Classic 90s Television: "Ghostwriter"
When most people see or hear of the term ghostwriter, they probably think of a writer that produces various forms of books, articles, and reports that are officially credited to someone else. While this is the dictionary definition, the word likely holds more of a sentimental meaning to anyone that grew up in the 90s and watched PBS.
The 1990s was a special decade for those that grew up during the period. One of the things that made the era special was that there was a sort of nostalgia that operated similarly to the reverence for 80s but also a certain magic that came from the changes that were occurring with the Y2K generation quickly approaching. In other words, the Internet existed but television was still the main source of entertainment for children.
If you were a child during the 90s and your family owned a television, you've likely seen or at least heard of Ghostwriter. This was a very unique television series and is one of the more memorable shows from the decade. Even if only for a brief time, it's time we brought some attention to Ghostwriter and also catch up on what happened to the cast.
Ghostwriter was first broadcasted in October of 1992. It was mystery show that was targeted to elementary and middle school children. The goal of the show was to teach reading and writing skills to the audience. The show also encouraged viewers to help solve the mysteries with the cast.
The plot revolved around a diverse group of teenagers living in Brooklyn who solved crimes and mysteries in their neighborhood. The kids are able to do this with the help of an invisible ghost that they refer to as Ghostwriter. The only way Ghostwriter can communicate with the kids is through manipulating whatever letters or text he can find. He then uses those letters to form sentences, which only the kids can see.
The team keeps a casebook where they keep track of any clues they find. Along with the aid of Ghostwriter, the kids piece together the clues and solve mysteries. The show aired for three seasons until it was cancelled in 1995. The primary reason for the cancellation was due to lack of funding. Despite the brief run, the series remains critically acclaimed for featuring racial diversity and being a strong educational tool. By third season, Ghostwriter ranked in the top five of children's shows on American television.
As previously mentioned, the cast was an ethnically diverse team of teenage detectives. Here is a brief bio of each character.
- Jamal Jenkins: Jamal was the first member of the team that Ghostwriter revealed himself to. Since Jamal was exposed to Ghostwriter first, he was viewed by many as the leader of the team. He lives with his parents and his grandmother, and he hopes to become a scientist. Jamal was portrayed by Sheldon Turnipseed.
- Lenni Frazier: Lenni was the second member of the team to see Ghostwriter. She lives with her widowed father, who is also a musician. Like her father, Lenni loves music and aspires to become a singer, songwriter, and rapper. Lenni was portrayed by Blaze Berdahl.
- Alex Fernandez: Alejandro, usually referred to as just Alex, was the third team member to become acquainted with Ghostwriter. Alex is a first generation Salvadorian American. He's in the sixth grade and lives with his parents and young sister, Gaby. His parents own a bodega, which happens to be located underneath the apartment that Lenni and her father live in. He is a skilled basketball player and aspires to become a detective. Alex was portrayed by David Lopez.
- Gaby Fernandez: Gabriela "Gaby" Fernandez became the fourth member of the team to see Ghostwriter. She is the younger sister of Alex Fernandez and is also the best friend of team member Tina Nguyen. Gaby is 9 years old and hopes to become a newscaster in the future. Gaby was portrayed by Mayteana Morales in seasons 1 and 2 and later by Melissa Gonzales in season 3.
- Tina Nguyen: Tina is a Vietnamese American girl that didn't officially join the team until their second case. While investigating the first case on her own, she becomes intrigued with Jamal and Alex's methods of investigating. Because of her curiosity, she is eventually exposed to Ghostwriter. Tina's goal is to get into film someday and she is often seen with a camcorder. Tina is best friends with Gaby Fernandez. The role of Tina was portrayed by Tram-Anh Tran.
- Rob Baker: Rob is a transfer student that comes from a military family. Since Rob has moved around so much, he is initially shy and reluctant to join the Ghostwriter team. Eventually, he decides to join up with them. Rob's somewhat impulsive personality causes him to sometimes get into dangerous situations. He aspires to become a writer and often writes poems and short stories. Rob was portrayed by Todd Alexander.
- Hector Carrero: Hector joined the Ghostwriter team halfway through the second season. Hector met Alex through a mentoring program. Although he was born in New York, Hector was raised in Puerto Rico and has a hard time reading and writing in English. Hector was portrayed by William Hernandez.
- Casey Austin: Casey is Jamal's younger cousin from Detroit. She comes to live with the Jenkins family while her mother is being treated for alcoholism. Like Hector, Casey joined the team midway through season 2. Casey loves practical jokes and has an even bigger love for peanut butter. Casey was portrayed by Leteaka Vinson.
