Feeling Alive on the Set of “Not Dead Yet” – The Cast Reveal the Joy of Working on a Collaborative Production

“So, this is a real fixer-upper.” That’s something Nico Santos, the most recent ghost-star on ABC’s Not Dead Yet, said to Nell about her apartment in the Season 2 premiere. But now that I’ve walked the halls of the flat rented by Nell and her friend Edward, I’d describe it as having a lived-in charm. On the evening of the Season 2 premiere, TCA members were invited onto the Fox Lot and into one of the soundstages where the ABC sitcom is filmed. After touring their apartment, we gathered outside Cricket’s Wine Down for a press conference with the series creators and stars.

(Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup for 20th Television)

(Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup for 20th Television)

“There's so much reference to Lexi’s dad in the first season, it's such a huge part of my character arc, this unknown, unseen father character,” shared Lauren Ash, who stars as Lexi, manager of the SoCal Independent where Nell writes obituaries. She was speaking of the show’s new series regular, comedy legend Brad Garrett, who enters this season to micromanage the struggling newspaper. The first season featured many references and jokes about her stern father, and the casting choice felt right to Lauren. “I had never really thought about it in terms of envisioning a specific actor. It was more of a feel and a vibe. And I feel like they just nailed it. There was nobody better, and he's amazing.”

“It’s great to be around such a wonderful group in front of and behind the camera,” added Brad Garrett about joining the Not Dead Yet ensemble. When introducing the cast, 20th Television President Karey Burke likened Brad’s arrival on Not Dead Yet to Danny DeVito’s addition to the cast of FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which marked a turning point for that long-running series. “It’s just great to see these young people with their hopes and their talent before it’s beaten out of them,” Brad joked about one of the show’s themes, making the most out of being alive.

What hasn’t changed is the show’s central character, Nell, played by Gina Rodriguez, who also serves as an executive producer. “I have always found that great art is uninhibited, and I am surrounded by incredible artists,” Gina shared about the talented team around her. Gina was pregnant when the first season was in production, and is now a working mom with a husband who put his own acting career on hold so she could continue this role. “I watch him every day make such an incredible son, and allow me to do what I love to do,” Ginasaid, tearing up. “Are we all crying now?” While Gina is a working mom, her son is never far away, with a playroom on set for her and other working parents on the production. Director and executive producer Dean Holland is also trying to convince Gina to let her husband and son make an appearance in the series as an Easter Egg.

The Not Dead Yet team doesn’t just create a supportive set for its creative talent but also produces a feel-good sitcom for viewers. “Recently, a mother and daughter came up to me and said they loved the show, and that they had recently lost someone, and that it gave them some kind of peace,” shared Angela Gibbs, who plays Cricket, proprietor of Cricket’s Wine Down. “It gave them laughter, but it gave them some peace to understand that, yeah, they feel something around them… We know comedy is medicine. We know laughter heals. However, I never really put together that our audiences would actually somehow connect with the other side or need that connection because of loved ones that were lost. So I’m really glad to be on a show that has that kind of message and that kind of love.”

Hannah Simone plays Nell’s best friend and colleague Sam, and part of the fun of entering the second season has been helping the creative team steer her character’s direction. “I had an idea for where Sam could go and what that story would be like,” Hannah revealed. “We were given this incredible gift of season two, and [series creators] Casey and David called me and shared that there were going to be some shifts in Sam’s storyline.” The call served as a reminder of the collaborative nature of this project. “We can share things and feel heard, and seen, and they trust us, and we trust them, and I feel like that’s why people love this show so much.” Careful not to spoil anything, Hannah vaguely teased an upcoming arch for her character. “Sam’s got a really interesting season that I’m so excited to hopefully continue past season two.”

One thing that stays consistent in Season 2 of Not Dead Yet is familiar faces each week as ghost-stars. “Wendie Malick is with us in episode four, playing Mary Sue Manners, a woman who had a manners program on public access TV and follows Nell around and tries to get her to act polite,” revealed co-creator and executive producer Casey Johnson. “We have an amazing episode with Rob Corddry, who plays an IRS agent who thinks he was murdered.” Co-creator and fellow executive producer David Windsor also chimed in. “Chelsea Handler is going to be in the show playing a nemesis with Brad’s character, Duncan. And I think the most special addition in that same episode is Ms. Marla Gibbs, who will be joining us. Angela’s mom. We wanted to do it last year and it just never worked out, and then this year it just all fell into place. We saw them at the Emmys, and they looked so beautiful. And we thought, oh my gosh, we just have to figure this out. So it happened very quickly, and we’re thrilled about it.”

Gina Rodriguez mentioned that her husband and son may appear in the series as Easter Eggs, but I spotted a few myself while walking through Nell and Edward’s apartment. In a real synergistic moment, eagle-eyed fans may spot a yellow-bordered magazine in the living room – National Geographic (ABC, 20th Television, and National Geographic are all owned by Disney).

Inside Edward’s neatly curated bedroom is another bookshelf.

Prominently displayed in his collection is a copy of The Photo Ark: Vanishing by Joel Sartore.

I also loved the little ways each character is portrayed through their space. Edward’s room, for example, is pristinely tidy. And while his dog Arthur had the day off, signs of his existence were all over the set, including dog beds, toys, and food and water bowls.

For how neat and tidy Edward’s spaces in the apartment were, Nell’s were on the more cluttered side, which tells you a lot about her character.

I fell in love with the apartment kitchen when the series premiered last year, and being in it was a bit surreal.

The first rule of set bathrooms is you don’t use set bathrooms.

I had a great time stepping into Nell’s world, and I look forward to revisiting it in new episodes of Not Dead Yet, Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.


A new Valentine’s Day episode of Not Dead Yet airs tonight. Catch up on past episodes streaming on Hulu. You can also watch the first season on Max.

Sign up for Disney+ or the Disney Streaming Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-supported Hulu) now

(Please note this article contains affiliate links. Your purchase will support LaughingPlace by providing us a small commission, but will not affect your pricing or user experience. Thank you.)

Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).