long conversations

The Unlikely Romance of The Good Place’s Janet and Jason

The Good Place’s Marc Evan Jackson, D’Arcy Carden, and Manny Jacinto at Vulture Festival in Los Angeles. Photo: Vulture and Getty Images

At Vulture Festival in Los Angeles last November, The Good Place cast members D’Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, and Marc Evan Jackson sat down for a panel discussion about the beloved Mike Schur series. Most of the conversation was devoted to the unlikely romance between Carden’s Janet and Jacinto’s Jason — including how it ultimately inspired Jacinto to propose to his now-fiancée — but also covered their thoughts about the fast-approaching series finale, which airs on NBC tonight at 8:30 p.m. As Carden put it at the time, she “would live in the finale for the rest of eternity.”

In anticipation of the series wrapping up tonight, the full panel discussion is available this week as a bonus episode of Good One. Read some highlighted excerpts from the panel below, or listen to the full conversation right here(You can download the episode from Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherOvercast, or wherever you get your podcasts.)

Jason and Janet: An Unlikely Pairing

Marc Evan Jackson: I love the dorks of The Good Place so much. Dan Schofield, the writer, wrote, “Sorry this isn’t a more detailed response” and then sent me a full-page, single-spaced answer, classic, which included the words, “Jason and Janet wasn’t a pairing that we entered into season one intending to pursue. It was something that we discovered as we broke the story of Janet’s murder and reboot,” which is sort of fascinating that this wasn’t something that was broken until episodes in.

D’Arcy Carden: That is interesting. Going back to Megan Amram’s comment, I remember Mike Schur and the writers bringing me in earlyish in season one and having that conversation like, “We don’t want this ever to be like the smartest being in the world dating down,” or like, going down? What is it I’m trying to say?

Audience member: Slumming.

D.C.: Slumming! Thank you. And you know, we see that on TV so much — the very capable, well-rounded, brilliant woman dating … I don’t want to say any names, but you all know who I’m thinking of. It’s something we see a lot.

M.E.J.: Sure.

D.C.: Like, women dating down, slumming, whatever that is. And they just wanted to make sure that that’s not what this is.

Manny Jacinto: Yeah, I mean I think they definitely just wanted to do something different and weird. And the fact that this should not happen but it does makes it very special.

D.C.: Right, but it makes sense.

M.J.: That just goes to show how incredibly talented the writers are. They make this pairing believable.

D.C.: And that was my fear when it was first introduced to us is that you guys would be like, “Nah.” But you guys did the opposite of “Nah.” You were like, “Nyah,” which was so great for us. It was freedom, sort of.

M.E.J.: Mike Schur texted me the answer. He said we had a line that was cut from this latest episode, the one where Michael is in the magnet jail with Bad Janet and they are talking the whole time. He said, “It’s our writers’ room backstory for understanding Janet and Jason. Bad Janet says, ‘How is Janet dating him? She’s the smartest being in the universe, and he thinks snow is dead clouds.’”

D.C.: That’s a good line. Why did we cut that out?

M.E.J.: I mean, the stuff you haven’t seen! Michael responds, “Compared to Janet, all human beings are essentially the same amount of intelligence.”

D.C.: Yes.

M.E.J.: “To Janet, there’s no difference between Jason and Stephen Hawking.”

D.C.: Yes.

M.E.J.: And Mike went on to say, “We always think like that as a way to explain how the two of them make sense and how they relate: That to Janet, all human beings are essentially ding-dongs, so this relationship is really purely about emotional …”

D.C.: God, I love Mike Schur. That’s it. That’s exactly what it is. She’s not slumming. I mean, there’s something … I was about to say it’s the soul, but I don’t think she has a soul.

M.J.: Yeah, I always talk about this whenever I get the question, “How does Janet and Jason work?” And my response is always — and I’ve thought about this a lot — Jason is slowly becoming a little bit more aware and intelligent.

D.C.: Yes, totally he is.

M.J.: He’s evolving a little bit, and through Jason, Janet is able to become more emotionally intelligent. She’s feeling these things, whether it be good or bad, through Jason because that’s what Jason is. He’s all these different emotions that he can’t tame, and Janet’s learning that. They’re kind of evolving.

M.J.: It’s a different Janet. Janet in the reboots has become far more human. It’s fun to watch and see. Not that it was mechanical, but it’s a different character.

D.C.: A little mechanical. She’s just grown so much. With every evolvement — which is a word I just made up, but you understand — I have been stressed out about it. I keep getting stressed out that I’m getting too human, that Janet is getting too human. But I just trust the writers so much, and this is a good example. I remember hearing that we were gonna get married and I was like, “I don’t know, y’all. That might be too cuckoo.” And then when we did it and we read it and I saw it, it was like, Yes, that totally makes sense. So there’s a couple things in season one where it worked so well, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to, that I was like, “I will go wherever you will take me from now on.” So, I’m going with it.

Bad Janet vs. Regular Janet

M.J.:  It had to be interesting on an acting level to be playing these things, because there are things that seem like Janet’s letting Jason in on things — Blake Bortles was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s Bad Janet torturing Jason.

D.C.: I mean, this is gonna sound like a little hippie-dippie or actorish, but those few weeks or months or so of filming those episodes where I was Bad Janet pretending to be Janet, I was not happy. My brain was wrong. I was like, I cannot wait until the episode where I turn into regular Janet.