Although Ghostwriter was the title character, it has always been a mystery as to who or what he actually was. As the series progressed, various clues became available that gave some indication as to his origin.
- It's believed that Ghostwriter was male while alive.
- He is very protective of the children.
- As stated earlier, Ghostwriter is only able to be viewed by those that he has revealed himself to.
- Although he can't talk or hear, he can communicate by writing. He can also feel and read the emotions of others.
- He is able to travel through time and also has the ability to travel across the Internet.
According to an interview with a producer, Ghostwriter was set to be revealed as a runaway slave from the Civil War era. However, this idea was never revealed nor explored while the series aired. One of the other ideas surrounding the mystery of Ghostwriter was that he was once an ancestor of Jamal Jenkins. Again, this idea was never revealed during the show's airing.
Other Notable Cast Members.
The following is a list of other cast members that appeared on the show.
- Cece Jenkins: The grandmother of Jamal Jenkins. Portrayed by Marcella Lowery.
- Max Frazier: Father of Lenni Frazier. Portrayed by Richard Cox from the first season to the middle of season 2. Later portrayed by Keith Langsdale.
- Mr. Fernandez: Father of Alex and Gaby Fernandez. Portrayed by Shawn Elliot.
- Estella Fernandez: Mother of Alex and Gaby Fernandez, and wife of Mr. Fernandez. Portrayed by Cordelia Gonzales from the first season to the middle of the second season. Portrayed by Iliana Guibert afterwards.
There were several notable actors and celebrities that had fairly minor roles or made cameo appearances on Ghostwriter.
- Samuel L. Jackson: Portrayed Jamal's father, Reginald "Reggie" Jenkins. Jackson appeared in three episodes.
- Julia Stiles: Portrayed computer hacker Erica Dansby in several episodes.
- Daisy Fuentes: Makes a cameo as Galaxy Girl, a hero in Gaby's favorite TV show. Fuentes later becomes MTV's first Latina VJ.
- Spike Lee: The famous film director appeared as Special Agent Pete in two episodes.
Other notable guest appearances include hip-hop trio Salt-n-Pepa, actor and singer Harry Connick Jr., singer CeCe Peniston, and former NFL players Charles Mann and Bo Jackson.
Where Is the Ghostwriter Team Today?
Several members of the cast remained in acting while others completely left the business to pursue ventures in their personal lives.
Sheldon Turnipseed (Jamal Jenkins)
Not much information is known about the whereabouts of Turnipseed since he portrayed Jamal Jenkins. One fact that has been found is that he graduated from New York University. Another theory on the Internet is that he changed his name and joined the military. Besides that bit of information, not much else is known.
Blaze Berdahl (Lenni Frazier)
After the show ended, Berdahl continued her acting career in soap operas and television. She's primarily been featured as a voice actress for Subway restaurants and Swiffer cleaning products. She graduated from Bucknell University in 2002 with a double major in political science and economics. She is currently married and has been since 2007.
Mayteana Morales (Gaby Fernandez)
Following her stint on Ghostwriter, Morales left acting and moved into the music side of the entertainment business. She graduated from New York University in 2003 with a degree in drama. She is currently a member of the funk group The Pimps of Joytime.
David Lopez (Alex Fernandez)
Although he was born in Queens, New York, Lopez was raised in Colombia. Now 35 years of age, he is believed to be living in Colombia after attending Rutgers University. His last acting job was in 2004 when he provided voice work for the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Marcella Lowery (Cece Jenkins)
Since portraying Jamal's grandmother on the show, Lowery has continued to work in the entertainment business. Besides her various acting credits in movies and television, she's been notable for playing former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb's mother in the Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials.
Tram-Anh Tran (Tina Nguyen)
Tran graduated from Penn State University in 2001 with a degree in finance. She is married and her last reported acting work was in 2009 on the TV series One Life to Live.
Melissa Gonzales (Gaby Fernandez #2)
Although still in the acting business, Gonzales hasn't appeared in much since Ghostwriter. Her most notable acting work came in the 1999 film Light It Up.
William Hernandez (Hector Carrero)
Hernandez is currently a writer, actor, and a personal shopper. He appeared on MTV's reality series The Real World: Philadelphia in 2004. An openly gay male, he expressed on The Real World how he left home at a young age because of his parents not being accepting his lifestyle. He's appeared in several movies since then.
Todd Alexander (Rob Baker)
After Ghostwriter ended, Alexander focused mainly on school and on his personal life. He has appeared in various commercials and now primarily works behind the camera as a writer and director.
Lateaka Vinson (Casey Austin)
Besides doing voice work here and there, Vinson pretty much left the entertainment business. She did attend Hampton University, where it's said that she was remembered by many for her role as Casey on Ghostwriter.