Thanks for the updates!!!

  8. Wow i used to watch it on The old great and only one discovery kids. I liked Alex, He could choose other country 😛 While i was reading it i was hoping to read “dead”, “murdered” and “came out” because it used to happen with some cast. Well great post. 🙂

  9. David Lopez who played ‘Alex’ lives in New Jersey. He used to live in Italy for a while. I believe he is not married. I know some people from his IMDB message board has had difficulty finding him on social media and that’s because he goes by different names; ‘Oscar David’ or ‘Davilo79’.

    I’ve seen some pictures of him and he still has that same great smile and he has gained some weight. Still think he is as cute as he was when he was a teen.

  10. I disagree, even with technology today, the kids would need Ghostwriter to try and locate people and also to snoop in other people’s fliers. Perhaps instead of just being about reading and writing it could also be about how to use computers as well.

  11. I don´t think that they can´t do Ghostwriter show today. Ghostwriter isn´t all about searching online. He helped them to find documents that weren´t online, for example, contracts that were a fraud and where they were hidden. He also helped them find people that Internet can´t find. I think they can very well do a Ghostwriter show even today.

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