Ghostwriter Stars Kate Mara and Adam Scott Talk the Twisted New Podcast Movie

The art of storytelling can be somewhat cyclical in nature, with time-honored traditions in the artform finding ways to return with contemporary twists, which is made evident by the all-new "podcast movie" from C13Features Ghostwriter. Embracing the spirit of radio plays while also enlisting top-tier talent and effects, the new experience is available wherever you get your podcasts, but rather than being an episodic experience, Ghostwriter is meant to be enjoyed in one suspenseful sitting. The new narrative stars Adam Scott and Kate Mara, who also served as producers on the experience. Ghostwriter is currently available on all major podcast platforms.

Ghostwriter, written by Alix Sobler, follows Kate Michaels (Kate Mara), a former journalist who reluctantly accepts a job ghostwriting a new murder mystery novel for an eccentric billionaire. Kate Michaels has been living a solitary life after a traumatic experience, but after pressure from her rational agent and candid best friend, she begrudgingly concedes that she needs the work. As she collaborates with the enigmatic James Webber (Adam Scott) on the project, she finds herself growing dependent on him and starts to suspect that something is wrong...deeply wrong. Will Kate be able to trust herself with James' story, or even her own voice? caught up with Scott and Mara to talk their own podcast obsessions, the benefits of voice acting, and the best way to enjoy the narrative.

(Photo: C13Features) What's cool about Ghostwriter is it's this "podcast feature film." It's different from what people expect from traditional podcasts. But to start things off, I was curious, for the both of you, when it comes to weekly released podcasts, what shows are you most excited to check out when they release a new episode? 

Kate Mara: I love Dax Shepard's podcast, Armchair Expert, and I love Smartless. Those are two of my favorites that I'm constantly checking on weekly. I also just love a good, old-fashioned murder podcast. I was really into Dr. Death, but then it really messed me up. Anytime I have to go to the doctor now, it really freaks me out. I'm extra cautious and have a lot of questions, but those are my favorites.

Adam Scott: I'm looking at mine right now to remind myself. I love Pod Save America, Pod Save the World, WTF, of course. Slow Burn, How Did This Get Made?, Rachel Maddow Show.

Mara: Have you guys listened to To Live and Die in L.A.? Highly recommend.

Scott: Wait, which one is that?

Mara: Well, there's two seasons of it and ... both seasons are about two different girls who go missing in Los Angeles.

Scott: I think I listened to the first season. That was awesome. I need to listen, I didn't know there was another season.

Mara: It's very good, there's a second season. You've got to listen to it.

Scott: Great Debates is a great podcast. I loved The West Wing Weekly when it was going on. Yeah, I think that's enough. I think it would start to get boring if I just kept rattling ... Oh, Dead Eyes. Dead Eyes is terrific. 

With all these podcasts, I'm surprised you had time to make Ghostwriter. This podcast movie that is available now wherever you get your podcasts. 

Scott: Oh, Talking Sopranos is great.

Mara: Oh, he's still going.

Scott: I'm just going to do this for the whole interview.

Adam has a bit more experience in the realm of making podcasts, so Kate, when it came to preparing for Ghostwriter and recording this, with all the live-action experience that you have, how did your preparation process differ from a traditional film or TV show?

Mara: Well, a lot, because you don't have to memorize anything. So, that's cool. It's just a totally different experience because you're in a small, contained space and you're alone and you're not able to rely on the tricks that you normally rely on, the subtle ... I'm always trying to get people to cut my dialogue. I'm like, "The less I say, the better," and in this, you can't really do that. So I'm like, "I'll just do that in a look. It'll be fine." But in this, you can't rely on that. It was a different experience, in a very fun way.

Whether it be when you were reading the script and got excited about a specific sequence or interaction you'd get to record, or when you actually got into the recording booth and found yourself caught up performing, did you have a specific scene that you particularly enjoyed bringing to life?

Scott: I think when ... I'm trying to think of how to say it without spoiling anything, or maybe it doesn't matter if we spoil things. But when Kate is starting to figure out that something's amiss, something's going on, and I am just acting like, "Whoa, you're crazy." The character does it masterfully, which is like, "I'm here for you. You need help." And just that whole gaslighting that's so deeply evil to actually do to someone. It was really fun. That's really fun.

Mara: You couldn't wait to gaslight me.

Scott: I could not wait. I've been wanting to do this for years.

Since you can't rely on physicality or body language, what was the biggest challenge making Ghostwriter?

Mara: The greatest challenge is doing the little things that you would never normally do that feel awkward. Like telling the audience, "Okay, I'm going to go open the door. I'm going to feed the cat. Oh, the cat doesn't want to eat." Things like that, if it was a regular movie, you'd be like, "Well, I'm not going to tell you what I'm doing. You can see what I'm doing," or this just doesn't feel natural, but you have to find a way to make that feel totally natural. That's actually a fun challenge, as an actor, to figure out how to do that in a subtle way that doesn't sound stupid. Hopefully, I did, I don't know. I would say that was the most challenging part of it.

Scott: That stuff is really hard. And in the scene when she's telling me about her apartment, that was really clever, too, because we're on the phone, so she has to do that. And that was a really clever way, I thought, of being able to slide that exposition in there.

Since most people listen to podcast in segments, whether they're on a drive or doing laundry or at the gym, they might only listen in to 20-30 minutes at a time. What environment would you encourage a potential listener to put themselves in to most fully appreciate listening to this whole feature-length podcast?

Scott: That's a good question. Boy, I don't know. I guess I listen to stuff when I'm walking my dogs or doing stuff around the house or driving, of course. Driving, mostly driving, because you're always driving here. I don't know. I think that, anything that's good, no matter what circumstance you're in, it will bring you to its circumstance. So I feel like as long as you have the space to focus on it, then you're in a good ... Maybe a long trip, because it's an hour and a half. It would be ideal to listen to it in one stretch, I think.

Kate, I do have to ask, having been in Fantastic Four, if you get a call and see that it's Disney or Kevin Feige calling you to say they want to bring you back for the new Fantastic Four, are you like, "Hell yes," or are you going to silence the call and just put that character behind you?

Mara: I'm like, "Who's directing?"

The third option. I don't know who's directing. Do you want to direct? How about that?

Mara: Absolutely never. Nope. No thank you. I don't mean Fantastic Four, I mean anything. Nothing.

Fair enough, we'll cross you off the list. Next time I talk to Feige, I'll let him know, "She's busy. She doesn't want to direct Fantastic Four."

Mara: But if somebody great wants to, great.

We'll put you on standby for a return. We'll put you down for "maybe."

Mara: Cool. It's not that ... I don't think anyone's calling me to ask me to do that, but sure, in a fantasy world.

If I direct, I'm calling you. Don't worry.

Mara: Hell yeah. Cool.

Ghostwriter is now available on podcast platforms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.