Just when you thought the Marlon Brando of seagulls couldn’t possibly be out-acted, in walks — or crawls? — the Humphrey Bogart of lizards, literally wearing a cowboy hat.
This week’s episode of The Good Place blessed viewers with an incredible squamate supporting character, who’s paired with Eleanor (Kristen Bell) in a flashback to her time in the afterlife. While Michael was still torturing our four leads in his architectural hell of a neighborhood, he curates a day where the quartet can pick a pet to “bond with their soul forever.” Eleanor immediately falls for the cute lil’ reptilious fella: They walk together, they talk together, she gives him some pets on his spikey back! And, as seen midway through the episode, the lizard proved to be a bit of diva and went off-script, climbing onto Bell’s head and claiming her hair as his own.
“There was one lizard and he was pretty mellow,” the show’s animal trainer, Debbie Pearl, explained to Vulture. “The lizard just did. He did that. It wasn’t something the trainers trained it to do. Reptiles aren’t really ‘trainable’ like that. He just decided to climb up her head and be in a different spot. Kristen went with it and they kept filming. The lizard wanted to get some better camera time. Some actors wouldn’t have liked it and would’ve asked to cut and reset the lizard, but you could tell she was loving it. It ended up being a great scene.”
Pearl was hired by The Good Place to provide trained animals for this “Pick a Pet” scene and beyond, with upwards of a dozen animals wandering around the set during the filming process. (Just a taste: an owl, a raccoon, a giraffe, an armadillo, a python, a cow, and a pig.) Still, the nameless lizard proved to be down for just about anything, transforming into a ranch-ready fashion maven with zero issue. “He has one of those personalities where he’s like, Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Pearl said. “He’s a movie lizard. When Hollywood wants a lizard, he’s the one who gets sent out.”
According to episode writer Cord Jefferson, Eleanor was paired with a lizard because its inherent lazy nature was a perfect mirror for her character. “But if you’re looking at it from Michael’s point of view,” he added, “a creepy looking lizard with bowel control issues is a terrible pet to give somebody, certainly the kind of low-grade torture device perfect for his Good Place experiment.” Additionally, the lizard’s penchant for improv didn’t amuse Claire Scanlon, the episode’s director, who wishes he just stuck to the damn script. “He was moody, laconic, and refused to be consistent with his performance,” she explained. “Overall, I would work again with this lizard, but only if we were able to come to a better consensus of our working relationship. Kristen was beyond on-board with him climbing all over her and actually encouraged him to get all up and in her hair.”
Kristen Bell, always forkin’ great.