Kristian Flores on Playing Simon in “School Spirits”

Kristian Flores on Playing Simon in “School Spirits”

SCHOOL SPIRITS: Kristian Flores as Simon Elroy in School Spirits, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. CREDIT: Lindsay Siu/Paramount+

In “School Spirits,” Kristian Flores plays Simon Elroy, a high school student struggling to come to terms with the unexplained death of his best friend, Maddie (Peyton List). For Flores, whose well-rounded and nuanced performance was one of the show’s highlights, the role was an opportunity to use some of the past challenges that plagued her life to add layers to her character.

“School Spirits” finds Maddie when she discovers she’s a ghost trapped in high school forever. But the show isn’t just a teen dramedy or an exploration of the paranormal — it’s also a layered story about trauma, friendship, and larger-than-life love. In her afterlife, Maddie worries about her alcoholic mother, who she had to take care of a lot during her lifetime, while Simon worries that he will never see his friend again. The show’s complex themes are a big draw for Flores.

“I lost a lot of things and people early on,” she told POPSUGAR. “So when I take on a project, I don’t want to dance. I call that dancing — when I read a script and the character doesn’t really do anything. I like scripts that have something to say . . . I’d say ‘School Spirits ,’ at least, just cuts to the meat. In the first five minutes of the show, you know it’s going to ask good questions and the creators are going to do something.”

For Flores, having a character like Simon — who shares such a deep bond with his best friend, Maddie, that he can communicate with her after her death — is an opportunity to explore a kind of love he says he tried to hide from. . “Sometimes you’re too hurt to love again, right?” Simon, however, is “the purest example of unconditional love, because his whole purpose is to find the truth on the show,” and Flores said that playing the character “kind of taught me that I can love again.”

Simon starts out as a “kind of a critic” and “he thinks it’s more about education,” Flores said, and doesn’t take much action on his own. But when Maddie dies, he suddenly finds himself obsessed with solving the mystery of her murder. “A teacher told me that we only have five to eight events in our lives that change course [of it] forever,” he said. “I think it’s the most important thing for him.” Asked if he could name any five to eight events in his own life that changed his course forever, Flores reflected before settling on one. “There’s a decision I made that kind of changed everything, which was I stopped watching movies and TV shows,” he says. “I noticed that my acting hurt, in a way. Alfred Hitchcock said, ‘The more virgin our eyes are, the more we have to say.’ And that’s what kind of clicked with me.”

Although Flores doesn’t watch a lot of TV or movies, he spends his time in many different forms of creativity. “When I’m not filming, I’m writing,” he says. “I just finished my first novel, called ‘The Happy Ghost.'” He is also a poet and the author of two collections, “Can I Tell You Something?” and “The Goodbye Song”; the latter won the 2021 American Fiction Awards in Poetry: Anthologies. He’s such an art devotee that, Flores says, if forced to stay in one place forever after he dies, as in “School Spirits,” he’ll choose the Louvre. “I have to be in that museum forever, because that takes months — no, I think it takes years to fully look at every single painting and sculpture with enough time to understand it,” he said.

But it’s not just because of the art — it’s because of the life-changing experiences that art creates for the real people who travel to see it, day in and year out. “That’s cool [would it be]just to watch dates, people dating, and people crying in front of these French paintings?” he thought.

When it comes to figuring out what Actually will happen in the afterlife, Flores is not sure. “I think death is a concept that is outside the realm of our understanding. However, unlike some of his other “School Spirits” costars, he is open to the possibility of ghosts and life after death. “Within the lack of understanding, I think there is eternity,” he said. “I don’t think we really die. I think we’re with the stars.”

For now, however, Flores is fully committed to making the world a better place for the living. She also spends a lot of time volunteering by raising money for homeless shelters, food banks, and disaster relief efforts. In 2017, he was awarded the Volunteer Service Award by President Obama for his contributions to UNICEF.

We can expect to see more of him on our screens in the future, too. Flores has already starred in several movies and TV shows, including Hulu’s “Reboot,” and is carefully considering her next projects, looking for ones that will cut through all the noise. “My goal is to find people in the industry who want the same thing as me,” he says, adding that he looks for stories about “textured human behavior, or any kind of layered feelings.” “You don’t often see that in the industry,” he continued. “I think there’s just a select group of people who really want to make the same kind of movies. That’s on the horizon for me — to search for people who love the same thing and want to make important films.”

The first four episodes of “School Spirits” are now streaming on Paramount+.