THE GOOD PLACE's Michael Schur and D'Arcy Carden on the Ambitious Reveals in 'Janet(s)' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE GOOD PLACE’s Michael Schur and D’Arcy Carden on the Ambitious Reveals in ‘Janet(s)’

December 6, 2018 by  

THE GOOD PLACE Janet(s)

THE GOOD PLACE — “Janet (s)” Episode 310 — Pictured: D’Arcy Carden as Janet — (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Janet(s),” the December 6 fall finale episode of THE GOOD PLACE.]

“Holy forking shirtballs—we’re in The Good Place.”

“Janet(s),” the Thursday, December 6 episode of THE GOOD PLACE, managed to be a double-whammy: one of the best/most ambitious episodes of the series, while simultaneously moving the story forward in a significant way. (The series has already been renewed for a fourth season.)

After Janet (D’Arcy Carden) brought Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) into her Void to try and save them from certain death, things got, well, weird: their personas inhabited Janet bodies, with some relishing their Janet-like powers, and others struggling. (Eleanor’s crumbling sense of self nearly destroyed them all until Chidi was able to pull her out of it—which led to the duo finally reuniting.)

To pull off an episode this big, it took an incredible amount of work…and an MVP-like effort from Carden, who had to portray her normal Janet, a new Neutral Janet, and Janets who were inhabited by the other characters.

Carden and THE GOOD PLACE creator Michael Schur broke down the work that went into “Janet(s)” and what comes next…

Creating the Void.

The writers started anticipating this episode in season 2, as they envisioned Janet bringing everyone into the Void. Carden was quickly looped in, and by March, they had things mapped out.

To help Carden portray the other characters, she got a bit of unusual assistance.”We started the rehearsing very early because we got the actual cast to do the scenes, and we filmed that so that D’Arcy could watch their mannerisms and stuff,” Schur told reporters.

“[I watched the footage] one million times,” she added. “Like, daily.”

The team tried to keep everything as in-house as possible. “There was a lot of trust needed and a lot of shorthand,” Carden recalled. “It wasn’t the time to get to know anyone because we were kind of figuring it out a little bit…Everybody did such a good job of covering every base possible, but we didn’t know which bases we were going to need to touch, so we were just prepared for however the best way to do it was and then figured it out.“

One of the big challenges was having Carden play off so many versions of herself. However, they were inspired by another recent series. “When we first had the idea a million years ago, we were like, ‘Can this be done?’ Well, ORPHAN BLACK did it like a thousand times,” Schur recalled. “That’s what I kept thinking. I remember the scene in ORPHAN BLACK when all of the clones finally meet each other, and Tatiana [Maslany] was just handing herself things and talking to herself, putting her arm around herself and stuff. I was like, ‘There has to be a way to do this.’ So that show gave us a boost, I would say, at the beginning when we were debating whether or not to try to pull it off.”

Carden acknowledged that playing multiple characters wasn’t the hardest part of the experience: it was playing so many established characters. “It’s a different kind of thing than just making up five new ones,” she said. “So we were really kind of figuring out if we wanted to do impressions of them or sort of a hint of them. We didn’t want it to be like SNL sketch characters; we didn’t want to do over the top. So then it was a really fine line between not doing them enough so that we could tell who each one was and doing it to much.”

Jason and Tahani were the easiest for Carden to slip into, she admitted, whereas Eleanor was more difficult. But Schur admitted he was impressed with how Carden handled her take on Eleanor. “I’m the most impressed with it when it’s Kristen,” he said. “And it’s two things you do. One is you put your hands in your back pockets, which is classic Kristen Bell, and the other thing is you say, ‘No, no, I git it.’ She’s from Michigan, and every one in a thousand words has a Michigan accent. And in that moment you’re like, ‘No, no, no, yeah no I git it.’”

Carden also took her prep off-set, obsessively listening to an audio file of the table read, so she could try and get the inflections of her colleagues correct—which turned into a fun gag when she spotted Harper walking down the street while she was driving.

“I didn’t listen to music for like a month; I only listened to that,” she recalled. “And there was one day where I was listening to it cranked up in my car, driving down Sunset and I see Will Harper walking on the street, so I pull over and just roll down my window and just blast it. It was his voice. And he went, Oh no! You’re losing your mind!’”

Filming was its own challenge, as Carden worked opposite unusual screen partners. “I’d be acting with a pole with a piece of tape on it,” she said. “Or sometimes stand-ins with a Janety wig. Ted [Danson was] in the first bit when we see all the Janets with the purple outfit, that was maybe our second day of shooting this episode, so I had done a day of acting with nobody. And then Ted came on and did a day of acting with a bunch of poles and he was like, ‘No, no, no this is not for me. I’m going to leave now.’”

Janet(s)

“This is how D’Arcy acted with a thousand people with computer monitors, alone in a giant white room,” Schur said. (Credit: Michael Schur)

Janet(s)

(Credit: Michael Schur)

But Carden credited Danson with giving her vital wisdom for surviving the experience. “He giving me good advice [to] remember what I’m doing in each bit and not just like trying to sort of do impressions and say lines,” she said, noting her other colleagues were basically on-call in case she needed help getting to a moment. “When you’re just sort of repeating a line in a big white void, it can get a little stale.”

