William Jackson Harper Didn't Expect to Break Barriers on 'The Good Place'

January 18, 2019
3mo ago

By Brian Henry

"The Good Place," NBC's beloved comedy that continually asks its characters to examine their morality while navigating the afterlife, boasts big-name cast members like Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. But it's actor William Jackson Harper, who plays the indecisive and anxiety-ridden Chidi Anagonye, who has captured fans' hearts ー and the heart of Bell's character, Eleanor Shellstrop.

According to Harper, he didn't see the romance coming ー especially not when he was reading for the role.

"I didn't know when I was auditioning that I would be in a romantic relationship with Kristen Bell's character, Eleanor. I really just sort of thought, you know, that I hadn't seen a romantic lead that looks like me on network television. I was like, why would I be the one that would break that barrier?"

Harper said the diverse cast has connected with a wide range of viewers.

"I think the world looks that way for a lot of people. Even growing up in Texas, my group of friends was very diverse. When I would turn on the TV and see all white people or all black people, that's not what my life looks like and it's never really looked like that."

Harper commended the show for handling race properly and focusing on character-driven stories.

"The fact that this is a show that really deals with deeper issues of morality and death and goodness ... That's the most salient thing. We're all just different people dealing with those issues, that just feels natural to me," he said.

Of Hollywood's latest attempts to diversify, Harper said it's essential to "take the wins where you can get them and we've had a few ー especially in terms of representation of people that we haven't seen in sort of major media pieces at any point."

"I think we have a ways to go, but at least there is a conscious effort and I appreciate that," Harper added.

As "The Good Place" prepares to wrap its third season, Harper told Cheddar that Chidi and the show's message have made a genuine impact.

"There's nothing to be lost in trying to put more good into the world, and I've just been more conscious of that since getting this role."

The season finale of "The Good Place" airs on Jan 24.

For full interview click here.