As its second season finale teased, The Good Place is going back to Earth in its third season, with Chidi and Eleanor meeting up in Australia after she watches a video of him giving a lecture on ethics. That’s all well and good, until you realize that Chidi is speaking English. With an American accent! Sure, William Jackson Harper spoke that way in the show’s version of the afterlife in previous seasons, but as Chidi explained to Eleanor in the pilot, he’s from Senegal and supposed to be speaking French that’s automatically translated to her American ears. So, why doesn’t he speak French on Earth? Or English with a Senegalese accent?
In the show’s season-three premiere, after speaking a bit of French to a colleague, Chidi explains things to Eleanor. “I grew up in Senegal so my native language is French, but I went to American school so I also speak English,” he says, “and German, and Greek, and Latin, just in case it ever comes back.”
The Good Place’s creator Michael Schur previously talked to Rolling Stone about Chidi’s accent, explaining that they considered having him “speaking French, or Wolof-accented English, or something else” on Earth. “In the read-through, when Eleanor watches his video, [William Jackson Harper] read the lecture in a sort of pan-African accented English,” Schur said, “and it was wonderful, and flawless. Like in a ‘Meryl Streep doing a dialect’ kind of way.” But then, Schur realized that Chidi spoke American-accented English in his flashbacks in previous seasons, and also that he didn’t want to mess up Harper and Kristen Bell’s rapport. “He and Kristen have such a specific chemistry and rhythm, I was afraid accented English would mess with it somehow,” he said. There you have it: Chidi is very bad at decision-making, but apparently great at picking up accents.