What ‘The Good Place’ Taught Stars William Jackson Harper and D’Arcy Carden About Dealing With Life’s ‘Heaviness’

TheWrap Emmy Magazine: “I’ve heard from a few fans of the show that in this time when they have lost family members that this show has brought them peace,” Carden says

A version of this story about “The Good Place” first appeared in the Emmy Hot List issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

For a show as committed to interrogating ideas about morality and mortality as “The Good Place,” it feels apt that it received more awards attention for its final season than for any previous season. The NBC comedy picked up a total of seven Emmy nominations this year for its bittersweet final round of episodes, including two for first-time nominees D’Arcy Carden and William Jackson Harper.

“I care about this show so much,” Carden said. “I love what it stands for, I love the cast, I love the writers — I’m a fan of the show. And, you know, when it’s done it feels pretty final. So now getting recognized like this, it’s just been so sweet.”

Harper agreed. “It’s a huge blessing to have something like this pop up in my life, but I feel like the show is having an impact on people regardless,” he said. “The point was to affect people and give them a laugh, and I feel like that’s what we did.”

There’s a quiet moment in the finale in which Harper’s character, philosophy professor Chidi Anagonye, references the idea put forth by Buddhist monk Thích Nhat Hanh that existence is like a wave. Waves are temporary, inevitably meeting their end when they crash on the shore. But a wave is also water, and even when its time as a wave comes to an end, the water still exists, returning to the ocean where it belongs.

“I think about a lot of that stuff now,” Harper said. “That wave speech in particular gives me a little bit of comfort. Because when I see the number of people dying around the world, that’s a lot to carry, and it makes me feel very, very heavy most days. But there’s something about that concept that does sort of help deal with some of that heaviness.”

Carden, who played the magical afterworld guide Janet, added, “I’ve heard from a few fans of the show that in this time when they have lost family members that this show has brought them peace. Thinking about life and the afterlife in this way and what it means to live a life for and with other people, it brought them peace. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to explain how much that means to me.”

Whether the Emmy nominations will translate into awards next month remains to be seen, but the stars of “The Good Place” have chosen to embody the ideals of the show, focusing not on the end of the road, but the time spent getting there with their fellow travelers. “It’s a real privilege to work on something that you believe in, with people that you think are brilliant and kind, and who are legitimately good people,” Harper said. “And I think with the cast and creators and the crew, that’s the thing that I’ll take away.”

Carden, too, feels the gratitude. “I’m so proud to have been part of this show, and I will be proud for the rest of my life,” she said. “Mike and the writers gave me some gifts that I will never be able to repay them for. It was just truly, truly special. Every day at work was a good day at work.”

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