Best Performances 2018: The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden on Janet’s Emotional Evolution – Today’s News: Our Take


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Best Performances: Inside D’Arcy Carden’s Emotional Breakthrough with Janet on The Good Place

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The mark of a good comedy is when it can make you cry in between the laughs. By that standard, NBC’s The Good Place is a great comedy, and the emotional resonance of its second season was in large part to D’Arcy Carden‘s intuitive and multi-faceted portrayal of Janet.

Carden emerged as a fan-favorite early on in The Good Place, thanks to her dry but simultaneously warm performance as the show’s personification of Google. Janet is meant to be a guide for humans living out their eternal existence in the afterlife’s paradise, but Season 1 revealed that the Janet fans got to know was actually being used to help demon Michael (Ted Danson) psychologically torture four humans in a mock Good Place neighborhood. As Michael’s plan devolved, Janet had to be rebooted thousands of times to continue his ruse which allowed her to evolve and develop emotions throughout the course of Season 2.

“The funny thing about the first season is so much of it with Janet was so much was trial and error,” Carden told TV Guide when she sat down for our Best Performances video series. “We didn’t want her to be too robotic and we didn’t want her to be too emotional, so it was finding that middle ground. Once we got into the second season, it was starting to feel more, ‘Okay, I know. I know who she is.'”

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Subtly throughout the second season, Carden added more emotional layers to Janet as the character began to feel things without really knowing it. Her nuanced performance makes her a worthy contender for a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Primetime Emmy nomination. According to her, navigating Janet’s complicated progress was only possible because she found the confidence to follow her gut.

“Occasionally, a director will ask us to try something a certain way and as an actor I’m like down for whatever, but as the holder of the Janet key I’m like, ‘Oh, no, this is such a big responsibility.’ I really have to trust my Janet instincts in knowing what is right for her and what is not,” she said.

Janet’s evolution culminated in Season 2, Episode 6, “Janet and Michael,” when Janet experienced her first real heartbreak but was still willing to do anything to protect her friends — even if one of them was an other-dimensional demon with a fetish for torture.

“There were plenty of fun things for Janet to do along the way, but this was the first time that I got to play Janet’s real true emotions,” Carden explained.

“Janet and Michael” finds the pair trying to figure out why she is malfunctioning and causing catastrophic problems throughout the neighborhood, only to discover that through her evolution, Janet has fallen in love with one of the humans, Jason (Manny Jacinto). To remain true to her ultimate purpose, to be helpful, Janet resolved that the only way to protect Michael and the humans was to destroy herself, after which Michael could simply steal a replacement Janet.

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In a normal show, making the ultimate sacrifice for those you care about most would set up a five-course meal of scene-chewing deliciousness, but The Good Place isn’t a normal show. Carden’s mastery of Janet allowed her to deliver this dark solution with the same plucky candor that Janet would answer, “What’s the capital of Uzbekistan?”

“As an actor, you want to play the emotion of this painful heartbreak and the fact that I’m telling you that you need to make me cease to exist,” Carden said. “But with her, it’s different because she’s happy to help. That’s her purpose.”

The episode reaches its full heartbreak potential when Michael reveals that he can’t kill Janet because they’re friends. These two beings who aren’t supposed to have empathy have managed to develop a real bond and the thought of ending it devastates both of them. According to Carden, having a scene partner like Ted Danson gave her what she needed to play Janet on the next level.

“He surprised me in real life in that scene because he got emotional. His eyes go red and there’s tears in them and I was like, ‘What the hell? This wasn’t in the script. How dare you,'” she said. “And it made me, D’Arcy the actor, also get teary-eyed. Which I was immediately like, ‘No, no, no, we can’t do that because Janet would not — but then I also realized this is the moment when Janet is changing.'”

The Good Place returns for Season 3 on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 8/7c on NBC. Nominations for the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced July 12 with the ceremony airing Sunday, Sept. 17, also on NBC.

Source : TVGuide