*”The Good Place” co-star William Jackson Harper was ready to quit Hollywood before receiving the call that he landed a role on NBC’s new comedy starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. Created by Michael Schur, executive producer of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Parks and Recreation,” the series is a unique look on the afterlife that follows Eleanor (Bell), an ordinary woman who, through an extraordinary string of events, enters the afterlife where she comes to realize that she hasn’t been a very good person.
Jackson plays Eleanor’s soulmate, and he told EUR/Electronic Urban Report that the show is a job which gave him “a little bit more faith” following his decision to quit acting.
“I was burned out. I was doing a lot of theater and I love theater but I was also just so broke all the time that I was just frustrated, and decided that this season was going to be my last pilot season,” Jackson explained. “I was going to start trying to transition out from acting. I hit a point where I was like, ‘Okay, maybe it’s time for me to be realistic and get a regular job and try to have some stability in my life.’ Then this job happened and not only was it a job that gave me a little bit more faith, but also, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect job and a more perfect show for me to be on this one,” he said. “Sitting here with you talking is like a miracle to me, because I’ve been at this for a while, not nearly as long as some, but longer than others.”
The very nature of a soulmate relationship is “personal and spiritual growth,” and it demands that one must go through some difficult experiences with a soulmate partner. So will Harper’s character guide Eleanor through some difficult and possibly traumatic experiences?
“Dying in and of itself is already pretty traumatic. So we start out in that place. Getting adjusted to that reality is already sort of a traumatic thing. My aim [is] to help her earn her place since she doesn’t actually belong there. So in that respect, I think we do reflective that definition. My definition [is] a little more open. It can be a physical connection, but it can also strictly be a platonic, emotional connection with somebody too. I think the idea of a soulmate as explored through the show sort of embraces all of those things.”
“The Good Life” won’t beat you over the head with preachy come to Jesus messages, but Jackson said he hopes the show fosters “a lot of questions, and whatever journey people take after that, that’s totally individualized.”
He added: “I don’t necessarily want one message to come out of this.”
When it comes to preparing to play a dead guy, Harper described the process as “a little difficult.”
“What’s most important is what’s happening in the room with me and Eleanor and whatever situation we’re in dealing with that problem and that situation. And so, getting too hung up on the fact that it’s the afterlife…. that’s just the world that we’re in. So to play it is a little bit difficult. It’s really not a whole lot that you can do with it outside of letting the circumstances sort of remind you of that reality.”
Harper acknowledges that while occupying the headspace of a dead guy may have been challenging, he didn’t have to go far to take on his character’s nerdy persona.
“I don’t have to go far to get the nerd. Those glasses are actually the glasses that I wear in real life. I’m a huge nerd. So I don’t have to go too far to get that guy.”
William admits that the show’s central theme does not support or contradict his personal spiritual beliefs in any way, but if heaven does exists, we asked the actor what would he want to hear God say to him once he arrived at the pearly gates.
“Good looking out. We set up a keg in your sink for you. Tacos at 8:00,” he replied.
Don’t miss “The Good Place” Thursdays at @ 8:30/7:30c on NBC.
Watch William Jackson Harper in the latest episode of “The Good Place”: