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D'Arcy Carden Gets Candid About Ride The Eagle And The Good Place - Exclusive Interview

While you might recognize D'Arcy Carden as Janet from "The Good Place," the actor is so much more than the character dubbed "Siri with a body." Carden's relationship with comedy is longer than most couples' marriages, spanning back to her days performing sketch comedy in the Upright Citizens Brigade. UCB alum include some of the top names in comedy, and Carden is no exception. 

In between playing dozens of Janets in all four seasons of "The Good Place," Carden has landed roles on shows like "Broad City," "Barry," "American Dad!," and "The Rocketeer." She also starred alongside Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie in the 2019 film "Bombshell" after appearing in the Netflix original film "Let It Snow." 

Soon, Carden will star in the new "A League of Their Own" series and the film "Shotgun Wedding." But first, she's appearing in Jake Johnson's film "Ride the Eagle." The movie's story is set in motion by an eccentric mother, played by Susan Sarandon, who leaves a laundry list of tasks for her son Leif (Johnson) to complete before receiving his inheritance.

During an exclusive interview, Looper spoke to D'Arcy Carden, who revealed the difficulties of filming in a separate location from your scene partner and what it was like working with Jake Johnson. She even dished on that iconic Chidi/Eleanor/Janet makeout scene from "The Good Place" and how the show's ending impacted the cast.

Getting the most out of the pandemic

"Ride the Eagle" is such a charming film, and a lot of that has to do with the unique way that it's filmed. How did you and Jake Johnson navigate filming your scenes apart, and what was the most challenging and rewarding aspect of a setup like that?

Thank you, that's great. I'm glad you liked it. Yeah, it was definitely a different process. A lot of that had to do with the pandemic, maybe most of that had to do with that — and how small the crew was, and how sort of homegrown the entire process was. The first moment I was involved was a text message from Trent [O'Donnell], the other writer and director, who just asked me if I wanted to do it. None of it was the normal way this thing happens, which was really fun, and special, and sweet, and kind of made the whole thing feel a little bit more like it was ours. We had the control, and it was ... Trent and Jake are so collaborative and inviting, and really want everybody to be a part of it.

Making the movie their own

It really felt like that. It was like these characters were our own, and we have a lot of input. It's special and unique, and that obviously can't always happen. Filming my scenes on the phone with Jake was an interesting challenge. I think it was really fun, and it could have been a disaster. We ended up having a lot of fun with it. He was so game to ... He just was like, "Just call me whenever you guys are ready to shoot, I'll just step away from my family, or whatever I'm doing." [Laughs] At one point, I think he was in the pool with his kids, and he was like, "Okay, I'll hop out." It's hard to act by yourself. Jake and I talk about this a lot.

He had to do so much acting by himself. It's a kind of unnatural, strange, almost embarrassing thing to try to act by yourself. Having someone to play off of and react to is the easiest thing in the world. It makes everything make sense. So, it is a bit of a challenge to try ... He certainly has the harder job. I mean, most of this movie is him acting by himself. But I remember getting a little nervous before having to shoot stuff, like, "God, I really am going to have to do this by myself." But having him on the phone made it so much easier and fun. It was fun. The whole shoot was so enjoyable.

From The Good Place to Ride the Eagle

Given everything that's been going on this past year, we really need stories like this that tackle the fragility of life. But it's not the first time you've taken on a series like that, as "The Good Place" has a lot of similar messages. What drew you to this particular role, and what do you think "The Good Place" fans will love most about this one?

That's so nice. The thing that drew me to this truly was Jake and Trent. Trent had also directed a bunch of episodes of "The Good Place." So, we've been friends for years, and we had sort of been looking for something to do together. He worked with Jake for years on "New Girl," and he always sort of talked about us together, but Jake and I had never not ... We'd met for a moment over the years, but we didn't know each other. But he was always sort of trying to get us together, to work together, and so as soon as they asked me, and I was just having one of those boring, sad, depressing pandemic days, where I was just sort of sitting on my couch — and to get a text from them just saying like, "No pressure, but if you're up for it, we have this idea for a movie." I was like, "I'm in, I don't need any more information, I'm in." Then it was just a very fun, collaborative process.

The greatest acting gift

They were super open to any ideas I had, and we ... Discussing the relationship between Leif and Audrey was really fun, and trying to figure out what their backstory was. I think we were all just, so sort of thirsty to create, we were just ... That feeling, it had been months, and you didn't know what was in store for the future. It was an opportunity to work with people that I love, and I'm a fan of, and we all have similar ideas to acting in comedy, and character, and all that stuff that I do.

I just was so ... I just jumped at the chance. Then, after that, weeks later, I find out that Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons had signed on. So, I was like, "This is Christmas morning." I felt really lucky. But I think that the idea of taking your life in your own hands, and not sort of just drifting through life, and all the lessons that Honey teaches Leif, I think, are beautiful. In this year, it really ... Obviously, it's not a movie about the pandemic or anything, but there are so many things that you can take. I know this year alone, I did a lot of thinking and a lot of introspective looking inside, and I know everybody did that.

