THE GOOD PLACE Boss on Nabbing a Special Guest for 'Arguably the Most Important Scene of the Entire Show' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE GOOD PLACE Boss on Nabbing a Special Guest for ‘Arguably the Most Important Scene of the Entire Show’

January 9, 2020 by  

The Good Place Timothy Olyphant

THE GOOD PLACE — Pictured: “The Good Place” Key Art — (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Thursday, January 9 episode of THE GOOD PLACE.]

It’s official: Timothy Olyphant helped save humanity.

With THE GOOD PLACE’s residents desperate try to and stop the Judge (Maya Rudolph) from nuking Earth and starting all over again, Janet was able to conjure the TV-loving entity’s favorite TV star…and it bought them enough time to get their new plan for the afterlife sorted out and approved.

Though THE GOOD PLACE has had a few famous faces pop up, bringing in an actor to play themselves has been a tricky fit in the past. “You’re limited in terms of who you could have on the show,” THE GOOD PLACE executive producer Michael Schur says. “You couldn’t have a famous guest star on the show in most capacities, because it would be like, ‘Well, is that person dead? What happened?’ It was so nice to come up with this idea for how we could have someone playing him or herself in the world of the show, and then actually get the exact person that we wanted.”

Schur—a longtime fan of Olyphant—breaks down the episode, and how they got the former JUSTIFIED star for “arguably the most important scene of the entire show”…

Was this a situation where you knew Timothy wanted to guest star on the show or did you think he might be a fit before you wrote the episode and reached out to check his availability?
We had the idea that they would run out of ways to keep the judge occupied, and then would make a last ditch attempt to capture her attention by Janet conjuring up one of her TV heroes. We were thinking [about] who’s the right person, because she’s mentioned so many over the years.

First, we were thinking maybe Kyle Chandler, because she mentioned FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS really early on. But then I was like, “Well, Timothy Olyphant, he’s the perfect guy because he’s ridiculously handsome [and in] multiple shows that she would have binged as a being who had suddenly become interested in binge watching TV [between] DEADWOOD and JUSTIFIED.”

I know him a little bit and reached out to ask if he would do it, and he said yes. It was early enough we hadn’t shot a lot of Maya’s stuff for the whole season, so we were able to go back and plant in that she was binging DEADWOOD, and like laying all these clues, like when she says, “I just started watching JUSTIFIED.” She has a JUSTIFIED DVD in her bag when she’s looking for the clicker to destroy Earth. There’s all these clues that we laid in over the course of a year. It worked out perfectly…we were able to go back and sort of retro engineer the idea that she had been obsessed with Timothy Olyphant for the entire season.

Did you and Timothy first meet during his brief guest spot on THE OFFICE? (Schur was a writer and occasional guest star on the series.)
No, actually, I was over at PARKS AND REC. I remember being annoyed that I wasn’t around, because I’m such a huge fan. I just love him, I think he’s great. I loved DEADWOOD, I loved JUSTIFIED; I feel JUSTIFIED is the most underrated prestige drama of all time. It was so, so, so good.

My wife used to say that that if I ever left her for anyone, it wouldn’t be another woman, it would be for Timothy Olyphant. That’s been a running joke in my house for like 10 years. So for my 40th birthday, my wife, among other things, made a video where she got people to give testimonials about me. And one of them was Timothy Olyphant—who I had never met at the time [Laughs.]—talking about how he has heard that I am deeply in love with him and how flattering he thought it was. It was amazing. It was truly wonderful.

I reached out to him to thank him—I got his email from someone—and I had written [a piece] for Vulture…about how great I thought the dialogue was on [JUSTIFIED]. And said, “I don’t know if you ever saw it, but I wrote this thing for your show,” and sent it to him. And then we become email buddies. But I had never ever worked with him until this.

Given your love for him, what was it like the first time he was on set in a world you created?
It was great…I knew he would be perfect, and he was.

When I called him to talk him through what was going on. I was like, “Are you familiar with the show, because if you’re not, this is going to be almost impossible.” And he was because his kids watch it [and] he had seen it. But even still, it was like, “Oh boy, okay, well Earth is about to be annihilated and all living creatures are about to be like disappeared from by this almighty judge and they need to keep her attention, and, by the way, they’re in Janet’s void.” Which is a hard thing to explain! He’s unflappable: “Yeah, I get it, sounds good.”

