People Share The Best Behind The Scenes Facts About 'The Good Place'
The Good Place has been a runaway hit since it premiered in 2016, but those who don't have the luxury of catching up with the show's third season via NBC will have to wait until it officially drops on Netflix for binging sessions sometime this fall.
For those of you who've grown to love Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, and Michael's trip through the wonderful world of ethics, here are some cool facts from behind the scenes of the show we think is really forking awesome.
Note: spoilers ahead.
Jameela Jamil's come a long way from T4
Jameela Jamil, who plays Tahani Al-Jamil, did not get her start as an actress. She began her career as an English teacher before moving into television, where she was a presenter on T4 from 2009 until 2012.
Jamil has also presented other shows, including The Official Chart and The Official Chart update. Jamil made radio history when she became the first sole female presenter of the BBC Radio 1 Chart show.
She landed her role on The Good Place after moving to Los Angeles to present radio shows. Her agent told her that show creator Michael Schur was looking for a British actress for a new comedy series. Jamil auditioned and won the role with no prior acting experience.
And so has Manny Jacinto.Giphy
Manny Jacinto––who plays the lovable idiot Jason Mendoza––wanted to pursue a career as a professional dancer and participated in hip-hop dance competitions before he got into acting.
Kristen Bell is an accomplished stage actress.
Kristen Bell (Eleanor) is an accomplished stage actress. She made her Broadway debut as Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 2001. She also appeared in The Crucible the following year, playing the role of Susannah Walcott.
"Can I just say something crazy?"
In the event you've been living under a rock, Bell is also the voice of Princess Anna in Disney's Frozen.
William Jackson Harper Considered leaving Hollywood before TGP.Giphy
William Jackson Harper, who plays ethicist Chidi Anagonye, considered quitting acting before landing his role on The Good Place.
I was burned out. I was doing a lot of theater and I love theater but I was also just so broke all the time that I was just frustrated, and decided that this season was going to be my last pilot season," Jackson explained. "I was going to start trying to transition out from acting. I hit a point where I was like, 'Okay, maybe it's time for me to be realistic and get a regular job and try to have some stability in my life.' Then this job happened and not only was it a job that gave me a little bit more faith, but also, I couldn't imagine a more perfect job and a more perfect show for me to be on this one," he said. "Sitting here with you talking is like a miracle to me, because I've been at this for a while, not nearly as long as some, but longer than others."
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson (Michael) were cast in early 2016. Bell has said she was aware of the first season's twist ending when she signed onto the show.
D'Arcy Carden (who plays Janet, the Good Place's artificial intelligence) was cast in a series regular role that was announced as "Janet Della-Denunzio, a violin salesperson with a checkered past." This was later revealed to be an intentional hoax.
The original plan for the series was considerably different.
According to series creator Michael Schur, the original plan for the series was to include religious elements into the series after doing research on various faiths and groups. This was scrapped in favor of the show's more universal philosophical approach.
"It is very important to make clear in the first 30 seconds of the pilot, this is not one religion's concept of the afterlife," Schur told The Hollywood Reporter in September 2016. "I did a lot of research."
"I stopped doing research because I realized it's about versions of ethical behavior, not religious salvation," he said. "The show isn't taking a side, the people who are there are from every country and religion."
The series' setting and premise was inspired by Lost, which was developed by Damon Lindelof.
"I took him to lunch and said, 'We're going to play a game [of] 'Is this anything?'" He then added "I imagine this going in the Lost way, with cliffhangers and future storylines," Schur told Variety in 2016.
Read it and weep.
The twist ending of Season 1––that the four leads are actually in The Bad Place––was inspired by the Jean-Paul Sartre play No Exit. The most famous line from that play: "Hell is other people."
It's a small world.
D'Arcy Carden, who plays Janet, once worked as a nanny for Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader. The two of them have since become friends and colleagues; she has a recurring role as Natalie Greer on HBO's Barry, in which Hader stars.
Way to go!
Carden first made her name as a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade. She enjoyed a sketch comedy show she saw so much that she signed on for classes and eventually progressed with the group, even touring with the UCB Touring Company.
All in a day's work.
Ted Danson practiced his flossing dance for weeks.
"We decided the saddest thing a desperate demon in a 70-year-old's skin-suit could do in that scenario was to start flossing. So that's what we went with," said co-executive producer Joe Mande. "Although it was weirdly important to me that Michael refer to it as 'the Backpack Kid dance.'"