M.E.J.: I can see that, because I would guess that as much as you’re saying you trust the writers when they say you’re gonna get married and you’re like, “I don’t know if this is right,” you want to stay true to this character. You want to make sure you’re doing the work, and being Janet and not just going, “I guess I’m human now.”

D.C.: Right. I had a little taste of what Ted [Danson] must have felt in all season one. Ted is playing the long game. He has to trust the writers and the audience that we’re gonna stick with him and his choices and his acting and all of it in this character. And then, the big reveal happens. When those first episodes came out this year where I’m playing Bad Janet playing Good Janet, I wanted to fast-forward time. I was just like, “The audience that we love and that we’ve formed this bond with …”

M.E.J.: We’re lying to.

D.C.: Yes. We’re lying to you guys and it feels terrible!

“A Lovely Gift in the Form of Derek”

M.E.J.: There was a time in the story when Jason and Janet are not together. Jason and Tahani are together.

D.C.: Oof.

M.E.J.: Painful for you on a personal level?

D.C.: No.

M.E.J.: Character-wise, that was something that threw Janet into it. It was debasing. It afforded us a lovely gift in the form of Derek. Talk about Derek a little bit.

D.C.: So, Jason Mantzoukas is …

M.J.: … the best.

D.C.: The best. He is like an insane genius, one of our favorite people to work with. We’d sort of heard about Derek before Jason was even cast, and I couldn’t even picture what it was until he was on set.

M.E.J.: And then it solidifies, I think, very quickly.

D.C.: It couldn’t be anything else but that, you know. God, we have had so much fun with Jason.

M.J.: Yeah, he’s just so unpredictable. You don’t know what he’s going to do, and he’s just perfect for that role. I can’t imagine anybody else being Derek.

D.C.: Yeah. He loves playing Derek. Another nice thing is, we’ve all known him for a while, but he loved the show before he was on it, which is always exciting. He knew it so well, and it was fun that he got to keep coming back until now. I know we said that we improvised that line, so now it’s gonna sound like we do improvise a lot. We don’t improvise a lot. We really, really don’t. We pretty much stick to the words exactly on the page, but when Mantzoukas is there, it’s like we rip the script up and throw it in the garbage.

A Kiss in the Bud Hole

D.C.: Also, I do want to say that that first episode that we shot where Janet and Jason break up, we had shot it as one episode and they cut it into two episodes. I remember we shot it as sort of an hour-long. Am I allowed to say that?

M.E.J.: Yes.

D.C.: I don’t know, I did. And I remember when we were having our breakup scene, you got the direction from Drew Goddard.

M.J.: Yeah.

D.C.: When we were rehearsing it, we did it a little bit lightly and in a funny way, and Drew was like, “Actually, let’s take it really real. Show me the pain or whatever.” And Manny just produced tears without even thinking about it. No preparation, we just did it — tears fully. I was like, “This man is an actor!” I was so impressed, oh my God.

M.E.J.: That actually reminds me of a story that Josh Siegal told me yesterday, which was when you and Manny kissed I think for the first time, Lynn Shelton, the director, had to say to you over and over, “D’Arcy, be Janet-er. Like, stop enjoying this so much.”

D.C.: All right, I don’t know about that.

M.E.J.: Really?

D.C.: Maybe, maybe. I remember it was in your bud hole.

M.J.: Yes, it was in my bud hole.

D.C.: I forgot, I was thinking that that wedding was our first kiss. but it wasn’t.

M.J.: It was a very quick one.

D.C.:  Remember, it was in the bud hole. You kissed me in the bud hole.

M.J.: It was in the bud hole that I suggested we get married.

D.C.: Yeah, right.

M.J.: So, the bud hole kiss was our first kiss.

D.C.:  It was fun kissing in the bud hole. A kiss in the bud hole!

Love Lessons from Jason and Janet

Audience question: I was curious because I feel like Eleanor and Chidi have really learned a lot from your relationship of how to take risks and how to like really love with their full hearts. What do you think they, or even the rest of the characters, have learned about your relationship? And what have you learned about Eleanor and Chidi’s relationship?

D.C.: There’s a freedom and an innocence with this relationship that I think, you know, Chidi’s like the king of overthinking everything and we’ve seen him, even in that clip, we’ve seen him watch us and then sort of be inspired to take a risk. I’m trying to think if they have learned, but they are so in their own little world. This relationship is very the two of them. I mean, I’m sure that Janet has, like, taken in information — that’s what she does.

M.J.: Yeah, I mean, these relationships have definitely been informed by personal relationships, especially with Janet and Jason. You know, to just stop overthinking things and just go for certain things.

D.C.: Aww, Manny!

M.E.J.: How’s your real life going? For instance, did you get engaged recently?

M.J.: Yeah, I did.

[Audience cheers.]

M.J.: That’s where I was kind of going with it, because I was toying with when to pop the question for a little bit.

D.C.: A little bit?

M.C.: For a long time. And then I looked at the Janet and Jason relationship, and there’s a sentence that Jason says to Chidi about relationships, and it hit me pretty hard. I was like, “Hey, I think this is a sign.” I think a week later, I popped the question.

The Unlikely Romance of The Good Place’s Janet and Jason