'The Good Place' Boss on Creating a 'Shaky' Alliance and Michael's Too-Good-to-Be-True Offer (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Thursday’s episode of The Good Place.
The Good Place just created the unlikeliest alliance.
On Thursday’s episode, titled “Team Cockroach,” Michael (Ted Danson) persuades Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason(Manny Jacinto) that it is in their best interest to bring him into their inner circle. While some of them hemmed and hawed over making a deal with the metaphorical devil, it was this enticing offer that proved too good to pass up: Michael could get them to the real good place. But, does such a destination even exist?
Following the episode, creator Mike Schur broke down the unlikeliest of alliances, whether there actually is a “good place” as Michael suggests and if the foursome really do want to become better humans.
ET: What was the impetus for putting Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason together on the same side as Michael? What did you see as potential story?
Mike Schur: The idea was simply, he’s a Russian spy and he is burned and he knows that the Kremlin is going to take him down and the only chance he has is to defect to the Americans. That’s how we thought of the story, like a John le Carre story. And the Americans are rightfully suspicious of his motives and they don’t totally think they can trust him, but they also see that their only chance for long-term success is to bring him into the fold. It’s a very uneasy alliance. It’s a very shaky alliance, but each of the four of them has a different reason for wanting to do it.
Can you speak to the significance of each of their motives for agreeing to this new quintet?
Jason’s reason is very stupid, which is he always trusts people in bow ties. Tahani, after learning how she died, realizes that there is a certain missing component to her personality profile -- that she always thought she was a good person and she realizes she wasn’t and she realizes now that this is a good opportunity to correct that behavior. Chidi, philosophically, just thinks this is the thing that you do. If you have the chance to get better as a person, you should take it. And Eleanor is the most skeptical and after a while, after asking Michael a bunch of questions, she realizes, Well, I was kind of a bad person and time after time after time, Chidi helped me and the only reason we’ve gotten to this point is Chidi kept helping me. That was the fundamental flaw in Michael’s plan. Now, Michael is a bad person -- he’s worse than she is, obviously. (Laughs.) She thinks, If Chidi helped me, then I should help him. It’s a very, very shaky little confederacy. It’s the end of Act 1 of the season, I would say. Now, they’re off and running with a new team.
They all pledge to become better people. What should we make of their declaration? Are they being 100 percent truthful or are there different degrees to which each of them are following that vow?
No, that’s a unifying theme; that’s sort of the unifying theme of the show. The show is taking the position that most people want to become better, that maybe the circumstances of their lives don’t make that easy, that it’s not the first priority for everybody. That people come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and different philosophical backgrounds and different places on Earth and have different ideas of who they are and how the world works. But, given the chance, I think most people would say, “Yes, I want to be a better person.” At least, that’s the hopeful idea behind the show, is that given the choice, do you want to want to continue doing what you’re doing or do you want to become a better person? I’m hoping most people say, “Yeah, I want to become a better person.”
Michael makes the promise to the group that in exchange for aligning with him, he’ll bring them to the actual good place. Should we take that offer with a grain of salt? Is there actually “a good place”?
(Laughs.) I don’t think you can say on this show that anything is confirmation until you actually see it happen. But that is definitely what he says and that’s the thing that gets them to [team up]. It’s hard to talk about. You’ll get a lot more information. In fact, you’ll get it before the end of the year. You’ll get a lot more information about the good place, about Michael’s promise, about how you can get there -- he mentions a method of transportation. You’re going see and learn about all of the different stuff that he talks about in that episode.
Vicky is now the new de facto leader of the neighborhood. What are you comfortable teasing in regard to her version of this world and what awaits the gang?
She has an extraordinarily high opinion of herself and her ability to succeed where Michael has failed, and it’s pretty clear, pretty quickly that that’s a misguided belief. (Laughs.) But that’s fine because there’s a huge advantage for Michael and the four humans in having a completely blind-to-her-own-weaknesses person running the neighborhood. The less she pays attention to details, the better off they’ll be because they’re sneaking around behind her back. They have to make sure she stays happy and that she thinks she’s doing a good job, in order for them to do the thing they want to do, which is meet in secret and continue to take Chidi’s “good person” lessons.
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.