"Ted read the line and it got a laugh, but he was clearly confused. So he stopped the read and politely asked, for his own edification, if he could see an example of this Backpack Kid dance," Mande recalled of the table read. "A bunch of the actors got up and started flossing for him at the table. Ted then went back, reread the line, and quickly attempted to floss himself. It was wonderful."
The show's "blend of comedy, morality, philosophy and jokes about robot sex" has continued to resonate strongly with critics, including writer Laura Turner, who in a piece for The Washington Post, said that the show is a vital commentary on our current political climate:
"Am I my brother's keeper?" is a question we all have to answer for ourselves, and our current political climate makes that question feel especially urgent. How are we responsible for each other, the show wants to ask.
"The Good Place" is not an inherently partisan or political show, but that question has incredible political consequences. If we are, indeed, our brothers' keepers, then we cannot in good conscience allow our brothers to be torn from their families at our nation's borders. If we are our brothers' keepers, we cannot stand idly by while they are banned from serving in the military, or lose the ability to put food on their table during a government shutdown, or are the victims of racism and violence. If we answer the question "Am I my brother's keeper?" in the affirmative — as "The Good Place" does — then we are responsible to our brothers. And the afterlife, and our admission to it, depends on how we answer this question.
Jesus said that whatever we do for "the least of my brothers," it is as if we have done it for him.
Believe it or not.
Show creator Mike Schur apparently told Kristen Bell how The Good Place will eventually end... but she forgot what he said.
"I was told, and… the funny thing is, uh, I got a lot going on, and I don't remember things very well, and I forgot. I legit forgot," she said.
When pressed, she responded: "I got two kids, guys! That's, like, a lot of work! There's so much work! They don't even tell you how much work they are! He told me. Last year, he's like, 'That's how I'm going to wrap it up. Yeah, that's the right idea.' And it has exited my brain."
Up close and personal.
William Jackson Harper has said that he, much like his character Chidi, is a neurotic person.
Speaking to Vulture this week, he said:
"Yes. Absolutely. One hundred percent. Neurotic, anxious. The major difference between me and Chidi is that he talks about it a lot. When I'm feeling neurotic and anxious, I just completely disappear. I don't want anyone to be dealing with that or see it. I remember I was on a date some years ago. We met at a party and we had a great time, and then we went on the date and I was really nervous. Eventually, after a couple of drinks, I started to relax. Then she said to me, "Oh, there you are. I was wondering when that guy was going to show up." Of course, that weirded me out again immediately. I was right back to where I was. It was like, Fuck, I thought I was covering. Hearing that I was like, Oh, so people do notice when I'm freaking out and I'm a little bit nervous and I'm not easy and I'm not free. I don't want to make people deal with that, so I tend to disappear."
Up close and personal, part 2.
Harper is rather buff––now––but he also opened up about his struggles with body issues:
The goal was honestly just to avoid ridicule. I was so afraid that I was going to be made fun of. And it's just going to be me getting dumped on on the internet for the way I looked. I was terrified. I got made fun of for how I looked when I was younger. Like, honestly, right up through college, enemies and friends would make fun of the way I looked with my shirt off. I mean, I was a little overweight, and then I've also had other body issues that I feel really self-conscious about.
So when this episode came up, I was just like, No. Oh, God … Oh, grocery shopping. Oh, sprinkler. Oh, f**k. I was like, there's no way I can hide. I also didn't want to have the conversation of, "I'd feel really self-conscious taking my shirt off." I don't go to the beach. I don't go swimming. I don't do sh*t like that because I'm that nervous about it. I only do it when I absolutely have to.
I don't know where that started. I mean, obviously during puberty your body freaks out. And maybe I never really sort of grew up in that respect. Maybe that part of my brain just stayed 14 and awkward and feeling weird and a little bit scared all the time like that. I think that maybe something didn't progress the way that it was supposed to. I can't really pinpoint anything that was the moment that I remember, that it was like, Oh, okay. I don't see myself the way the world sees me at all.
But the real positive thing from all of that, beyond actually getting complimented on how I looked physically, was just the fact that it was like, Wow, I'd worked toward something that felt like I couldn't get there. And I actually got there. That sense of control was nice. Like, I worked out and I dieted. It yielded an unexpected result, but still a positive one. That was a nice feeling, because at least physically, I never really had that sort of feeling where I'm in control of this.
You go, girl!
