Jameela Jamil Interview: ‘The Good Place’
Jameela Jamil is feeling good about being on “The Good Place” right now. Jamil found her cheerful, serial name-dropping character Tahani Al-Jamil going on an interesting journey in Season 3 as she learned to be more forgiving and selfless in her altruism. “I feel like she’s done a lifetime’s journey of evolving and learning all in the space of three seasons,” Jamil says, admitting that the unique cosmic circumstances she and her friends are in “forces them to grow up very, very fast.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Playing Tahani has caused Jamil to understand what makes certain people so annoying, empathizing with them more and getting to “the root of why they’re so annoying and how those symptoms manifest.” Some of Tahani’s pretensions stem from the competitive, fractured relationship she has with her publicly adored sister, Kamilah (Rebecca Hazlewood). That relationship finally matured in Season 3, with Tahani and Kamilah forgiving each other after realizing that their parents were really to blame for pitting them against each other from an early age.
“I think it really hit home for a lot of people who watched it,” Jamil says, of Tahani and Kamilah setting aside their differences. However, she admits that she was a bit sad to see it resolved because she enjoys their rivalry. Jamil notes that their resolution is nonetheless a great example of the ethos of “The Good Place.” She observes: “This show is such a wonderful, fun way of teaching people about basic morality and we’re genuinely infusing philosophy out into the world without people even realizing it ’cause it’s sort of coupled between cocaine and masturbation jokes.”
The cleverness with which “The Good Place” blends comedy, moral philosophy, and fantasy elements is part of how the show has found a passionate fanbase, and awards organizations are starting to embrace it, too. The NBC sitcom has gradually increased its nomination total over three seasons, getting two nominations at the Emmys last year and finally getting Golden Globe nominations earlier this year, including one for Best Comedy Series. It is rare for a show in its third season to start picking up awards, and Jamil is thrilled it happened this way. “It’s so unexpected to, three seasons in, get nominated for Best Show ’cause normally you come out with a nomination and then there’s nothing else,” she says. “It feels like it isn’t based off of hype. Not to discredit anyone that comes out on top with loads of awards, but it felt like we really earned that.”
The show would be nowhere without its stellar cast, and for Jamil, whose first acting job is indeed “The Good Place,” co-star Ted Danson has been a benevolent leader. “Ted is everything,” praises Jamil. “Without knowing it I was using him as an acting coach and studying him every day.” She adds that his unrestrained joy in getting to do what he loves is infectious and a reminder to bring the same kind of enthusiasm to her performance. Danson, who plays the Good Place architect Michael on the show, likes to do something different with each take, and every choice just makes Jamil want to rise to his level.
Altogether, Jamil couldn’t have asked for a better set for her first acting role. She was a host and writer in England before moving to Los Angeles, and she reveals that the culture in Hollywood was a “wakeup call” as she saw the amount of attention paid to women’s physical appearance. She describes “The Good Place” set as “one of the only safe sets within Hollywood,” thanks to its diversity and commitment to letting people be who they are. “It’s the freest I’ve ever been on camera,” Jamil says. She is hopeful that there are more people like “The Good Place” showrunner Michael Schur out there who are committed to portraying real human beings onscreen.
As production begins on Season 4 of “The Good Place,” Jamil cannot tease much but does admit that “everyone is at the height of their journey, from what I’ve seen.” The Season 3 finale found our heroes conducting a Good Place experiment much like Michael’s initial attempt, in order to prove the capacity for human beings to become better people. While she does not have the full overview of Season 4 yet, she reveals that Tahani’s tendency to name-drop is “on steroids this year. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s Tourette’s-esque name-dropping.