This story about “The Good Place” star William Jackson Harper first appeared in the Comedy/Drama/Actors issue of TheWrap’s Emmy Magazine.
Season 3 of “The Good Place” ends with Chidi, played by William Jackson Harper, taking swift, decisive action while the characters around him second-guess their decisions. It’s a surprising reversal and a big point of growth for the typically anxiety-addled philosophy nerd who used to waffle over even the smallest of choices.
“Once we got past that existential crisis, it’s been more about [Chidi] being in the moment as that person who’s never been able to be in the moment before,” Harper said of the character’s growth this season. “That’s been fun, and it’s a huge lesson for me as a person who is absolutely never in the moment.”
Chidi scored the love of his (after)life and “survived” a brief, shirtless detour into existential nihilism — a scene that Harper didn’t relish beforehand. “Being shirtless in front of people for the first time, I wasn’t excited to do that,” he said. “But the fact that the world didn’t end, you know, was sort of a triumph.”
By the end of the season, Chidi makes the choice to give up life as he knows it in order to give his friends a better shot at eternity in the Good Place. If no one could have foreseen Chidi making such a choice three seasons ago, well, that may be because no one could’ve predicted how the show would unfold. Not even its stars.
“When I first signed on I didn’t know what I was getting into at all,” Harper said. “But after that first season, I’m just sort of on the same ride that the audience is on. We get the scripts and we can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.”
What began as a quirky afterlife comedy starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson has since morphed into a deeply profound yet still shockingly hilarious examination of morality and ethics and of the ways we’re bound to one another as human beings. “It sort of inspires you to sweep your side of the street,” Harper said of the show. “What are the things that I can do to make the people around me the happiest? In what ways can I improve the world around me? Or at least try to, because I don’t think we lose anything by trying to be decent to each other.”
Read more from the Comedy/Drama/Actors issue of TheWrap’s Emmy Magazine.