The Surprising Inspiration Behind Michael's Name In The Good Place

Created by Michael Schur, "The Good Place" follows a ragtag group of humans who have to navigate the ethical minefields they discover in the afterlife. The concept is so well-executed that making an edible pot of Peeps chili would be easier than ranking the show's best episodes. The series features some incredible plot twists, thoughtful discourse, and an all-star cast headed by Kristen Bell. 

It's also a delightful showcase of actor Ted Danson's comedic prowess. Danson plays Michael, a character who's particularly hilarious and interesting because he's not actually human. Although viewers never get to see it, at one point, Michael relays to his mortal friends that his human appearance (a "skin suit," as he calls it) is just a costume. Underneath, he's actually an enormous, smelly fire squid with tentacles and teeth.

Unlike Janet (D'Arcy Carden), who's a supercomputer with a limited range of emotions, Michael's actions are often based on his feelings. His pride and ambition lead to the show's initial premise, and as the series progresses, he is increasingly emotional — especially when it comes to keeping his friends safe. And whenever Michael references his past demon duties, his backstory gets more and more complex. He casually explains facts about the infinite cosmos and the nature of existence like he's talking about the weather. The character is so unique that it's only natural to wonder how series creator Michael Schur landed on the name Michael.

Michael's name has angelic origins

Though it might be tempting to think Michael Schur lent his own name to everyone's favorite mononymous demon-turned-good, he was actually named after a religious figure that appears in Abrahamic scripture. Considering the show's subject matter, it's almost poetic that Schur was inspired to give the character the name "Michael" after a visit to a famous Parisian landmark — the Notre Dame Cathedral. He was on a tour of the church when he noticed a carving of an angel above one of the doors.

"I was like, 'What's the name of that archangel?' And the tour guide said, 'That's archangel Michael.' And I was like, 'Well, that's the answer.' The answer is that he's named Michael because in the world of the afterlife that makes perfect sense," Schur explained to Vulture

In religious art and iconography, the archangel Michael is frequently depicted as weighing the souls of humans, in keeping with his purported role in helping to decide humanity's fate at the end of the world (via Learn Religions). That's very fitting, considering Michael's through-line on "The Good Place," where one of his first appearances sees him explaining that humans' fates in the afterlife are determined by a point count based on the actions they performed while alive. Michael's character is extremely important in the series, so it's great that his name originates in a way that mirrors his role.