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Inside the Final Days of The Good Place

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The news that the upcoming season of The Good Place will be its last is only a few days old, but the tributes are already flowing in for the Mike Schur-created comedy—which has woven a ludicrously complex story of ethics, the afterlife, and love over its three seasons on NBC. Ending after its fourth season will allow Schur and his team to craft the finale theyve wanted all along—a privilege not every show gets—but also gives fans precious few remaining adventures with Michael, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Janet, and the most lovable Floridian of all time, Jason Mendoza.

Manny Jacinto, who plays Jason, kept mum about the imminent finale when he began talking to Joanna Robinson on this weeks episode of Little Gold Men. But after news that the show was ending went public, they caught up again so the actor could talk about the “greater family-like vibe” on set as the cast films their final episodes. He and Joanna also talk about the roles Jacinto might play that are worlds away from Jason—from a role in the upcoming Top Gun sequel to a rom-com—and how Jason Mantzoukas brings an element of chaos to the set when he appears as Derek.

This weeks episode also includes a dispatch from Joanna from the ATX television festival in Austin, a dispatch from Richard Lawson about the Tony Awards and their after-parties, and a deep dive from Mike Hogan into the new Bob Dylan documentary Rolling Thunder Revue. Or is it a documentary? Dylan and director Martin Scorsese arent making it all that easy to tell.

Take a listen to the episode above, and find a transcript of the Manny Jacinto interview below. You can subscribe to Little Gold Men on Apple Podcasts, Radio.com, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Let me start by asking you something that I like to ask Good Place actors, which is how much of an expert are you now in moral philosophy? And if not an expert, what is something that youve learned from the show?

I am definitely not an expert in moral philosophy. Weve gone through like, yeah, almost four seasons now and you think Id be teaching a class on philosophy, but no, its so difficult. I guess I get to kind of get away with not having to know as much because of my character, if that makes any sense. Im the guy that has to bring in the fart jokes or just the jokes in general, just to make everybody laugh and take their minds off of the heavy stuff in the show. And whether it be in the show or just talking to Mike and the actors, maybe the question about what makes a truly good act, what makes a truly good person. Ive come to believe that if you can really do something good for somebody, be it a good action or you know, volunteer or something and without having to try and look good, that makes you a truly good person. Ted talks about going to Starbucks and tipping the barista and then not actually waiting for the barista to look at you before you tip them. What makes a truly good person is not seeking any reward when you do something good for other people.

You mentioned Jasons role on the show as sort of bringing this lightness, this adorable immaturity to a sometimes heavy sitcom. But so much of this show is about the progression of these characters, this emotional growth of these characters. What are the challenges of keeping Jason sort of like pure and childlike and fun, which we love for him to be, and see him grow along with the other characters?

I mean, the biggest thing from the beginning has always been trying to stick to the truth. That could be interpreted in many ways, but I guess the point Im trying to get across is trying to stick toward the truth that Jason feels. To not play toward the good joke or to try and be funny, but really dig deep into what Jason really feels and, and his truth, whatever that may be. And kind of figure that out and stick to that because that way it wont come off as fake. I remember when I first started on the show, I kind of do all these crazy things and Id say the joke in a way that wouldnt really make sense, but I remember Mike coming up to me like thats great and everything, but lets just make sure that its, its truthful in the way you say it, because people can tell right away when youre trying to be funny or when youre trying to make them laugh. The emotion behind like the words and even within the joke, that makes it just so much more impactful. And in terms of trying to make Jason continuously grow emotionally, a big part of that is, is, is the writers. Theyre constantly giving me different challenges and just kind of studying how Jason went from season one to now in season four and the things that Im doing, I can see that the writers have been mindful.

I was reading an older interview. You were talking about how maybe contrary to what it might seem onscreen, youre the most serious person on set. The reason you gave us that you are sort of afraid of losing your job, that you wanted to focus on that. Is that something thats gone away now that youre in season four and if so, when did you stop worrying that any second this opportunity might go away from you?

Oh, no, I dont think its ever gonna go away. Its always going to be in the back of my mind, I swear they have like a backup Jason Mendoza ready to go sometimes.

Maybe DArcy can just play Jason.

I knew they shouldnt have done that episode. I hoped she didnt do that that well. She might end up taking all our jobs by the end of the day. But I think that fear itself is good, because it pushes me to do better and to be ready and to not make a fool of myself, even though my job is to make a fool of myself, which is really ironic and weird. Yeah, I dont think itll ever go away in that sense, which is a good thing

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For you in season three, what was your favorite story line or episode for you personally to work on?

