D’Arcy Carden is trying to avoid the “B” word. The actress and UCB alum is starring on two critically acclaimed shows opposite some top-notch names to boot: NBC’s “The Good Place” with Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, and HBO’s “Barry” with Bill Hader and Henry Winkler. “I promise I would never say it, but I was blessed, because then I would be so annoying. But these two shows would be my favorite shows if I was just watching them on TV,” Carden tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview (watch above). She adds, “And the fact that I get to be a part of both of them kind of blows my mind. It’s too lucky, it’s too good. I’m really, really proud of both these shows and I kind of can’t believe it.”
While “Barry” just premiered last month and has already been renewed for a second season, “The Good Place” is where Carden has become a TV fan favorite the past two years. As Janet, a cheery, helpful Siri-like artificial intelligence and right-hand man to Michael (Danson), Carden has the stealthily difficult task of imbuing her with warmth and heart while essentially playing a non-reactive robot. Though now playing Janet feels like “settling in home,” it was “a tiny bit of a struggle” in the first season, Carden says, as she, creator Mike Schur and the writers were still fine-tuning a character for which men also auditioned.
“As actors, all we’re sort of taught is to react and have an opinion on everything your fellow actor is giving you,” she says. “So the first half of the first season, I would say, I was kind of struggling with that and talking to Mike about it a lot and it was a lot of pulling back. It was a lot of, ‘less sad this time’ or … ‘less judgmental,’” which is the great thing about TV as opposed to doing live theater. … Getting into this character on this particular show, it’s been great to try it again and try it again.”
Carden gets to play other versions of Janet, like Bad Janet and Good Janet as Bad Janet, but the most fascinating and fertile one is Janet in Love. In an arc that kicked off in the Season 2 episode “Janet and Michael” — a showcase two-hander for Carden and Danson — Janet realizes she’s in love with Jason (Manny Jacinto), a human emotion that she, a computerized guide, should not be feeling. As the storyline played out the rest of the season, culminating with Janet declaring her love for Jason, Carden found a way to subtly convey Janet’s confusion while still maintaining her unflappable optimism.
“That version of Janet, this kind of ‘What’s going on? I couldn’t possibly be in love’ Janet — there’s like this sort of teenager vibe that I feel from her, where she’s sort of figuring out her emotions,” she says. “I think I sort of tap into Teenager D’Arcy, if that makes sense, like Teenager Anyone, because she’s so confused and so mixed up about her emotions. Everything she thought she knew is like changing.”
Carden credits Schur and the writers for their inventive storytelling that constantly upends viewers’ expectations. “I trust the writers in a way where I’m like, ‘I’ll go wherever you take me,’” she says. Good thing too because even though Schur told Carden and co-star William Jackson Harper how the upcoming third season ends, they’ve already forgotten it. “They’re burning through so much story that it’s hard to even hold onto everything,” Carden says. “I was having dinner with Will last night and we were trying to remember what the end of Season 3 is and we can’t remember. Mike told us and we can’t remember! It’s so much information that we can’t remember what ends up happening.”
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