Jameela Jamil has used her platform to rally for feminist causes. She recently received a Voices of the Year award at a BlogHer Health conference where she discussed what it means to be a "feminist in progress":
"I think we are all feminists-in-progress," she said. "I believe that we don't all have all of the answers, and I think that there's a great power in admitting to that, because then you create space for yourself to grow, and to learn, and to change. I'm someone who didn't understand feminism;
I didn't even know the term intersectional feminism, I think because I just thought, 'Well, I love all people, so therefore I am an intersectional feminist.' But my feminism wasn't specifically targeting and helping and elevating cultures that weren't mine. I was focusing on the plight of brown women, and therefore ignoring the plight of black women or women with disabilities or women who are deaf, or blind, or trans."
"I think feminist-in-progress is a term I use that rallies against cancel culture, which I don't think is helpful because then you never give someone a chance to evolve—and fair enough, I understand that not everyone deserves a chance necessarily—but I think if someone genuinely wants to learn and grow, you shouldn't always hold their old mistakes against them," she continued. "I think we could try, at least, to rehabilitate people and give them a chance to go away and learn and read and watch things that will illuminate them."
You have to start somewhere...
Show creator Michael Schur said that he came up with the idea for the show after Parks and Recreation ended while making some observations about "annoying" behavior.
He said he devised the show's point system while observing people in Los Angeles do things like cut each other off in traffic.
"Like if anyone was keeping score—'What you did right there, sir, cutting me off in traffic, you just lost eight points,'" Schur said. "And I started thinking about a world where actions have actual point values that can be measured and analyzed and broken down, and that led me to the afterlife. And I thought what if it's a game and the people with high scores get into the good place and people with the lowest scores get into the bad place."
Schur told Vulture that he named Michael after an archangel, noting that originally, he did not know what to name Ted Danson's character. But then he visited Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral, where he learned about the archangel Michael, "the angel who weighs people's souls and decides whether their souls are good or bad."
"I was like, 'What's the name of that archangel?' And the tour guide said, 'That's archangel Michael.' And I was like, 'Well, that's the answer.'" he recalled. "The answer is that he's named Michael because in the world of the afterlife that makes perfect sense."
The more you know.Giphy
Kristen Bell says the show's concept has given her an education on ethics––and that she now uses it to debate with people.
"The subject matter is ethics, all the things we need to fix," she once told the Los Angeles Times. "Earth's current bad mood—it's all in this show." She explained she takes lessons taught in The Good Place and adapts them in her conversations. "Everyone is debating something nowadays, and now, I can actually say at a dinner party: 'Well, I disagree with that because, you know in moral particularism, cited by [British philosopher] Jonathan Dancy'—like, I actually have a sound argument as to why I believe certain things."
D'Arcy Carden has some pretty eclectic taste in music.
And she revealed where she got her stage name from:
I put an apostrophe in my name that wasn't there before, like Smashing Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy Wretzky, because of how influential this band was to me. D'Arcy was just the epitome of cool to me. In 1993, I was really into alternative and grunge music, and whereas the Nirvanas and the Pearl Jams felt so masculine, there was something sweeter and lighter about Smashing Pumpkins. The fact that they had a girl in their band was huge for me and my friends. I learned the guitar part to "Today," and it made me feel like such a badass. It was like, "Wow, I can play guitar!" But, of course, anybody can play the beginning of "Today."
Jameela Jamil is taking a stand against celebrity ads for "detox" fads.Giphy
In addition to her "I Weigh" movement, Jamil has recently started a petition asking celebrities to stop "promoting toxic diet products on social media." It reads, in part:
In the last few years we have seen a scary rise in the marriage of celebrity and diet/detox endorsement. There's little to no information about the side effects or main ingredients, the harm they may cause or any of the science behind how these products are supposed to work. They are instead, flogged in glossy paid adverts by celebrities and influencers with no expertise or authority in nutrition/medicine/biology.
While you wait for Season 4...
...just know that Kristen Bell and her husband Dax Shepard have announced their new baby product line, HelloBello. The organic products are sold at a third of the price of other premium products in the baby market.
For those of you who don't know...
You can only watch the first two seasons on Netflix. The third season will likely drop on the streaming service by the end of the year.
The final five episodes of the show are available on Hulu, and all of them are available on NBC.com. You'll need a cable login to watch the first seven episodes of the season, however. The final five, as with Hulu, are free to view.
And don't worry...Giphy
Season 4 is on its way.
According to Decider:
NBC hasn't officially announced a premiere date for Season 4 of The Good Place, but based on recent history, it's not difficult to predict a release date.
Season 1 premiered on September 19, 2016
Season 2 premiered on September 20, 2017
Season 3 premiered on September 27, 2018
With those dates in mind, we imagine Season 4 of The Good Place will debut on NBC in late September of 2019 (Thursday, September 26th perhaps?).
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.