He was going to be himself, but my favorite of his characters is [JUSTIFIED’s] Raylan Givens. He asked, “Am I dressed like me?” And I was like, “I think I want you to be Raylan Givens-y.” And he went, “Full Stetson?” And I was like, “Yeah.” As I was saying this to him, I was like, “Well, s—, I gotta call it [JUSTIFIED boss] Graham Yost, who I also don’t know…I need his blessing for this, because even though he’s referred to as Tim, and he calls himself Tim, I think I need to ask permission.”

I got Graham Yost’s email and wrote him to explain what we were doing, and said, “Is this okay? Do I have your blessing?” And he was very, very nice about it and said, “Of course, that sounds great.” I made sure to explain to him it was 100% out of love and admiration for this character I think is so great. So he’s him, but he’s edging towards Raylan Givens with his mannerisms and his appearance. [Olyphant] walked into an extremely weird situation that took a very long time to explain and was completely at home and got everything right away and did an awesome job.

He’s also not a stranger to playing himself on television. What surprised you about what he was able to bring to this version of Tim Olyphant?
I think the most I’ve laughed at any episode of TV over the last five years was the episode of THE GRINDER that he did, where he and Rob Lowe held a mock trial. It was so impossibly dense and meta and hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t seen it. But he is so funny in that episode and there’s so much going on in that moment.

They’re themselves, basically. Rob isn’t playing a guy named Rob Lowe, [but he is an actor]. But Timothy Olyphant is playing Timothy Olyphant. And he is also in the world of the show an actor who is playing a lawyer in another TV show, THE GRINDER: NEW ORLEANS. And then he and Rob Lowe are holding a mock trial in front of a real judge to determine which of them is closer to being a real lawyer…because of these roles that they play on the shows within the show that they’re on. It’s like a snake eating its own tail and then digesting its own tail and growing a new tail and eating that tail.

That’s why he was the perfect choice: because we were asking an actor to walk in to an impossibly dense situation. And the point of the scene is that he is supposed to just be eye candy, and then like sort of takes over the scene and start asking questions and kind of butting into the conversation that throws things into a bit of chaos. If anyone can handle this, the guy who did that scene from THE GRINDER can.

It’s also a hugely important scene—one with all of the regulars, plus Maya, who obviously has improvisational background. What was most important about trying to get the tone right between all of these elements?
It’s arguably the most important scene of the entire show, and I say that having completed the show. It’s literally been three and a half years of the show discussing the way the afterlife works and building to a point where they we need a new version. And then this is a new version. And [in this pivotal moment] we’re adding this wildcard element to it, which is Timothy Olyphant playing a conjured version of himself.

Like you said, it’s all six of the regulars of the show, plus Maya who’s a force of nature, plus, Marc Evan Jackson, in a white void just explaining this new system of the afterlife. And him being there is kind of crazy. Sure, throw Tim Olyphant in there, too! [Laughs.]

It’s an enormously important scene. It’s got nine actors in it. And one of them is Tim Olyphant, who’s there for the first and only day that he will ever be there. And nothing about it worried me. There is no anxiety at all, because of how good they all are. I stood around and watched the first couple of takes, and was like, yeah, they’ve got this, and then went back to my office.

Has Timothy had the chance to see the episode yet?
No, he hasn’t. Although I emailed him after I was done and said, “This is amazing. It’s so good. You were hilarious.”

That little moment where he asked a question, and Kristen goes, “Yeah, good question Timothy Olyphant.” And he goes, “Tim’s fine.” And she goes, “Okay, sure.” That was not scripted…that was just him doing that. [Laughs.] But it shows you like how comfortable he is in his own skin.

My favorite thing, literally, of the whole season, I think—[excluding] the finale because the finale is special—is when when Shawn says, “What are we doing to their penises?” And Michael says, “We’re largely ignoring them.” And Shawn goes, “I’m not crazy. You guys are hearing this?” And Tim goes, “Yeah, it’s a fair question.” Eleanor says, “Whose side are you on, man?” And there’s an extreme hero cowboy close-up of him and he goes, “I don’t have a dog in this fight, little lady. I’m just looking for clarity.” It is one of the hardest laughs I ever had in the edit bay for that show was when I saw it for the first time.

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


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