One of the best characters currently on TV is that of Janet (played by the magnificently magical D’Arcy Carden), the artificial intelligence that works as something of a personal assistant to Michael (Ted Danson), the neighborhood architect, on the NBC series The Good Place. Janet is eternally optimistic and always willing to help neighborhood residents Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto), with often hilarious results.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress D’Arcy Carden talked about how little she knew about The Good Place when she signed on, why working with show creator Mike Schur is a dream come true, what she’s most enjoyed about Season 2, how much fun she has getting to play other sides of Janet, Bad Place Janet vs. Good Place Janet, and how fans of the series will react, at the end of the season. She also talked about her role on the upcoming HBO series Barry, from writer/director/actor Bill Hader, and how lucky she feels to be a part of such high quality projects.
Collider: First of all, I absolutely love this show! It’s my favorite comedy on TV, on any network, and I’m so glad that Season 2 is as brilliant as the first season!
D’ARCY CARDEN: That’s so great to hear! That is so awesome, honestly! That’s so cool! Thanks!
Typically, I feel like it’s pretty easy to figure out where a story is headed, but this show really threw me. I did not see what happened at the end of Season 1 coming, at all. How did you react when you found out exactly what show you were a part of, and what was most surprising about that reveal for you?
CARDEN: The thing that was strange about getting this job was that it was all a secret. It was shrouded in secrecy. I didn’t know what the show was, until I got it. There was no information about the show and no scripts, until I was cast in the show. Even then, we knew the first half of the season, but (executive producers) Mike Schur and Drew Goddard weren’t telling us the second half of the season. We definitely knew that a surprise was coming, but even then, we couldn’t guess it. The audience was surprised, but you guys didn’t really have a reason to suspect that a big twist was coming. We knew a big twist was coming, and we still didn’t get it. I think maybe a lot of people thought, “Maybe they’re in the Bad Place,” but the details made it so exciting, like the fact that it was Michael that orchestrated the whole thing and he was really going out on a limb, trying out this new type of torture. You never would have guessed all of that. I was floored! I was excited and happy, but also really heartbroken because I loved the characters so much. I’ve told William Jackson Harper this, a million times, but I love Chidi so deeply. I just feel for him and love him, so I was feeling really sad about Chidi being in the Bad Place. That really broke my heart! I kept saying, “What about Chidi? He’s good!” Mostly, I just kept thinking, “I cannot wait! I want to be in the room when everybody watches the end!”
Since you really had no idea what show you were actually on, and you even auditioned initially with fake sides, what was the appeal of this show for you?
CARDEN: It’s so easy to answer that – Mike Schur. I’m such a huge Mike Schur fan, and I’ve been a fan of his for years. I’ve loved everything he’s made that I’ve gotten to watch, but I also have friends and acquaintances who have worked with him, over the years, and people love working for him. He is a wonderful human being who just also happens to be a genius storyteller. He’s just a good dude to work with and work for, and to be around. I love, love, love being around him. Going into the audition, knowing that he was gonna be in there, I was nervous, but within seconds, I was like, “This guy is the coolest!” He immediately said something that put me at ease, and then he was casual and made me feel relaxed. It almost made it worse because then I wanted the job that much more.
Because Season 1 was so brilliant, I was worried that Season 2 wouldn’t have that same magic because you’d already know what was going on, but that’s so not the case. What have you most enjoyed about Season 2, and what feels most different about it?
CARDEN: One of the things that I admire and love so much about the writers and Mike Schur is that they don’t draw things out. The first few episodes of this season, that could have been the entire season. You would have been happy and satisfied, watching the core four figure it out slowly, over many, many episodes, but we got that in the first couple of episodes. I feel like the writers and Mike really respect the audience in a way where they play to our intelligence. They’re not gonna dumb it down for us, which I think is really cool and rare. I can’t even tell you how excited I get when I receive the scripts, the night before the table read. They always blow me away. I’m always laughing and I have no idea where the story is gonna go, other than being given big brushstrokes for the season. It’s so fun to watch the details unravel. Personally, selfishly, knowing where Janet gets to go and the fact that she’s getting a little more in tough with her emotions, is very, very, very exciting. If you have been surprised by the first few episodes, I cannot wait for you to see the next half. I don’t want to build it up too much, but you’re in for a wild ride.
How much fun is it to get to see new sides of Janet, this season?
CARDEN: The only way I can speak about it is in the cheesiest terms. I feel so grateful and I feel like it’s such a gift. As an actor, there’s nothing I could want more than to get to play a character that I love, and then the writers also give me all these different sides of her to play with. Every inch of this show and job is a dream come true, from the people that I work with to the character that I play to the words that I get to say to the crew and the costumes. It’s too dreamy. We’re very, very spoiled on this show. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
How does playing the Bad Place Janet compare to playing the Good Place Janet?
CARDEN: The fun thing with Bad Janet, the blonde, I remember in the first meeting, the day after I got cast, Mike Schur and Drew Goddard brought her up and explained, “And then, there will be a Bad Janet that comes and does this.” I remember that it wasn’t clear if I would be playing her, or a different person would be playing her, and I was crossing every finger, hoping that I would get to play her. I had a fear that I wasn’t gonna get to play her. For me, that was the best. It was so exciting to get to play someone the exact opposite of sweet little confident Janet.