Kristen Bell on The Good Place goodbye: 'You will finally see what we owe to each other'
No amount of divine intervention is going to change this fate: The Good Place is bidding farewell to our TV universe after only 14 more chapters. NBC’s Emmy-nominated afterlife comedy enters its fourth and final season tonight at 9 p.m. with stakes higher than teenage Doug Forcett: The fate of Team Cockroach (and all of humanity, really) hangs on the results of the final experiment designed to show whether humans can actually better themselves, as theorized by humanized demon Michael (Ted Danson).
A look inside in the final season — including a visit to the set of the finale — can be found over here, but below, Kristen Bell, who plays Eleanor, the leader of the foursome of in-limbo souls, tees up this final batch of episodes and hints at an all-powerful, all-meaningful ending.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your first reaction when you found out that season 4 would be the show’s last? Ted told EW that he was “slightly stunned, but the move had such integrity.” You recently said you were in the car when Mike [Schur, the show’s creator] called you with the news, but did it take you by surprise?
KRISTEN BELL: I had a sneaking suspicion because I’m an empath, and I can usually sense what someone’s going to say right before they say it because of their energy. I have had casual conversations with Mike in the past where he had said, “We can’t draw this out forever. It has to have a meaningful conclusion.” So his tone of voice when I picked up the phone was clear. And I will echo what Ted said, that it’s the best, worst feeling in the world to be a part of something you love that’s ending, but know that the “why” has so much integrity behind it and it’s so meaningful and impactful because the entire last season is such a lesson. A gift.
What was it like filming this season? Was it light and joyful, or was there a sense of inevitable doom and farewell hanging over the proceedings? Or both?
I think that this season has two different tones to me that link up. We’re talking a lot about the ending, but that feeling for me set in the last three episodes. The previous 11 were so lighthearted and funny, and we have a couple of new cast members this year that are getting overlooked…. I think their performances are some of the best we’ve ever had, and the dynamics they create are just hilarious. And educational, as far as human communication is concerned.
What analogies would you use to describe this final season? D’Arcy [Carden] compared it to a board game, like Candy Land.
I would say it’s exactly like life. It is frustrating, requires effort, hilarious at times, and in the end is really meaningful. And over too soon. The final episodes [have] such major life lessons, it’s crazy.
There are new characters in the mix this season, including two new test subjects. What does that do to the dynamic? And what could you hint at Eleanor’s and Jason’s?
Tahani’s and Chidi’s matchups are sort of direct torture, but the other two are more abstract and have more of an overall meaning to the group.
Eleanor — who’s used to looking out for itself — has to manage this experiment while watching her boyfriend, Chidi, as an unwitting participant in this. That’s got to be painful. Seems like there’s at least two big challenges facing her early in the season.
Yeah. Eleanor’s arc has been such a freaking joy for me because she started out as an island, a complete lone wolf. She learned to build bonds with other people and explored how valuable that was, how that gave her “life” a little more meaning. And she’s never wanted to lead anything in her entire life because she’s never cared enough to lead. At the start of season 4, she’s put in a position where she is the only option as leader and she has to step into those shoes really quickly to save the day. Which is just further along in her emotional development, and throughout the season having to watch someone she loves not recognize her is the strongest challenge she will ever face because it will put to the test whether or not these emotional bonds and selflessness qualities are something that she can execute — something she can stand by. She is faced with whether or not she can actually be selfless. She now knows why being selfless is important, but can she actually do it?
What’s your advice for viewers as they dip into the final season?
Don’t watch it alone, and hold the hand of the person next to you — even if it’s a stranger.
Was the ending heavier or more poignant than you thought it might be, especially for a comedy?
Yeah. But in the way that it makes the audience feel. It’s not like everybody dies in a fiery car crash. What it says to the audience is what was so heavy to me. And I thought, “Wow, are people actually even going to want to hear this? Because it’s easier not to.”
There’s so much pressure on the show these days to stick the landing. How much pressure did the cast feel — and did Mike feel — to bring this celebrated show to the end?
I didn’t feel a lick of pressure. I actually applied some pressure to Mike. I said, “You better make this good! You better make this worth it!” [Laughs] I didn’t feel any pressure because I am not in charge of that writers’ room. I don’t know how much pressure Mike felt because Mike’s brain is somehow bigger than the cage of his skull — and I still don’t know how that’s anatomically possible — but I know he’s got the biggest brain I’ve ever seen on a human. He never let on like it was a ton of pressure. When he came to the conclusion about how it should end and it felt right in his heart, he then simply executed it. I don’t know that he felt a ton of pressure so much as he got the answer — in a dream one night or in a conversation with someone…
What’s one thing you can guarantee that we will see in the finale?
You will finally see what we owe to each other…. This will be worth it. It will give you a lot of feelings — and one is a strong sense of satisfaction. Not only will the ending be worth it, you’ll understand why the whole thing was worth it.
Want more Fall TV Preview scoop? Get EW’s October issue for FREE on Apple News, or buy a copy now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
The Good Place