As the personal assistant to the beings of the beyond in “The Good Place,” D’Arcy Carden’s Janet started off more akin to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri than a human being. But just because she is an artificial intelligence creation does not mean she cannot grow or evolve. In two short seasons, Carden has drawn upon her comedy chops (she trained and toured with the Upright Citizens Brigade in the early aughts) to become a breakout in an ensemble cast that features veterans such as Ted Danson and Kristen Bell.
Carden: “Auditioning for this was a little bit different than a normal show because there wasn’t any information. All I knew was that Ted Danson and Kristen Bell were involved in it — and truly that was all I needed to know! And that it was Mike Schur.
“We were given a couple of pages for the audition, and it wasn’t anything about the show — it was dummy pages, it was fake. It was just a made-up character with the vibe of Janet — a very helpful, unflappable, cool problem-solver — but no information about being artificial intelligence or anything like that. I think the point was Mike Schur and Drew Goddard didn’t want us to do any kind of robot voice or anything. That could be an easy trap to fall into.
“With acting, it’s all about reacting and emotion. Every line you say and every line your scene partner says, the point is reacting to it, but when your character doesn’t react, it’s a weird struggle.
“I talked about it with Mike a lot, and he’s amazing and so collaborative, and it was very helpful to figure it out together.
“Janet is evolving so much — and it’s hard and exciting as an actor. There are such strict rules about what she can and cannot do, but at the same time, the possibilities are unending. So on one hand, we found out in season one that her version of crying is staring up at the sky wailing, but then by season two, all of the rules sort of go out the window because she’s starting to feel feelings.
“The episode ‘Janet and Michael’ was basically just me and Ted getting to play together, and it was incredible because he’s one of the best TV actors and as a scene person, he’s down for whatever and nothing can throw him. I feel beyond lucky to get to work with him.
“When your character doesn’t react, it’s a weird struggle.”
“This episode goes through all levels of emotions, so it was too good to be true. We had this really fun week together that was almost like camp. In the episode, Michael admits that the reason he can’t destroy Janet is because she’s his best friend. And in that moment, Ted got teary-eyed, and it shocked me and made me teary-eyed. And then I panicked afterwards because Janet can’t cry! But we’re breaking the rules, and it’s such a gut feeling of knowing yes or no — Janet would or wouldn’t do that. With the emotion of that scene with Ted, it really did take me by surprise, but it still felt true to Janet.
“I’ve gotten to this place with Janet where it just feels like home — we’re a little interchangeable. So when it comes to the reboots or playing Bad Janet, it’s like different versions of this person I know.
“She’s kind of like the best part of us. She only wants to help — she doesn’t want to create drama [and] she only wants the best for people. We live in a rough moment right now, and she’s so positive. It’s good for my soul.”