When we get to go back to Florida, thats always, thats always a fun time. Last season you got to meet my dad, Donkey Doug. And then we got to play not only with Mitch Narito, who plays Donkey Doug, but also with one of my favorite human beings, Eugene Cordero, who plays Pillboi. Oh man, that day went by so fast. We just had so much fun and yeah, like I keep saying the producers keep joking that we should have our own little sitcom or spin-off or something, like the Florida Mens Project.

I know youve talked about how your role and Eugenes role really subvert the stereotype of a lot of the Asian characters that weve seen on television up until The Good Place. And youve also talked about the kind of roles you would be offered before The Good Place and how different they were from Jason. Now youre going to be in the next Top Gun movie. Are you seeing a difference in the kind of roles that are coming at you in this post-Good Place experience?

There is definitely this shift thats happening. I think it was yesterday that I just watched Always Be My Maybe with Randall Park and Ali Wong. I dont think Ive actually seen a rom-com with two Asian leads, I mean other than Crazy Rich Asians, but that was just last year. Theres this emergence of a diverse talent, whether it be Asian or not. Its a great time to have these diverse stories. And I am so lucky. Im so lucky to be doing this at this time because it wasnt easy for my heroes and the people that I looked up to to go through the industry during their time. Theres definitely a lot more opportunities out there. Its just a matter of all these things coming together from diverse talents wanting to tell their stories to so many different outlets willing to produce these stories. I feel like everybody has either like a program or a streaming service. Its so much easier to bring stuff out there. Its the combination of things coming together that has allowed that shift to happen, and Im just so lucky and grateful to be, kind of in the middle of it all.

I know youve talked about not really being a comedy guy. Is there, you know, beyond, I dont know, getting to be in a Tom Cruise Top Gun movie—is there an opportunity, a role, something that you'd love to do in the future that maybe people wouldn't think of as a natural fit for you from watching you in The Good Place, but something that you would like to flex into?

Almost anything and everything at this point. Just talking about Always Be My Maybe, I would love to do a rom-com, or a serious drama, or serious love story, like The Notebook or something. I love Jason Mendoza, hes always going to be in my heart, but I definitely want to be able to flex some different skills and use some different muscles other being the innocent, lovable dummy that he is.

Im going to start my online campaign for you to be in the next Nicholas Sparks movie. Its going to be starring you.

Well Ill give you 5%.

Okay. Deal. All right. So you get to work with all these great comedians. Ive heard Jason Mantzoukas talk about how he likes to try to make people break when he works opposite them on The Good Place. Who is the hardest for you to work with and get through a scene with a straight face?

Probably Jason! I was just listening to him on the podcast as well. When he comes into a show, he doesnt necessarily have to abide by the same rules. The producers and the writers kind of know what hes all about. With Mantzoukas, hell come in and sometimes they mainly just hire him to just to be nuts and to come up with all these different things and not to necessarily stick to the script. So hes always coming at us with different alt lines or just different ways of saying things. And theres an unlimited supply of it because of his improvisational abilities because hes a freaking legend in that area. So when we have scenes with with Derek, we dont know what to expect. Its always a whirlwind.

You mentioned elsewhere that this season four is maybe a bit more emotional. The Good Place has always been an emotional show, but maybe even leaning more into the emotion than previously. I know you cant tell me anything about it and Im not here to like try to have whatever the season four surprise is spoiled for me. But Im wondering if working on something like that, working on a season four being a little bit more emotional, satisfies any of that need that you have to be in a Nicholas Sparks movie or a rom-com. Are you getting to do some of that in this season?

Oh man, maybe thats where its coming from to be honest. Who knows? Maybe thats the reason why I wanted to consider the Nicholas Sparks world. I am so thankful to Mike and the writers. With this character in the wrong hands, you can just be super flat and go the wrong way really fast. But with these writers and with Mike and with the people that we get to work with, theyve made sure that theyve given Jason more layers. I also try to do my best to give him more layers and, and not just make him the Florida idiot, but really try and sympathize and empathize with what hes going through. And theyve been a major proponent of that, to help me kind of bring that out out of Jason Mendoza. Looking at this, using what we've done so far, I think maybe toward the middle and end, it can kind of tickle that Nicholas Sparks bone a little bit. Thats funny you should mention thats where all these feelings of wanting to be, um, the next Ryan Gosling comes from.

Or maybe the next Mandy Moore, someone dying from cancer or something. I know that you Read More – Source