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The Real-Life Inspiration Behind The Judge From The Good Place

NBC's introspective and experimental comedy The Good Place covered a lot of ground in its 53 episodes. The show never met a philosophical problem or uncomfortable question that it wasn't willing to explore as characters like Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) and Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) learned about morality, death, and ethics in the afterlife.

One of the things that set The Good Place apart was its willingness to play with its own rules and bend viewer expectations to create interesting settings and introduce compelling characters. While the show was, on the surface, about the journey of its main characters into worlds that were analogous to Heaven or Hell, it often reminded viewers that the Good Place was not a cloud-bound plane of perfection and that the Bad Place was more than a pit of flames. As such, show creator Michael Schur was free to portray the demons and celestial beings that ruled over, worked at, and otherwise existed in the afterlife in creative, exciting ways.

This meant that viewers encountered demons like Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), who is little more than a bureaucrat with transformative powers and a mean streak. Fans also met Jeff the Doorman (Mike O'Malley), a guardian of the passageway between dimensions easily bribed with collectible frogs. One of the more vital characters, however, was The Judge (Maya Rudolph), who ruled on all matters related to the afterlife and whose appearance, it turns out, was based on a famous figure. Here is the real-life inspiration behind The Judge from The Good Place.

The Judge on The Good Place was inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Maya Rudolph's portrayal of the good-natured but strict Judge struck a chord with critics, and her appearances in the final season of The Good Place earned Rudolph one of the three Emmy nominations she received in 2020. For her role as The Judge, Rudolph was nominated as an Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, a category that she was up for twice that year. The other nomination, and eventual Emmy win, was for her impression of Senator Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live.

After Rudolph received her Guest Actress Emmy for her Saturday Night Live nomination, a reporter asked how she felt about losing the award to herself. In her response, Rudolph said she was just happy to be placed among legendary performers such as Bette Midler and Angela Basset, especially since The Judge was inspired by a feminist hero, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Rudolph said, "I was actually thinking about The Good Place a lot and about how we modeled her robe after Ruth Bader Ginsberg and how much of that was an homage to an iconic human being. When you think of a judge, when you think of all-knowing, when you think of powerful, when you think of all good, yeah, we modeled her robe after RBG, so that was pretty cool" (via Deadline).

As The New York Times reported, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had sadly passed away Sept. 18, 2020, the day before Rudolph's interview, making Rudolph's tribute even more poignant. While The Judge was very much a creation of Michael Schur and Maya Rudolph, it's nice to know that The Good Place celebrated the life and style of such an inspiring figure in a critical character.