[Warning: this post contains spoilers for Season 1 of “The Good Place.”]
The mammoth bait-and-switch revealed in the season finale of “The Good Place” is still one of the best TV moments of the year. Ted Danson is happy he didn’t screw it up.
Speaking at a Writers Guild Foundation event on Thursday night in Hollywood, the show’s executive producer Michael Schur revealed that the legendary actor was less than secretive about the true nature of “The Good Place.”
“We were super, super careful,” Schur said, describing the efforts he and the writing staff went through to conceal the last episode’s big revelation. “Then after the finale aired, Ted was like, ‘I’m so happy that no one found out, because I told everyone. I literally told anyone who asked.’”
Danson, who was also on the panel, explained why the impulse to say more than he should have kept coming up. “You’d be telling your fellow actors or family friends and you’d tell the basic story and they’d say, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ And then you’d go, ‘No, it’s not cool! Here’s how cool it is!”
Bell, who insists that she didn’t even tell her own husband, explained that she quickly found out about her co-star’s chattiness from secondhand sources. “I would hear from mutual friends: ‘That show sounds so cool. What a great twist at the end!’ I was like, Ted!”
Schur confirmed the reason why Bell would have been so quick to figure out who was behind this suddenly open secret. “Ted and Kristen were the only people who knew the full story. We kept it hidden from the other actors on the show, sort of cruelly,” Schur said. “So we had these fun conversations where we were hiding from the other actors on our own show. It was weird!”
Evans Vestal Ward/NBC
[Seriously, don’t read any farther if you haven’t seen all of Season 1 of “The Good Place.” It’s great. Go watch it. It’s on Hulu.]
Danson’s character, Michael, was a main focus of the night, with the show’s writers on the panel — Megan Amram, Jen Statsky and Andrew Law — talking about how the twist limited how they could use Michael throughout the first season.
Because The Good Place actually wasn’t, the true nature of Michael’s duplicitous goals meant that the writers couldn’t use Danson exactly the way they wanted. “We could never have Michael talking to the other residents, because it would be, ‘Why is he talking to them? It’s all a ruse.’ That was sometimes hard to remember that he’s not able to talk to them,” Statsky said.
In writing Season 2, being freed from that narrative restraint has led to the writing team getting a fresh avenue into the story. “We never had Michael alone or without one of the [four main] people there. This year, it’s such a relief. We get to write scenes where we’re in Michael’s point of view, which is really fun.”