We’re here – we’ve come to the Bad Place. That is not a spoiler, I am just in a Bad Place knowing there will be no Good Place to wrap myself in and binge that backlog of Good Place episodes in my cue. It’s a Jeremy Bearimy lifestyle I’ve gotten used to and it’s about to be marbled. Four seasons and 500+ reboots later we knew this time was coming and I’m still not ready – are we ever ready? Before we get into the philosophy of endings, show holes, and binge sadness, we must reflect on The Good Place, what we have learned and how we have been changed. That is what The Good Place was always about, with a writing style so clever and erratic it had infinite possibilities. Even now, on the eve of the series finale I am content with Season 4 Episode 12’s ending.
Where can we go from here? But I know The Good Place always could find a way to bring us to the brink of something and back again, all in 22 minutes (30 with commercials I guess). As we prepare ourselves for the end, I got a chance to speak with William Jackson Harper, who plays the role of Chidi on The Good Place about his preparations and saying Goodbye.
“WE LIVE IN THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS”
– Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
BNP: This is kind of a bigger question on your experience getting the role on The Good Place as Chidi and how it has changed your career, or changed your life. What has that been like?
William Jackson Harper: Well I happened to have been watching Ted Danson when I got the call that I was going to be working with him, which was you know pretty crazy, because I was climbing the walls after the screen test you know, just waiting to get word like, did I get the part? Did I not? Honestly you know, auditioning for this role, I’d already sorta made my peace with perhaps exploring other fields. I think every actor thinks to themselves, is it time to quit – is it time to stop doing this? You know, you have it at least every year, I feel like some people have it more than that. Then you have that conversation with yourself and you come to the conclusion that leaving the field and leaving this art behind you would be too painful. It would hurt. I’d had that conversation with myself and I actually felt relief. You know, this will actually open me up to do other things and have a normal life and not feel so nervous and anxious all the time. So it was an interesting headspace. I was relieved and also I wanted the job, you know. I wanted the job at the same time. So getting it was this sort of last ditch effort by the universe to keep me in the field, which I’m glad it came my way.
BNP: Speaking of that, myself as an actor I know with TV shows you get to kind of grow with the character and learn and change as well. What was it like being an actor on set where your character kind of keeps resetting? What was that experience, how did you approach that?
WJH: Well in a way, honestly if you do theater that’s kind of the name of the game. Every night you do the same show and you have to do it as if you’ve never done it before, and so there are certain aspects of that that are easier. I think where it gets tricky is when we would have moments that we did know or did remember and it wasn’t a full reset. And it’s like, oh wait, right, no no in this version I do know this about you, and this is from this thing – and so sometimes the gymnastics could get a little tricky in that regard, but having to erase everything was a little bit easier coming from theater.
BNP: So one of the things that everyone really loves about the show and is at its core, is that it is an ensemble cast. You all work so well together, you play off each other’s funny and everything. Has it been kind of emotional with the series coming to an end?
WJH: Yea absolutely. We shot everything. It’s all in the can. We’ve all said our goodbyes, and we did that months ago. But you know, it’s been weird, and honestly, all the episodes are airing and I’m sorta being slow to watch because I don’t want it to be over. I’m kind of watching my friends do all of this really great work. So yea its um, it’s definitely been emotional but more than anything I’m just proud of the work that we’ve done. I’m proud of my cast-mates for bringing it every day and surprising me, and I’m in awe of every single one of them.
BNP: Are there any talks of work with them in the future or anything like that, staying in touch?
WJH: Oh yea, we’re definitely going to stay in touch. As for working with each other, that’s something that is really up to the powers that be. You know, if people want to throw the cast of The Good Place into a completely different scenario and just see how we do, I think we would all be down for it. Right now I think we are all just trying to look for new things to try, and new things to do, and new roles to explore and just keep growing. Hopefully, we get to come back to each other at some point.
“THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING”
BNP: One of my questions is about Chidi. The character himself is pretty much a nerd for philosophy and ethics, so in real life what are you a nerd for?
WJH: Well umm, I’m kind of a music nerd. Yea, I’m very into music – all kinds. And if it’s something that I’ve never heard before and I connect with it, I just go down a rabbit hole on it. I like finding things that aren’t getting wide radio play or not popular and just seeing what else is out there. Because there’s just so many people creating things that blow my mind, and I just want to hear all of it.
BNP: Do you make music yourself?
WJH: You know actually, I do – poorly. I’m not very good but I enjoy playing, I play the drums. I play with this band, which we’re all a bunch of actors and we actually just recorded an album. They’re all great – I’m the drummer and I speed us up a lot, you know I need to work on that. But I love playing music. In fact, I could do that all day every day and honestly being in the studio was my preferred place to be at pretty much any time.
BNP: What’s the name of the band?
WJH: Oh, “The U.S. Open.”
BNP: (laughs) That’s funny.
WJH: Yea, you’re meant to laugh at it.
“ENTITIES SHOULD NOT BE MULTIPLIED UNNECESSARILY”
– William of Ockham
BNP: Without spoilers, does the show and does your character have a good farewell?
WJH: Well, I can’t tell you that! That’s nothing but spoilers.
BNP: Well, that’s good to hear you know, it means you can’t even say anything it’s that good of a last episode.
WJH: Yea it’s a great one. I think it’s really important for people to go into this completely in the dark about what’s going to happen. I also just don’t want to rob the audience of the experience that we had as a cast. We got these scripts and we were like – oh wow, what happens next – oh wow, what happens next! We couldn’t wait to read them. So I know how I felt this last season reading each episode, so I just want everyone to have that same experience.
It’s been a great ride and to be honest, I would not be mad at William’s idea of putting the whole cast in a completely different scenario and seeing it unfold! But – in the like… American Horror Story way where they are the same actors doing a totally different story – but of course not horror… comedy. If anyone at the networks is listening, fix this show hole! But for real, it has been a commendable piece of television. However it ends, I am glad to have experienced it and can’t wait to binge it again with the hubby who hasn’t seen past season one! The Good Place is the gift that keeps on giving even when it’s over.