After breaking out on ‘The Good Place,’ Carden shines in the Prime Video series about women’s baseball.
When it comes to playing Greta, a confident, statuesque athlete who joins the Rockford Peaches in the Prime Video series adaptation of A League of Their Own, there’s a certain kind of swagger required. And for D’Arcy Carden, the only way to bring that to the screen was to channel George Clooney.
“Playing cool and confident and sexy is really hard,” the actress, who first garnered breakout attention thanks to her Emmy-nominated turn as Janet on The Good Place, tells ET. “It’s really fun and easy to play goofy and weird and silly. Like, all those things that I love playing and they are in my wheelhouse or my go-tos, and almost nothing about Greta is in my wheelhouse.”
So, in order to embody Greta, who not only is introduced as a Mae-like character first played by Madonna in the 1992 Penny Marshall film but also ends up seducing Carson (series co-creator and longtime friend Abbi Jacobson), Carden kept thinking about the award-winning actor who is known for his performances as well as his public demeanor.
“He’s sort of Greta’s North Star. Like, when I needed to channel some confidence or just some cool swag or whatever, I would just think of George Clooney in Ocean’s 11 or just his vibe,” she says, while noting that he’s not the most obvious choice for the period drama. “I know that’s not some hero from the 1940s… No, I was, like, thinking of 1990s George Clooney.”
That said, it worked for Carden, who shines in her biggest TV role yet following four seasons on The Good Place and her recurring part on the HBO series Barry. While the series also stars Jacobson, Chanté Adams, Roberta Colindrez, Molly Ephraim and Melanie Field, who plays Greta’s bestie, Jo, it’s Carden who runs away with the show.
While speaking to ET about season 1, Carden discusses what it was like going on Greta’s journey, especially as the player navigated her own feelings about being out and deciding not to run away, even when she was pushed beyond her limits.
ET: Greta is an interesting character in terms of the journey we go on with her. When she’s first introduced, she very much looks like a version of Madonna’s character from the film. But then it’s not long before we learn a lot of different things about her. And I was just curious for you, did you know where Greta was going this season?
D’Arcy Carden: They took their time casting the show. I think I was cast three months, four months before the whole cast was set. So, I got to spend a lot of time with the pilot writers, Abbi and Will [Graham, co-creator of the series], and Jamie Babbit, who was the director. And we sat down and talked and talked and talked and we read and read and read and we discussed and discussed and discussed.
So, I definitely had some hint of where it was going. But I will say, like, when we shot the pilot, not having a season pickup, I had no other scripts to read yet. Like, there was a part of me that wondered if Greta was gonna sort of be a villain, you know, with the way that pilot ends for Greta and Carson. It’s a little confusing, like, what does she mean by “I thought so." It seemed a little threatening.
It’s funny you mentioned this idea of her being a villain, especially because she is so competent and put together and is like the ideal female baseball player they wanted at the time. So, it’s almost like that perfection could be off-putting to the other players and there could have been real conflict between her and other people on the team. So, it's interesting that you kind of had that perception as well.
Yeah, the thing that Greta puts out, like, the hair and the makeup and the attitude and all that stuff, I love as the season goes on, we peel those layers back. We see that so much of that is, like, learned behavior of how to pass and survive and just, you know, get what she wants. ‘Cause she definitely always gets what she wants, always, which is why Carson is such a new thing for her. Like, this dynamic between them.
Yeah, I was going to say, she’s very confident in how she presents herself. But then as we see the relationship between Greta and Carson unfold during the season, there are a lot of insecurities to Greta that are almost at odds with Carson’s own journey of self-discovery, especially in the later episodes when they go to the gay speakeasy.
Right. For Greta, it’s like, she and Jo, her best friend, are such survivors. And you know, Melanie and I talked about this a lot and we talked about this with writers. Like, they have been through sh*t, you know. They’ve really had a hard time in their youth. And we imagined that they’ve traveled the world and that they’re like partners in crime, who are just getting by and getting into trouble.
