Ashly Burch never intended to voice the main character on Disney Channel’s latest animated series, The Ghost and Molly McGee.
The veteran voiceover artist and writer was originally brought on board as a script consultant because creators Bill Motz and Bob Roth “are not and were never 13-year-old girls,” Burch says with a smile. “They wanted to get opinions from female writers and I read the script and I loved it.”
What began as a consulting gig turned into a request to audition for the role of Molly: a young girl who forms an unlikely friendship with a grumpy spirit haunting her family’s new house in the town of Brighton. “I thought it was so funny and sweet and the premise is so great,” Burch adds.
She ultimately landed the gig, which prompted the creators to tailor the character to reflect Burch’s half Thai identity. “It’s been really neat to see aspects of my childhood and Thai food that my mom would make, or certain aspects of spirituality that my mom would practice,” she explains.
While the actress has lent her voice to dozens of different animated projects over the years, none have been quite as personal — or meaningful — as Molly McGee.
“Growing up as a kid, there wasn’t a huge amount of Asian representation in any of the stuff that I was watching,” Burch says. “I would kind of go for the closest approximation of whatever culture was being represented. Like, ‘Ok, this character’s brown. That’s close enough. I know she’s not actually Thai, but ok. I’ll relate to her.’ So, to have a character that really is just exactly who I am — and to think that there are gonna be biracial or fully Thai kids that get to watch this show and see themselves and their family represented — means a lot to me.”
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She goes on to describe Molly as “an endlessly optimistic [and] energetic go-getter,” who is “determined to make the world a better place. Sometimes, she’s so determined that she can be a little bit of a baby tyrant and steamroll over other folks. One of my favorite things about her is that she’s very, very well-intentioned and sometimes, her good intentions go a bit awry and she makes a bit of a mess.”
The hero’s ectoplasmic pal is named Scratch (potentially a nod to an 18th century term for the Devil?). He’s voiced by Dana Snyder and depending on how old you are, your ears either know him as Master Shake on Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Gazpacho on Chowder.
“I don’t think I’ve ever told him this, but I was intimidated to record with him because I knew and loved him from Aqua Team,” Burch admits. “I watched Aqua Team for years and I love Master Shake. So when I found out he was gonna be playing Scratch, I was like, ‘Oh God, he’s so funny. Oh no! What am I gonna do?’ But he’s such a sweetheart and we just had really great chemistry from the beginning.”
On a supernatural scale from Casper to Beetlejuice, Burch says that Scratch falls somewhere in the middle: “I think he encompasses both. He can definitely be a bit of a trickster like Beetlejuice, but he’s also soft and squishy like Casper. [He’s] the best of both worlds.”
She continues: “He’s a bit of a foil to Molly in that he is grumpy and a bit of a loner and curmudgeon who is only interested in napping and eating. But what’s really nice about the show is that although Molly and Scratch start at odds, they become friends pretty quickly and Molly inspires Scratch to be a more loving, invested version of himself. He kind of gets a second shot at life, even though he’s a ghost.”
Burch goes on to promise that while the show does have standalone episodes, it will maintain a serialized through-line of Molly and Scratch’s relationship.
“It’s not just a rinse and repeat — there is definitely a development that happens,” she adds. “We’ll learn more about everyone and especially get to see the McGees go through some difficult stuff and how they deal with that. I’m especially excited for people to see how Scratch and Molly’s relationship evolves.”
The concept of interacting with and honoring spirits is a rich part of Thai culture. Molly McGee leans into this cultural tradition with its very first episode, where Molly’s grandmother discusses a spirit house known as a San Phra Phum.
“That’s something that exists in a lot of Thai houses, where there’s a home for the ancestors of that family to come and visit and live in,” Burch explains. “When I was a kid, my mom would always go and feed [the spirits]. She called it ‘feeding the spirits’ but she would go and feed her ancestors. She’d put out a plate of food and pray in front of it. I think it’s actually quite natural that Molly — as a half Thai girl — would be pretty un-phased by a ghost because it’s a big part of Thai culture.”
The show also doubles as a musical, with original songs composed by Rob Cantor (a founding member of the band Tally Hall and writer of a viral song that paints Shia LaBeouf as a deranged cannibal).
“He’s been able to do like 40 different genres of music and I think there’s a song every episode,” Burch says of Cantor. “That’s been some of my favorite parts of recording because the songs are perfectly in tone with the show. They’re so additive and they’re so funny and so fun and so catchy. I don’t think anyone went in expecting this to be a musical, but I think it’s kind of a perfect fit that it became one.”
Given its paranormal premise and October debut, The Ghost and Molly McGee makes for essential spooky season viewing. Burch likens the project to “warm blanket Halloween movies” such as Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, and The Haunted Mansion.
“Where it’s not really scary, it’s more like a spooky vibe. But it just makes you think of fall and being cozy undercover and drinking apple cider,” she concludes. “That’s often what I compare it to. The Ghost and Molly McGee is not out to scare the pants off you. It’s definitely funny and it’s definitely heartwarming [bu] it kind of reminds me of those touchstones. It’s not Saw. It’s definitely more like a warm blanket.”
The Ghost and Molly McGee premieres on Disney+ tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 6). You can watch the entire first episode below: