Román Zaragoza talks representation and his fan-favorite role as a sarcastic Native American spirit on ‘Ghosts’

Román Zaragoza talks representation and his fan-favorite role as a sarcastic Native American spirit on ‘Ghosts’
via Chollette Photography
Ana Yoo
April 12, 2023
Román Zaragoza knows a thing or two about embodying different cultures and identities.
Born in New York City to a Native American Mexican father and Japanese Taiwanese mother, Zaragoza has been closely involved in theater, television and film ever since he watched his father, Gregory Zaragoza, star in the 1999 Broadway production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Román Zaragoza is best known for appearing in the CBS sitcom “Ghosts” as Sasappis, a Lenape Native American ghost whose sarcastic humor has helped make him a fan favorite. An adaptation of the hit BBC One series of the same name, “Ghosts” first premiered in the U.S. in 2021 and follows a married couple in New York who inherit a house along with its various phantom inhabitants.
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Roman Zaragoza as Sasappis. Photo: CBS
Zaragoza chatted with NextShark via Zoom to discuss his work on “Ghosts,” the struggles of juggling career setbacks and aspirations, memorable encounters with fans over the years and what it means to be part of Native American representation on screen.
For Zaragoza, portraying Sasappis has given him the chance to meet other Native people who enjoy the show. 
“It’s so much about representation. I didn’t see the representation that I needed when I was a kid,” Zaragoza says. “Seeing how Native people are so proud of the show and proud of Sasappis and proud of this representation: that’s why I do what I do.”
Although his character is known for his bluntness and honesty, Zaragoza says that in real life, he is a people pleaser: “I’m working on it right now.” One aspect of himself that he brought to his character, however, was Sasappis’ hopeless romanticism. 
Reflecting on Sasappis’s romantic storyline with fellow “Ghosts” actor Nichole Sakura, Zaragoza said: 

I got to play a young, hopeless romantic character that I’ve always dreamed of playing because it’s who I am. That was so exciting, and I got to really bring myself. I didn’t feel like acting when I was on set for those days because I was like, it’s just me: I’m just falling in love.

roman zaragoza nextshark
Photo: CBS
Although Zaragoza has taken on characters from various racial backgrounds, he looks forward to taking on more projects with three-dimensional characters that are not race-specific.
In his first professional gig where race was not specified, he played Orlando in the Shakespeare play “As You Like It.”
“I found myself so excited to play a character where race wasn’t the first thing you see about this character,” said Zaragoza. “Who is Orlando? He is a lover, a fighter, someone who has been dealt some difficult cards, and he’s trying to figure out who he is, he’s young.”
Zaragoza credits his time in college as pivotal for the development of his career not just in acting, but also in directing, writing and producing.
After being rejected from the musical theater program at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), he pivoted into film production at California State University Northridge (CSUN). 
Photo: Román Zaragoza
During his time at CSUN, Zaragoza worked at Native Voices at the Autry and started a three-year journey with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
“My freshman year I was already working at a theater company, and I was auditioning and working on other projects,” Zaragoza said of his experience at CSUN. “It really showed that if one door closes or if something ruins your life plan, maybe it’s for a reason. I’m so grateful for UCLA not taking me.”
Besides working on “Ghosts,” Zaragoza served as one of the producers for a 2022 short film called “This is Their Land,” starring himself and his father.
In addition to this most recent project, Zaragoza is looking forward to telling his own stories and utilizing representation to inspire real change.
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Photo: Román Zaragoza
One of the stories on the horizon is the love story between his own parents. 
“This Native American Mexican man met a Japanese Taiwanese woman in NYC in the ’80s,” he shares. “There’s so many aspects of their life where I’m like this is so bizarre, and funny, and tragic, and beautiful. I would love to put this into a film. And again, the representation of seeing an Asian woman and an Indigenous man in a city, falling in love – never seen that!”
For now, though, Zaragoza is enjoying his time on set with the cast of “Ghosts,” who he describes as a family of 10: “We love each other so much, we get along really well and we’re always surprised. We spend so much time together yet we still like each other, that is pretty cool.”
“Ghosts” was renewed for a third season in January, but Zaragoza says he has “zero insider scoop.”
“I wish I could tell you everything about Season 3. Just know we have a very exciting season finale for Season 2, and expect more laughs and more heart in Season 3!”
The Season 2 finale of “Ghosts” airs on CBS this Thursday, April 13.
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