‘The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper Teases ‘Interesting Dynamics’ in Season 4
The fall TV season may be months away but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to returning favorites like NBC’s The Good Place.
Viewers were left with a fairly big cliffhanger in the comedy’s third season finale when Chidi (William Jackson Harper) had his memory wiped in order to keep his friends safe. Season 4 filming is underway, and Harper was in attendance at IFC’s Split Screens Festival in New York City on June 2 to discuss what’s to come for his character.
TV Insider caught up with the actor, who also has A24’s Midsommer and Prime Video’s Jack Ryan up next on his docket. Harper teases the forthcoming episodes of The Good Place, the dynamic within the hilarious cast, his own indecisiveness and more.
What’s next for Chidi in Season 4? Is there anything you can tease?
William Jackson Harper: We’re starting in a very different place where the six of us [Chidi, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Michael (Ted Danson), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Janet (D’Arcy Carden), and Jason (Manny Jacinto)] are not all on the same page at all… So, it leads to some really interesting dynamics. And I think it’ll be a really interesting watch. But that’s about all I can say.
Shows based around morality are hugely popular right now. Why do you think they resonate with audiences?
Well, I think that we’re living in the climate where morality is way less absolute and the things we took as given are now being questioned. And I think we also came from a time where the antihero was sort of all rage in media. Right now, people just need something to escape to that has a little bit of clarity of right and wrong, and doing the right thing. I think it’s comforting.
It’s just kind of where we’re at… I was watching the news earlier today and there’s this leader in Italy that they’re comparing to Mussolini, and I mean, it’s like I thought that guy was canceled… These sorts of ideas are starting to pop back up, and so people need something to sort of be like, “Wait, it can’t be that bad.” You know? Just something that sort of just brings us back from the brink of it.
You’re going to be part of the next season of Prime Video’s Jack Ryan, what can you tell us about that experience?
It was fun. I caught them at the tail end. They had been all over the world, and I was coming in when they were in New York and back home and tired. And so, it was really easy for me. It was a lot of fun. But as far as this season itself, I really don’t know that much because they keep a very tight lock on those scripts in case some clown gets in there and is just like, “Here’s what happens.” And it’s a good thing they didn’t show me anything, because I’m apt to just blab…
Do you have trouble keeping those kind of secrets?
I mean, not really, but you have to tell me [it’s a secret], you know? Let me know… And now I can just literally go into any sort of interview and just be like, “What’s it going to be about?” I’m [can say], “I have no idea.”
So they saved you.
They saved me. It’s really easy.
Your dynamic onscreen is great, but what’s it like behind the scenes on The Good Place? Who’s the first to break in a scene?
Me. I’m the worst. I think it’s me. Close second is probably Ted [Danson]. But, yeah, we cut up all the time. When all six of us are on set, I can see the crew — our wonderful, wonderful crew — even get a little impatient. Like, “Guys, we need to go home.” And we’re just chuckling and making jokes and playing too much. And then Kristen [Bell] usually corrals us back, because she’s a pro, and the rest of us are clowns. But yeah, we cut up a lot. And that dynamic that we have on screen is pretty much mirrored in who we are as a group.
So are you as indecisive as Chidi then?
Yeah. I mean, Chidi talks about it, I just disappear. [When] people ask me a question, I’m like, “Oh, yeah. I don’t know.” And then I’m just radio silence for like maybe three days, and then I get back. But I think Chidi is a little more extroverted about that sort of thing. And I just go into a little hut and sweat and come back with some wisdom.
Did you do any research when it came to portraying anxiety onscreen through Chidi?
Yeah, well, I’m anxious too. So, honestly, it was nice to just sort of be able to not have to fake confidence… There’s aspects of Chidi that are just sort of exploded versions of what I am. And so, when it came to the anxiety and indecision and sort of the stomachaches and all that stuff, that was sort of patterned after little things that I had talked about with my Mike Schur and Drew Goddard when we met and so they just sort of leaned into that.
The Good Place, Season 4, TBA, NBC