Manny Jacinto – The Good Place
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) I’d like to say that I am, but I’m not. I’m trying to work on a project called “sleep” if anything. [laughs] Right now we’re being really picky with what we go forward with. It’s a good problem to have.
Q) How was your “The Good Place” character Jason/Jianyu originally described to you?
A) When I first got the audition for Jason it was for actual “Jason Mendoza.” I forget the actual description, but the synopsis said he was obviously not too bright. The way that I read it when I first was able to read it he seemed like a very bro type of dude. I went to an all guys high school so I knew that type of mentality. So, I kind of related to the guy in a sense. When I did the callback, they were like, “Let’s take out the bro-ness and make him more positive, if anything, or lighthearted. But still not the brightest bulb.” That’s how he was first described to me. It wasn’t until later when I had a meeting with Mike [Schur] after I fortunately got the role that he said, “Oh, heads up you’re going to be a silent monk for a few episodes. So, you’re not going to talk. Then, we’ll go from there.” It was a bit of a shock in the beginning, but we all trust Mike.
Q) What were your first thoughts when you learned the twist that “the good place” is actually “the bad place?”
A) Well, it was a state of shock to be honest for all of us. Kristen [Bell] released that video of all of us reacting to Mike telling the four of us because he literally kept that secret from the four of us for like three months. At first when he sat us down I thought something was terribly wrong. I thought we were going to get cancelled or we were getting fired or we were getting pranked. I thought someone would come out and it would be a big mean joke. Everything was going in the total opposite of anything positive and then he revealed that to us it kind of solidified that Mike Schur is a genius. I had no clue where the season was going to go. I had my guesses and just like other people it did not come close to anything anyone had in mind.
Q) Are Jason’s feelings for Janet real or is he just reacting to someone finally being nice to him?
A) Oh, I think his feelings are completely genuine. I’ve thought about it for a good amount and really tried to justify it and I feel that through Janet (D’Arcy Carden) that Jason is becoming a lot more unselfish since he is starting to think about someone other than himself. In the beginning, especially with his sad story, it’s really just about him trying to get ahead and be this amazing DJ/drugdealer from Jacksonville, Florida. As he starts to develop his relationship with Janet, he finds something more and becomes less selfish and he actually starts to grow from this relationship. I think likewise with Janet – because of Jason that Janet is becoming more humanlike. She’s feeling maybe what we would call “emotions” or she is reacting in different ways. She is just like Jason in that they are growing and evolving.
Q) We’ve gone through quite a few versions of “The Good Place” for this poor foursome, but is there anything you can tease is to come for them this season?
A) Not without losing my job. [laughs] There was something on Twitter where someone was asking me if there was anything online where I could see more dancing and I wanted to reply that they should tune in for this season. I can hint a little bit of that – maybe a little boogie-down for all of us, which is what I always look forward to. There is nothing I can really say otherwise. Even when our producers or post people talk to me, they ask me, “What’s your favorite moment of this season?” There is just so much that has happened in each episode that it is hard to pinpoint specific themes and episodes. All I can say is it is going to get weird and crazy. And I don’t want to say because I just want people to go for the ride.
Q) With such a great comedic cast, what have been some of your most memorable moments behind the scenes moments from filming?
A) My favorite behind the scenes moments are always when we’re all together. I think most of us would agree that when we’re all together in a scene and we’re all able to vibe off each other and just joke around with each other…Ted is just a huge jokester. He’s the nicest, most charming man and the world and that’s not an exaggeration. There is this moment in one of the later episodes where Ted is eating candy. To get Will [Jackson Harper] to laugh, he took a piece of a candy, ate it and then snorted out of his nose. We were all like, “What the hell is wrong with you?!” [laughs] It was a Swedish fish. He just did it and snorted it. It’s like a really great party trick. Will’s eyes just blew up and I ran across to the other room because I just had no idea what this guy was doing. It was amazing, funny and disturbing all at the same time and we were all there to witness that. This man is a TV legend, but also a six year-old child at heart. That was a great moment that I just had to share.
Q) What do you think it is about “The Good Place” that has made it a fast fan favorite?
A) I feel like with Mike’s shows especially they give you a sense of hope or a warm feeling. You feel good. Some people may describe it as corny, but it’s not corny because a lot of the jokes are actually very smart if you really think about it. I have a pretty dark sense of humor sometimes and I think it’s easy to get away with that – to get away with a sly remark or to laugh when someone gets hurt. With Mike’s shows, his jokes and his writers come from a place from positivity and good-hearted. It makes you feel good. The greatest thing that I take away from this show are the comments genuinely saying, “Thank you for the show and characters because it has helped me during a sad time in my life,” whether they are going through a sickness or breakup or they are having a bad day. They are able to escape. A show like “The Good Place” is so out there in a different world people are able to escape the world we’re living in with all of the drama and bad news and everything they see on Twitter and televisions. I think it provides people with a great escape during that time.