This contains spoilers for the mid-season finale of NBC's The Good Place. We suggest you go watch it before reading this!
In the mid-season finale of The Good Place, entitled "Janet(s)," D'Arcy Carden's helpful "not-a-robot" Janet saves the gang by transporting them to her void. Their bodies are gone now, so this is pretty much it for the Soul Squad. If things don't work out, they're in bad straits. The thing is, everyone in the void looks exactly like Janet, and D'Arcy Carden gets to do imitations of the entire cast, hot on the heels of her epic battle scene in the last episode. We spoke to Carden about the episode; who she ships in the show; whether there are other Janets besides Good, Bad, and Neutral; and what she'd like to see in the just-announced fourth season. (We still have three episodes to go, but we won't see them until January.)
How did you prepare to take on impressions of pretty much everybody in the cast?
You know, I lucked out because I've known these people now for a few years and I've watched them, and I think even if I had one day to prepare, I would probably... Any of us could've done impressions of each other just because we all know each other so well at this point and we all watch the show. We love the show. I have the good luck of having a month or two to study them, so I just took the normal things, the normal things that you would do. When I was with them, I would watch what they did with their body, or how their voice was, but then the whole team... We were really going all-out for this episode, and everybody was being so beyond helpful. A-game for sure.
The editing team edited together this reel of everybody, I would say, a scene of each of them sitting down and a scene of each of them gesturing to something and a scene of each of them walking, so just an easy little cheat sheet for me. We had the entire cast do the episode like a rehearsal, where we filmed a rehearsal, basically, where each character was really playing themselves, obviously not me playing them. We filmed that and, again, the editors made a cut for me so I was able to kind of watch the rehearsal version of the episode. I could see the blocking. I could see the general way that each character behaves. It was my test show. I went back to it more often than I even thought I would.
The bottom line is that everybody was just so on board and so helpful and supportive and, even though the cast wasn't physically there, didn't need to be there, they were always on call and giving me little tips and would email me. Will [Jackson] Harper emailed me; he retyped his lines the way he memorizes them. He thought that might be helpful. Manny [Jacinto] sent me video of something he had never shown anyone before that inspires Jason. Everybody could not have been more supportive. It was awesome.
Between this and the fight scene last episode, you've had a lot to do.
How intense has your schedule been?
It was that month that we shot those two things, it was nonstop. I truly have no complaints, though. It's what I love to do. My husband's the most amazing, supportive, wonderful person and helped me with my lines and would obviously help me with my fight choreography and everything. He kept me sane when it was a crazy month, but... it's my dream. I loved it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was so much fun.
We got introduced to a whole new Janet: Neutral Janet, who wears beige, which is amazing. Are there more Janets?
I think there are probably infinite Janets. I think there are so many Janets that we haven't seen. And that's Mike Schur's big, weird, genius brain. Who knows what goes on up there, but I think between Mike and the writers, it seems like their imagination for this world is endless, and it's so exciting to see. I'm so thrilled that we got a Season 4, because I truly have no idea what next season will look like. I have no idea. Each season I've had no idea until they explain it to us. I never in a million years would have guessed that I would've gotten to take the characters in to my void and played them all. If that, then what? If that, then what? What else could there be?
It's brilliant how they reinvent it every season.
It blows my mind. I trust them to the ends of the Earth. I trust them with everything. It's nice that they tell us. Mike will sit us down at the beginning of the season and take us through the full season, but even if he didn't do that, even if I got the scripts the night before we shot them, I would be like, “I trust you. I believe you. I know we're going somewhere.” They just keep proving it. I'm so obsessed with these writers. I need to chill out.
I listen to the podcast and fans kind of go crazy for all the little details, and one of the things that you see a lot when you're looking at fan stuff on Twitter is people shipping different characters, so I have to ask you: Who do you ship?
Ah, that's a great question. Well, I totally ship Eleanor and Chidi. They really, really touch my heart and there's something about them kind of always coming back together, no matter the reboot or no matter of what universe they're in or whatever. It's the fact that they always sort of find each other ... I'll explain it like this. When I had to do the episode last night, the scene where Chidi is reminding Eleanor who she is, all “OK, you're falling apart. I'll remind you who you are. You're this, you're that, you're this, you're whatever. You did this.”
I know it's kind of weird because it's me saying it to me, but if you imagine Will saying it to Kristen, or I should say, Chidi saying it to Eleanor, it is the most loving speech and we, meaning me and the writers, couldn't get through it. I kept having to stop mid-take because I started crying. I couldn't say the words because it's so lovely and I remember one scene in particular, I couldn't get the words out. I had to turn away from the crew because I was truly crying and then I looked back and the writers were also crying. We're all big softies for Eleanor and Chidi over here, and then I selfishly ship Janet and Jason because Manny is so hot that it's fun for me to kiss him.
Yeah, I heard you guys actually did put him in the short shorts with the pockets hanging out.
