Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Transformation Of D'Arcy Carden From Childhood To The Good Place

When "The Good Place" premiered on NBC in 2016, who could have predicted that Janet would steal the show? Part human and part robot (but really neither one), Janet popped into scenes to provide information and disappeared just as quickly at the start, but her relationships with the humans, angels, demons, and various other celestial beings quickly blossomed, and she became a fan-favorite. And while "The Good Place" touted some major names on its cast list — specifically Kristen Bell (who plays Eleanor Shellstrop) and Ted Danson (who portrays the Good Place mastermind Michael) — a much fresher face brought Janet to life: D'Arcy Carden.

Carden may not have been a household name before she began starring in "The Good Place," but she'd been working toward the role of Janet for pretty much her entire life. Here's how D'Arcy Carden transformed from an aspiring actress in her childhood to a much-loved star of "The Good Place."

D'Arcy Carden was a girl with goals

D'Arcy Carden was born Darcy Beth Erokan on January 4, 1980, and she was surrounded by actors from a young age. Her father, Dennis Erokan, was an actor in community theater, and Carden recalls watching him perform in a local rendition of "Our Town" at their Pleasant Hill, California theater (via the Mercury News). In that moment, at the tender age of 9, Carden knew she wanted to be an actress. "I sat there thinking, 'Oh, wow. I've got to get up there on that stage,'" she told the Mercury News in a 2016 interview.

Though many of today's biggest stars started their acting careers at very young ages, Carden's parents didn't want her in the business too early, as she explained during a 2018 appearance on NPR's "It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders" podcast. They knew many kids struggled with maintaining their confidence and wellbeing in the cutthroat entertainment industry, so they told Carden she could act in community theater until she was 18, when she would be able to go out on auditions for television series and movies.

In her adolescent years, Carden got her kicks giving speeches for student government at school, getting involved in debate, and doing community theater. When Carden was around 12 years old, she changed the spelling of her first name from Darcy to D'Arcy, à la the original Smashing Pumpkins bassist D'arcy Wretzky-Brown. "She was, like, my ideal person. So didn't even think about it, I just started adding the apostrophe. It wasn't like a big life choice ... it just sort of stuck, and after a couple of years I never went back," Carden explained to Vulture in 2017.

As a freshman in high school, she took a drama class, and it meant a lot when her teacher spotted her talent. "He saw the spark in my eye and really guided me," Carden told Diablo Magazine in 2019. "Some of the acting techniques he taught me I absolutely still use today. Putting in the time, at that age, was already rewarding. If you do the work, good things will be rewarded, even if it takes a minute."

D'Arcy Carden put in a lot of hard work

After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater from Southern Oregon University, Carden set off for New York City (via NPR). In 2004, she got into improv, performing comedy — her first love — with the Upright Citizens Brigade, per the Mercury News. Founded by a group of actors who'd made it big (including Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, and Horatio Sanz), the Upright Citizens Brigade was an awesome foundation for Carden, but improv didn't pay the bills. She wasn't booking many paying acting jobs at the time either. 

According to the Washington Post, to stay afloat in New York, Carden worked as a nanny, took jobs as a temporary worker in offices, and led bus tours of the city. She pared down her budget to nearly nothing. Her apartment: illegal and uninsulated. Her meals: cheap pizza and stolen snacks. Meanwhile, Carden's friends like Aubrey Plaza were moving on to bigger opportunities in their professional lives and growing in different directions personally. "That was a rough few years, when I was doing dirty comedy in the basement of the UCB theater and [my friends] were getting married and having babies," Carden told the Washington Post. "Those are the type of moments where you're like: I missed it. I'm not a real adult. I missed my opportunity to be a successful human being."

At this point, Carden was beginning to feel like a failure, but what was helping her to not give up on her dream was the support of her husband, producer Jason Carden, whom she married in 2010. Between 2009 and 2014, Carden appeared in a handful of short films and a number of UCB Comedy Originals, played the titular role in the six-episode show "Rhonda Casting," had small parts in bigger projects, and even appeared on "Inside Amy Schumer" and "Comedy Bang! Bang!

In 2013, Carden moved from New York to Los Angeles. When her UCB pals Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer got a show of their own — "Broad City" on Comedy Central — they happily cast her in the role of Gemma. "She was always someone we loved and were in awe by comedically," Jacobson told the Washington Post. "She's just a genius."

D'Arcy Carden's 'overnight' success took years to achieve

D'Arcy Carden appeared in five episodes of "Broad City," but the role didn't lead directly to fame and fortune. In fact, Carden was still working as a nanny at the time, looking after the children of none other than "Saturday Night Live" star Bill Hader, per the Hollywood Reporter. (Carden and Hader eventually worked together on the HBO series "Barry," in which Hader plays the titular hitman and Carden portrays the recurring character Natalie Greer.)

At long last, Carden's big break came. When "The Good Place" creator Michael Schur started his search for Janet, he didn't even know what he wanted. Should the part be played by a teenage boy? An elderly woman? He had the idea for a character that functioned as a database, but that was about it. He started auditioning actors to see what they had to offer. All Carden knew going into her "Good Place" audition was that she should play a woman answering a health hotline (via Vox). Nobody mentioned anything about the character's robotic nature, so she didn't act that way. She had no idea this was her big moment, and that's when everything clicked.

Right away, Shur knew he'd found the right person for the part. "She made the robotic language that I had written for the dummy scene seem like a real person was doing it," he told Vanity Fair. "She found this weird humanity inside this robotic scene."

Carden's journey took decades, but when she landed the part of Janet, her career was finally — literally — in "The Good Place." And Carden didn't get a big ego about it, remaining as humble and gracious as ever. "My lifetime dream [was to be] on a show like this," she told the Oregonian/OregonLive. "I'm so grateful and thankful, and I can't even believe I get to be on a show that would be my favorite show even if I wasn't on it."