Can the quartet redeem themselves enough to be sent to the actual Good Place?
Well, I don’t know, that depends on A) if the Good Place really exists, B) what the standards are for getting into the Good Place, if they’re as stringent as Michael and the others have made them out to be, and C) if you were a theoretical judge sitting on high, whether you would value the accomplishments or deeds of people in the afterlife as being worthy inclusion in any kind of file that you were evaluating to determine whether those people got into the Good Place. Those are a lot of ifs. But I think the show is taking the position that the most important aspect of these characters’ new lives in this new weird place that they are is whether they’re trying. The details of the plot and how the plot actually plays out are obviously important or the show, but for the characters, we’re focused on the idea that what’s important is that you try. That should be the very first level of trying to be a good person is you’ve got to try to be a good person, which seems reductive and silly, but it’s a very important and oft-overlooked thing. If you’re not trying, then forget it, you’re not even in the game. So, to get in the game, you’ve got to try.
Does Doug Forcett — the Canadian kid who got high on mushrooms and guessed 92 percent of the Good Place — actually exist?
[Laughs] It is canon in our writers’ room, at this moment in time — subject to change — yes, Doug Forcett exists and that story is real.
Will Todd the lava monster come back?
We have no actual plans to bring him back, but I’ll tell you this: This is all stuff I’ve learned in this last year, because I’ve never worked on a show like this before, but in terms of visual effects, the largest expense is the original design, right? Once you have the design, now it’s in the computer and it’s a lot cheaper and easier to bring it back and do more fun things with it. Let me put it this way: I don’t know how long this show is going to be on the air, I hope it’s a long time, but if you think that I’m not going to take, at some point, a lava monster named Todd Hemple, who has Joe Mande’s voice, and bring him back in the show for some reason, at some point, you don’t know me at all. [Laughs]
Is it possible that you actually are perpetrating a double fake-out here, and Michael is pretending that the Good Place is actually the Bad Place, and this will be the ultimate test for Eleanor to see if she’s worthy of staying in the Good Place?
I would never want to say definitively yes or no to such a big scale question like that, but I would also say that if there’s any conception of the real Good Place and it included being kind of tortured for a long time, and then being told that you were actually not in the Good Place, but in the Bad Place, but then later somehow making you see that, “No, really, it was the Good Place all along,” that would be a pretty s—ty version of heaven. [Laughs] “Aha, we tricked you twice because you’re great and you made it into heaven!” I can’t imagine a scenario in which that would be revealed to be true.
Just had to check!
That’s the interesting thing about doing a twist like that. Like I said, in the Westworld analogy, no one was really looking for it in the first season, and now it feels like people are going to be looking for it a little bit. That’s another new challenge. Like everybody, my mind was blown at the end of The Sixth Sense, and then every M. Night Shyamalan you’ve ever seen after that, the whole time it’s in the back of your head, “What’s the twist?” It’s a burden that he, in particular, bears in part because he invited that burden to be brought onto his shoulders, and was cocky about how awesome his twists were. But the fact is he was never going to have back that moment of pure audience innocence before they saw the end of The Sixth Sense, where they didn’t go into one of his movies expecting that. I don’t think I’m M. Night Shyamalan at all, I don’t think this show is an M. Night Shyamalan show at all, but it is also true that we did this big twist. So now, our challenge is to figure out how to not fall into that same trap. I don’t think we’re going to approach the second season, and the end of the second season specifically, like, “How can we outdo ourselves?” because the reality is that people are going to be expecting it. So our challenge is to do another season of the same show, with the same vibe, but with a different feeling and being surprising in different ways. So, it’s challenging, but it’s fun — so far, at least. Check with me in a couple months. [Laughs.]