D’Arcy Carden Interview: ‘The Good Place’
D’Arcy Carden got to live out one of her acting dreams in Season 3 of “The Good Place.” While most episodes find Carden playing Janet, the perky, robotic assistant, the 10th episode of Season 3, titled “Janet(s)”, was something leagues more challenging for the actress. In the episode, Janet must pull Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) into her void, where we see versions of all four characters played by Carden herself. As if that weren’t enough, she also plays a sixth character, Neutral Janet. “It was equal parts excited and honored,” Carden says, of what was going through her mind upon realizing what she was tasked with. “One half was excited and honored and the other half was terrified and hoping they decided not to do it.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Luckily for Carden, the producers gave her enough notice to prepare. She says she was informed of the plan before production on the season began and was later given weeks to “creepily stalk my castmates, watch their every move and listen to their voices.” For Carden and the producers, it wasn’t just about nailing down an exact impression. “We didn’t want to do an ‘SNL’ impression,” Carden says. “We wanted to do the essence of the vibe of the character. It was a fine line between finding that impression-impression and making sure the audience knew who I was playing.”
While Tahani and Jason were fun for Carden to play, she struggled a bit to accurately capture the subtleties of Chidi and Eleanor. Chidi was particularly tough, Carden admits. “He has a very specific way of talking, a cadence, a tone of his voice. I could really hear it in my head and then I would say the line and I’d be like, ‘Mm, that wasn’t it.'” Even though Carden loves “The Good Place,” she wasn’t initially keen on watching an episode so populated by herself, worrying it might “taint my good memory of it.” Showrunner Michael Schur and the episode’s director Morgan Sackett ultimately convinced her she would love it, and she did indeed watch it, albeit, through her fingers. Carden was ultimately impressed by how the episode was put together, but it was her husband that showed her that the episode also worked on an emotional level. “Not to throw him under the bus but when it was done my husband started crying,” she reveals. “So I was like, ‘Oh, okay, I guess this is good!'”
Beyond the “Janet(s)” episode, Carden also had fun exploring Janet without her powers when she is on Earth earlier in the season. “It was the first time we explored Frustrated Janet,” Carden says. Her summoning powers gone, she is forced to adapt into the rather limited capacity of a human being, to hilarious effect. She also got to explore Janet’s relationship with Jason, to whom she married in the afterlife before his memory was wiped. Carden attributes Janet and Jason’s connection to “innocent teenager love,” with Janet falling for Jason at a moment where “she was rebooting and relearning the world. I feel like they connected at this moment.” Of course, Janet is an advanced intelligence system, so you wouldn’t think she would have feelings for, as Carden calls Jason, “a sweet dummy.” But for Janet, “it’s not about what he knows or doesn’t know,” Carden observes. “It’s about how she feels, or how he makes her feel.”
Speaking of nice feelings, Carden is basking in the glow of award season as “The Good Place” continues to gain momentum at major award shows. Carden won our very own Gold Derby Award for Best Comedy Supporting Actress last year, while “The Good Place” was nominated at the Golden Globes for Best Comedy Series. Then there’s “Barry,” in which Carden plays acting student Natalie. “Barry” has racked up nominations of its own, with Carden nominated with her co-stars at the SAG Awards for Best Comedy Ensemble. “It’s been really exciting and a huge honor,” Carden says, of being included in award season. “There’s a lot of shows on now. More than ever. To be on two shows that people are into so much that they would think to nominated us for awards, it’s been such an honor. I’m very aware that this doesn’t happen to every show or to every actor. I’m really enjoying every minute of it.”
Carden would surely be honored to receive an Emmy nomination of her own, but she is hoping to use some of Janet’s summoning powers to get co-star Ted Danson a trophy. “He is just the world’s best acting partner,” Carden gushes, of Danson. “Any of us would say the same. He is the most fun and the most present and the most exciting and supportive. He’s as special as they come. He deserves every award that could possibly come to him.” Danson was nominated last year at the Emmys but lost to the leading man of Carden’s other show, Bill Hader, of “Barry.”
As Carden prepares for Season 4 of “The Good Place,” she is promising exciting things to come. “It’s an adventure-y season. It is a beautiful season,” She teases. “There are things we have not seen yet. A lot of things we have not seen yet in past seasons we’ll be seeing.”