The residents of Button House are preparing to celebrate their first Christmas in years without Mary (Katy Wix), the witch trial victim who was transported to the next stage of the afterlife in season 4.


Though the moment came rather abruptly to viewers, happening with no warning at the start of episode 4 – titled Gone Gone – it was the product of a long period of consideration from the writing team.

Laurence Rickard (Robin) and Ben Willbond (the Captain), two members of the comedy troupe behind Ghosts and other hit shows, spoke exclusively to about how the scene came about.

"Katy had made that decision and we spent a lot of time figuring out how to do it, and how to do it sensitively and carefully, and we negotiated with Katy about how we would end that appearance on the show," said Willbond. "It was nerve-wracking."

Rickard continued: "We totally understood Katy's reasoning and she is so reasonable about it. Obviously, with anything like that, there's a logical side of you that's going, 'It makes sense to do this and to do this now.'

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"And there's part of you that goes, 'Oh, but I get to hang out with these people and it's so much fun.'"

Once Wix's departure from the show was confirmed, the team – led by Willbond as head writer of the episode – set about crafting exactly how Mary's exit would play out.

In the end, a sudden loss was chosen in order to reflect what can – tragically – happen in real life all too often.

Rickard explained: "We were trying, early on, to think about the gravitas of it and how you would build to that moment. And doing that in reverse – going 'there's no build, you never know, it just happens and then you deal with the fallout' – I think was exactly the right thing to do.

"And it's been really lovely, the number of people who have come up and spoken to us – particularly Ben, who wrote the episode – talking about how it has genuinely helped them deal with grief."

He continued: "It's a surprise package. It wasn't being done in a drama, it wasn't being done in a preachy way. It was a sitcom episode, but I found it really touching."

A close-up shot of Mary (Katy Wix) in Ghosts
Katy Wix as Mary in Ghosts. BBC/Monumental/Robbie Gray

In addition to having a profound impact on viewers, the twist also gave Ghosts a sense of unpredictability that few sitcoms can claim to have.

"One of the first lines in the pilot is basically saying, 'We don't know why we're here, and we don't know when we're going to go,'" recalled Rickard.

"And to say to an audience, after three and a half seasons, 'We weren't lying, you really don't know,' it throws everything up in the air – and you never do know what's coming next."

It was tough for the Ghosts cast and crew to bid farewell to their co-star, but the shuffled order of shooting helped to soften the blow ever so slightly.

Rickard added: "Thankfully, we didn't film in chronological order, so Katy's last scene wasn't Katy disappearing. But still, her last scene – which I think was in another episode in the breakfast room – it was really weird and very emotional for us. And also for her, to kind of go, 'Well, thanks so much, goodbye.'

"But she felt the time was right and we understood and respected that."

Ghosts returns to BBC One on Christmas Day. Catch up on BBC iPlayer. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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