Despite the challenges, Carden called the experience “one of the best weeks of my life, in a weird way. It was stressful, but it was with the best people, and everybody was so supportive and everybody was on board to do the same job. Everybody had a great attitude about it. And I almost never wanted to watch it because It’s such a good memory that I was afraid that if I ever watched it, it would change the way I felt about that week.”

Joked Schur: “It was a form of psychological torture that we put D’Arcy through and it turned out wonderful.”

Though the filming schedule was essentially the same, the post-production was unlike anything else they’ve undertaken: the episode was shot in early July, they finished post-ep work just last week.

Janet(s)

THE GOOD PLACE — “Janet (s)” Episode 310 — Pictured: (l-r) Stephen Merchant as Neil, D’Arcy Carden as Janet — (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Meet “Existence’s Best Boss.”

To try and get to the bottom of whether it was rigged so people couldn’t get into the Good Place, Michael and real-Janet headed to Accounting and met the boss, Neil (portrayed by Stephan Merchant).

“He was the first person we approached, certainly,” Schur recalled. “When it was pitched, it was ‘that’s the guy.’ It was extremely funny—I knew him from THE OFFICE, a little bit, and it was very funny to try to explain the character he would be playing.”

Schur essentially pitched the entire series (so far) to Merchant before he then explained exactly what he was looking for in “Janet(s),” before he got a quick yes. (And the mug, which cheekily nodded to the NBC version of THE OFFICE, was real, but Merchant accidentally held it in a way so it didn’t pick up on-screen…so they went back and digitally added the reference in.)

Love is in the air. (Er, Void?)

Though Chidi initially denied he had anything to do with the prior relationship another version of himself had with another version of Eleanor, it was his grounding her back to her true self that saved them and the Void…and opened the door to their recoupling, for real.

“They kissed hard,” Carden said. ”I love them.”

“Yeah, that’s my favorite Will Harper acting of the season,” Schur added. “When he has, for one second, this total superhero moment, and then he blows it by overthinking it.”

And, yes, this is for real. “I don’t think this is a spoiler to say they’re, like, holding hands and gazing into each others’ eyes now,” Schur previewed. “What happens at the end of this episode is big and it’s real and there’s no more…this wasn’t intentional, at least I don’t think it was one of the original objectives, but for a while, we’ve been trying to think what is the thing that would make Chidi get over his internal essential Chidiness when it comes to romance. And when we figured this out, we were like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. He’s not going to worry about it. He’s going to worry about a lot of things, but he’s not going to worry about her, or how he feels about her or how she feels. This is a watershed for him. Picking up almost immediately in the next episode, it’s pretty gooey.”

It turns out the cast and crew are pretty huge Eleanor and Chidi fans, too. “We are very into the idea of Eleanor and Chidi,” Carden said. “On set even, that speech that Chidi!Janet gives to Eleanor to try and make her remember who she is…is it cheesy to say this? I couldn’t get through it. I would cry when I’d say the lines, because they were lovely. And I was very embarrassed to be crying, because I wasn’t trying to be crying, but then I looked at [the writers] guys, and they were crying, too. We just are so—we ship them…It was really beautiful. I was really pleased to get to say any of the words that you guys wrote. I’m so obsessed with the writers, did you guys know? They’re so goddamn good.”

But that wasn’t the only relationship progression, as Jason now knows that at one point, a version of himself was also married to Janet. Previewed Schur, “A lot of that stuff gets dealt with very quickly, in various ways.”

Welcome to (the real) Good Place.

But the fall finale left off with one heck of a twist, as the characters are now, finally, in the real Good Place.

“Michael now has more information than he’s ever had about the fact that there’s something [going on],” Schur teased. “He’s suspected since the end of season 1 that there’s something wrong—he now has actual information and he has a plan. Neil the Accountant says, ‘If you have a problem, go to The Good Place and take it up with the committee.’ So he now actually has, in theory, a plan for what he can do with the information. He doesn’t have the whole story yet. He will…shortly. He at least has a plan and he’s in a place to execute the plan and he attempts to execute the plan.”

And the writers deeply thought about how long it should be since the last person made it into The Good Place. “We chose the roughly 500 years because we sort of figured once the world was closed as a loop, once exploration moved from Western Europe and had moved across the ocean, that basically that was the last moment—after that moment it was essentially impossible for anyone would get in by the criteria we set up.”

“Remember, we’ve also said from the beginning—and some of this was an unreliable narrator, but we’re holding it to be true—that it was already very hard to get in,” he continued. “It’s not 50-50. It was always reserved for the elite, top five percent, or whatever. So we figured once westward expansion begins, everyone was screwed. Harriet Tubman, Jonas Salk, and the Golden Girls were the main [ones]. That would be sad if they weren’t in it.”

THE GOOD PLACE, Thursdays, 8:30/7:30c, NBC

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