My family, and my friends, and my husband, there's so much looking inside, looking inward, taking a moment, taking a breath with your life. I do think that this hits on all that stuff in such a beautiful way. I think big concepts like this movie, and like "The Good Place," I think somebody that loved "The Good Place" with the big old juicy concepts, and the big theories, and ideas, but then also sort of with the through-line of silly humor, this strikes a similar chord in such a beautiful way. Jake is just so funny, he's so effortlessly funny, and then you have J.K. Simmons, the legend, who is as heartbreaking as he is funny. Susan Sarandon on that grainy little camera, and by the end of it, I'm crying watching her. It's just such a beautiful message, such a beautiful cast, and I was just so pleased to be a part of it.

No more dog days

Do you have a favorite scene?

Let's see, I mean, the scene where J.K. Simmons and Jake sort of confront each other finally, and J.K. thinks he's not who he is. Then it goes from him calling him names to J.K. finding out that Honey has died, and it's such a brilliant piece of acting from him, he is ... truly one of the best we have. He really is so effortless, but I love that scene. I mean, honestly, I love all the scenes of Jake and Nora, the dog. Again, that's not an easy thing to do for Jake to ... He seems so loose and easy, and I know that's really his dog, but they say like, "Don't work with animals or children," and he decided "my poster and this movie is going to be a dog." I think every scene with the two of them is really lovely to me.

It's so good. It's funny because I told Jake that I get so stressed when I watch movies about dogs. Because when I go to the theater and watch a movie about dogs, there's the site, doesthedogdie.com, and then I can decide whether or not I go to see that movie. But with screeners, I'm always stressed because I don't have that. [Laughs]

I feel the same way. But also, it gets a little hairy there for a second. It's stressful, it really is stressful. I think the audience has this moment of like, "Is this going to be the lesson he learns? I don't want that to be the lesson he learns. Let's not have the lesson be about a dog dying."

Taking self-love to the next level

Switching gears a bit, I just rewatched "The Good Place" a couple of weeks ago. I was like, "If I ever interview D'Arcy, I have to ask her what it was like basically having a romance scene with herself." So how did you feel to be such a major and unexpected part of that pivotal moment in Chidi and Eleanor's love story? Can you walk us through the technical process of how that scene was shot and what went into essentially kissing yourself?

Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, I personally am such an Eleanor and Chidi ... What? Shipper, I guess, you would say. I love them together. Yeah, I love them together. I love Kristen [Bell] and Will [Jackson Harper] ... I love their chemistry. I was always really, really, really rooting for them. It's one of my favorite parts of the show. There's something about the fact that they sort of kept finding each other and that they were ... That after a million reboots or whatever, they were still drawn to each other, that type of love story always ... That type of love story, if that's been told before, but you know what I mean, sort of they are being pulled apart, and brought together, and pulled apart, and brought together. That always really gets me.

This was sort of the ultimate version of that. So, anyway, I was a very vocal Chidi and Eleanor lover, and Mike Schur definitely knew that. So it almost felt like a little winky joke to me that I'm the one who got to say, "I love you" for the first time, to ask Chidi ... It was such a funny thing, and I remember Mike even saying that — Mike Schur saying like, "It's so funny, it's so silly that we decided this huge moment for this relationship, this couple that we've been watching for years, is going to be played out, not by them."

The world's biggest Chidi/Eleanor shipper

Such a "Good Place" thing to do, too.

I know, I know, I know. Oh my God. And because I'm so obsessed with those two characters, and also just I'm such a fan of the show, and the writers, everything about that show I love. I truly couldn't get through that scene where Chidi is confessing his love for Eleanor because it's so beautiful. I would start crying, and I would have to take a break. It was really intense, but I was honored to get to be a part of their little love story. Then as far as the technical kissing, it really was that. It was really technical. I think there's a couple of videos out there if you ever wanted to Google it. Truly. It's hilarious how ... There's nothing romantic or even acting in that moment.

It's truly like, "Okay, lift your head up a little bit. Okay, wait, put your head down a little bit. Okay, tilt your head to the right, and turn on to..." I'm on a spinning platform, and "Don't move," and "Ready, go." Then it's like, "Okay, now do that on the other side," it was very technical. It was hilarious. Morgan Sackett, who directed that episode, it's so funny watching him try to get this beautiful moment. But what it really is, is just machinery, but it turned out great, of course.

What's beyond The Good Place door

The series finale of "The Good Place" is so profound and beautiful. Do you think the characters' journeys in the universe really ended when they walked out that door, or what's your theory on what it led to, and where those characters might've ended up, if they ended up anywhere?

Oh my God, you know what? Here's the truth, I don't want to answer that, only because it feels so personal to everybody, and I don't know the answer. I don't know what it was, and I would hate to influence anybody who had a theory on where or what someone goes through when they walk through that door. But I agree with you. I love that finale. It moves me. It's sort of changed the way I think about the world and what we're doing here. I'm a Mike Schur fan in every sense of the word, and I think he created something so stunning, and the actors, we all felt that way. I know Manny [Jacinto] says that right after he read that episode, he had to call his parents and just be like, "I love you guys." I know Ted [Danson] and his wife, Mary, really thought that was a beautiful ending, and it sort of influenced their love for each other. It did that for all of us, it really ... I just think Mike Schur is such a brilliant writer, and I love him.

Fans can check out "Ride the Eagle" in select theaters, on demand, and Digital on July 30.