So, I think that at this point in Great’s life, she doesn’t look at it as, like, hiding. I don’t think she thinks of herself as weak. It’s more like she thinks of herself as surviving. Like, “Trust me, I’ve been through it and you’re new here, Carson. You gotta believe me that this is the only way you can sort of truly survive. It's about living your life the way you want, but also knowing how the world works.”
I’m glad you mentioned Jo because I also love the relationship between her and Greta and then the way it’s really tested, again at the gay speakeasy, with what happens to Jo being brutalized by the police. Can you talk a little bit about how this rattles Greta and how that pushes the limits of their relationship?
Jo and Greta are inseparable. They’re soulmates and have each other’s back to the end. They’re each other’s biggest support and they just would fight to the death for each other. There’s no Jo without Greta. There is no Greta without Jo. And they have a bit of a power dynamic with Greta sort of treating Jo like the sidekick and, obviously, that’s part of their journey. But Greta, literally, going out a different exit than Jo when something like that is going down in the bar, like, that has never happened before. That’s not how they run things and that’s a huge moment for them.
Greta can hardly live with herself after that… She ultimately is to blame and she can barely live with herself. And I think that Jo also really feels like Greta chose Carson over her. And so, these two beyond best friends, like sisters, their relationship is being super, super tested in that moment and maybe, like, changing. And I think it freaks them both out.
I thought it was interesting that when Greta’s truly tested in this way, she wants to flee. And Jo says no. She would rather stay even though she's being traded to another team as a result of getting arrested by the police.
Totally. I feel like they’ve been in, maybe not this situation before, but they’ve been in situations where sh*t goes down and they go, “Here we go. Let’s go hop on a train. Where are we gonna go?” Like, this is what they do. But this time it’s different. It wasn’t the two of them together, which I think is why they’re not on equal playing ground at the moment.
Greta is acting like everything’s fine, but clearly knows it’s not fine. And Jo saying, “No, this is not what we’re doing this time. I’m finally living for me and not just us,” that’s just never happened before. Greta is going through it emotionally, but also is stunned.
And then, when it comes to Greta and Carson, by the end of season 1 we have this sweet movement on the porch and it seems like, “OK, they’re coming back for another season and they’re going to reunite.” Obviously, Carson is still married. But where do you think Greta is by the end of the season, in terms of her relationship with Carson?
It’s funny, because Greta’s kind of all over the place. After that previous episode, she put that wall right back up and was only looking out for number one and was protecting herself. And then there’s this scene where Carson and Greta have a nice moment in the kitchen by themselves, where they’re picturing where they will be and when they will see each other again and what it would be like.
Abbi and I talked about that scene so much and, man, I love that scene. It was one of the last days of shooting. And I remember we talked about it the day before and were like, “What is the scene? What are we trying to get at?” Will Graham and Abbi were both like, “Let’s go off script. We know what the scene is about.”
This is so obvious, but I love Greta and Abbi loves Carson and we love Greta and Carson. And we really wanted to honor them. And with this scene, we both wanted it to feel real and make sense that Greta would possibly say, “Come with me to New York,” and that Carson would consider it.
Are there any other scenes or episodes that stand out to you? Are there any other moments that feel really significant either for the character or just what you got to do as a performer?
I will say the baseball stuff was so fun. Like, truly summer camp fun and just a blast. The scenes with the Peaches were always fun when it was just all of us, like, a bunch of adult actresses that were acting like little kids and had to be wrangled. So, I loved doing those big group scenes. They were just so fun.
But as far as getting to do stuff one-on-one with Melanie Field and getting to do stuff one-on-one with Abbi, that was pretty special. I fell in love with Melanie at first sight. I met her at her audition for this, and we clicked right away and had crazy chemistry. She’s just an insanely talented actor. And obviously having all this history with Abbi, it was pretty surreal.
And I feel like, you know, a hundred times Abbi and I would give each other this little look that just meant, “Holy sh*t, I can’t believe this is where we are in our lives.” Like, this journey has led us to get to be in these scenes together, with each other. It just feels pretty special and lucky and surreal and silly. So, those one-on-one scenes were extremely special.
A League of Their Own is now streaming on Prime Video.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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