Yes. You gotta take a little advantage of... yeah, yeah, yeah. He's the best. He is the absolute best with the biggest heart. The cast and crew, we are so overboard with talking about how hot he is all the time and he is the most humble, bashful boy. It's adorable.
One of the things that is so great about this show is that it actually highlights female friendships. Usually in shows, you'll see women sort of going after each other, or there's one woman and she has to be everything. Can you talk a little bit about how they've sort of developed over the three seasons?
Yeah. It's such an interesting thing with this show because relationships or friendships that have developed have also been wiped away and then start over and grown again and then wiped away so it's been an interesting thing as viewers and, honestly, as actors to remember where each character is in their relationship with each other, but I do like that we have this sort of foundation of respect. The characters have a baseline of love and respect for each other. I can always speak from Janet's point of view because Janet is so good and so helpful... like when Jason and Tahani [Jameela Jamil] have a relationship that it's not impossible that the Janet character would have been a jealous mess or trying to get back at Tahani or something.
It's super, super, super important to Mike Schur and the writers that there is none of that, that there's none of the catty female friendships that we've seen on TV for years that, frankly, I know I'm over. I don't love watching that. I think it's a little bit like, “Oh, this again? Is this what we are? Okay, sure, I guess I'll watch this.” It's so refreshing to me to see a friendship like Eleanor and Tahani. It would've been so easy to just sort of play in to the old, catty tropes that we've seen again and again.
I remember a particular episode...I think it was they both thought they sort of had feelings for Chidi in one episode and then they're bickering and then Eleanor is like, “You know what? No. We're not going to do this. We're not going to be those women that fight each other over a guy,” and it was a mission statement, almost, for the entire show. It was like we, the writers and the cast, we're not going to do that on the show. We're going to show you fully formed female characters with real relationships that love and support each other. For me, as a actor and also as a fan of the show, I'm so, so happy. Again, I'm obsessed with the writers. Can you tell? They're smart geniuses and I love them.
How much philosophy you've picked up during the filming?
Well, the cool answer would be, “So much and I'm so smart now and I read so much and I'm a full genius.” I know you really could dive in to it, right? You get to find out little bits of different... ideas that maybe you haven't heard before and it would be so easy and smart, obviously, for me or any actor on the show or any viewer of the show to dive in to what they find interesting but I would say I have the basis level of understanding of all of it and the one that really stuck out to me was the trolley problem and it was so fun discussing that and learning more about that. If you want to talk philosophy, talk to William Jackson Harper and Kristen Bell because they understand it. They're the ones who talk about it the most on the show and they really understand it, whereas I learn my lines and I come to set and I say my lines and I go home and I pet my dog.
One of the fun things about this episode in particular was Stephen Merchant and the weird sex things with the vegetable department.
Oh my god.
How many takes did you have to do to get through that?
He is so, so funny. Not to say that we never break on the show, 'cause we certainly do, but we almost have a competitive non-break competition, like an unspoken non-break competition to see who can get through scenes without laughing and we fail. Ted especially fails. He is extremely giggly. To be honest, he is such an incredible actor that he is the king of breaking the second they call “cut.” He does a good job of staying in the moment, but the second they call “cut,” he's such a giggle machine. I have a little weird pride in not breaking. I think it's from my improv days. I used to be in stuff you don't want to break too much on stage, so I have it deep within me to not break but Stephen Merchant and Ted Danson together? Give me a break. It was hard.
Totally. And there was a video that just popped up online of half the cast trying to teach Ted to floss. Are there a lot of these from behind the scenes?
You know, it's funny. That scene, that flossing video, I don't know who filmed it. It was such a weird thing to see a memory. Do you know what I mean? Obviously we're being filmed on the show but I was like, “Oh, I didn't know that was even being filmed,” so I'm just happy. I'm watching this memory that I have. It was very funny to see that. Yes. This is a group of six people, six actors, plus the guest actors that we love, not to mention the crew and the writers who we are just truly obsessed with who love each other and we like to play around... silly people playing pretend for a living. We do get very silly. We get very, very silly and the flossing video was a good example of that.
Ted is the king of silly. He is the most amazing, wonderful human being and he is the best actor I've ever worked with in my life, the best scene partner, but he's also a total goofball. I think that's what I love about him the most is that he could just be this jaded actor that's done it all and seen it all, but he's the most giddy, wonderful person and it bleeds out to the entire set.
I know you don't know what's coming in Season 4. Is there anything in particular that you'd like to see happen?
That's a great question. I really love when the six of us are together and there was a lot of not that this season. We were all split up into little teams and I'll be on set with Ted Danson every day of my life, so I'm very happy with that, but it's so fun with the six of us together and I'm obsessed with Maya Rudolph and the more we get her, the better. If there's any way to just get her back for a million episodes, I will be very happy. We love these guest stars and we love Marc Evan Jackson and we just love the people that Mike Schur picks to be on set with us. I'm gonna say something. I would love to have some Parks and Rec, not crossover, but if Nick Offerman could be on the show or Amy Poehler could be on the show, I'll put that out in to the world. Please? Yeah, that's what I would love for Season 4.