D'Arcy Carden normally pulls double duty as Janet and Bad Janet. This is taken Up to Eleven in "Janet(s)", where all four humans take on Janet's appearance. The actual cast did several run-throughs of each scene so Carden could study all their performances. And on top of that, we are also introduced to Neutral Janet in the same episode, giving Carden six roles for that episode. Carden would go on to play 32 Janets in "The Funeral to End all Funerals."
Ted Danson gets a brief but memorable shot at this in "Chidi Sees the Time Knife," where he alters his speech and body language to portray Vicky wearing a Michael suit. He gets to do more of it in "Employee of the Bearimy."
Acting in the Dark: Of the actors, only Danson and Bell knew of the first season's revelation beforehand so it would not affect the acting. Schur and Bell recorded the collective reactions of William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, and D'Arcy Carden when they found out about the twist.
Schur: Their performances were going to be exactly what they should be without knowing it, so it didnt seem like there was any actual benefit to telling them outside of, like, friendship.
Jameela Jamil, who plays event planner Tahani Al-Jamil, actually owns and runs an events management company, Wait, with the specific intention of providing accessible live entertainment to disabled people. So there's that.
Manny Jacinto was a competitive hip hop dancer, like his character Jason Mendoza.
Adored by the Network: By the end, the series had become such a cultural touchstone that NBC let Mike Schur end the show on his terms, with a special extra-long episode (two-and-half episodes long rather than double length) and a boosted budget for on-location shooting. In Greece. And France.
Auteur License: Based on his past successes, NBC offered Michael Schur 13 half-hour episodes to do with as he pleased. Realizing that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Schur created a high-concept show that explores dense and complex subjects in a thoughtful manner and forces audiences to think critically of what they're watching. When the show proved to be a critical hit, NBC left Schur to his own devices, honoring his insistence on a firm 13-episode cap for each season, allowing him to give the series a definitive conclusion after just four seasons, and rearranging the schedule to let the finale run exactly the way Schur intended rather than insisting he cut or pad things out to suit the network's needs.
Many of the seemingly minor things that can either get someone sent to the Bad Place or are various tortures in the Bad Place are actually the personal pet peeves of creator Michael Schur and the writing staff. These include:
Florida in general. Jacksonville especially (Michael Schur has disparagingly compared the city to a virus or a fungus).
Arizona, aka the "Florida of the West", according to Schur.
The various allusions regarding "Real" Eleanor to the University of Michigan (i.e., everyone in the series premiere chaos sequence being dressed in blue-and-yellow striped clothing when blue and yellow are the school colors of U of M) is a reference to Michael Schur (whose hometown is Ann Arbor, Michigan) and how his father went to the University of Michigan's Law School.
Billing Displacement: When the show was brought to UK television on E4 in December 2018, the advertising prominently featured Tahani, played by Brit Jameela Jamil, with even the longest trailer never featuring Jason or Janet, and only being introduced by Michael. Some trailers only starred Tahani, though most had Eleanor and Tahani, which played into a Meaningful Release Date; the show premiered ten years from when Jamil interviewed Bell in her early years working at E4.
The Cast Showoff: Manny Jacinto gets to show off his dance moves in the Season 3 premiere, as well as in the finale.
Creator Backlash: A comically downplayed case; Nick Offermanhated the chair he praised in "Whenever You're Ready", later saying that it was awfully designed and constructed, and even claiming that the scene would make him a laughingstock among his woodworking friends.
Jameela Jamil, who plays Tahani Al-Jamil, has almost the same surname as her character's. This is at least partly unintentional, as Tahani's name is used as a characterization element and plot point.
Bambadjan, played by Bambadjan Bamba. Interestingly, both have repetitive names.
Descended Creator: Some minor and one-off characters are played by the show's writers, all more or less strong-armed into acting by creator Michael Schur, including:
Megan Amram has a vocal cameo in the first episode, voicing the terrified woman screaming "THE BEAR HAS TWO MOUTHS!!" when the clip of what's currently going on in the Bad Place is played by Janet.
Josh Siegal as Glenn. Siegal was reading Glenn's lines during table reads until an actor could be cast, but Michael Schur thought Siegal just suited the role.
Joe Mande as Todd the Lava Monster. Mande notes that he was tricked into wearing a green bodysuit the first time he played the character when it wasn't necessary.
Jen Statsky as the Burger Fool who immediately figures out Jason and Pillboi were trying to rob the restaurant.
In the series finale, the shows philosophy consultants - Pamela Hieronmyi and Todd May - appear as themselves in Chidis philosophy seminar. Eleanor actually argues with May about Chidis interpretation of Mays book, while Hieronymi is introduced by Chidi as discussing the trolley problem next week. Amusingly, she then advises the group "Bring ponchos. It gets messy."
Executive Meddling: A positive example; after the massive Wham Line in "Michael's Gambit," the episode originally continued on and showed Michaelpushing a potted plant off a table out of annoyance at being found out. However, the NBC executives asked for a commercial break to be placed immediately after the big reveal so that the plot twist could sit with the viewers for longer, and the audience would have more time to mull over what the twist would mean and represent for the series going forward. In the episode's DVD Commentary, Michael Schur admitted that it was a brilliant move and in retrospect, he was embarrassed that he hadn't thought of it in the first place.
Fake Brit: In Season 3's "Janet(s)", D'Arcy Carden portrays Tahani as a Janet.
Fake American: Canadian actor Manny Jacinto plays Floridian Jianyu Li/Jason Mendoza.
Hide Your Pregnancy: Maribeth Monroe was pregnant during Season 3, which is why Mindy St. Claire only appears in one scene in "Chidi Sees the Time-Knife". Luckily Mindy's 80s wardrobe includes a boxy jacket that disguises her belly.
I Knew It!: Many fans correctly predicted that someone got replaced in the Season 4 premiere when Bad Janet came to collect Chris via the train. Although Michael was the most popular prediction, some did correctly guess Janet.
Inspiration for the Work: The idea for the series first came out of Michael Schur watching Moneyball, finding its focus on statistics and mathematics to be interesting, and further contemplating an afterlife system based around every action on Earth having certain specific point values ascribed to them "like in a video game." He then wondered what would happen if the system ever "glitched" and someone who was a terrible person on Earth got sent to Heaven on accident.
Schur has also specifically cited both Lost and No Exit as the two other main sources of inspiration for the series, with the former influencing The Good Place in regards to how Schur wanted the series' greater Myth Arc to proceed, and the latter coming up with the concept for how the series could move beyond a "one-note premise" of a Divine Misfile while working within the genre constraints of a sitcom.
For all the characters disparaging of the state of Arizona, Michael's fascination with it makes some sense, since Ted Danson is from Flagstaff, Arizona.
Chidi believes in soulmates, and Michael uses that to torture him. William Jackson Harper admitted that he doesn't believe in soulmates, and thinks the show made the right call with Michael revealing that he made them up.
Manny Jacinto plays Jason Mendoza, a comically dim-witted Cloudcuckoolander who is basically the Anthropomorphic Personification of the "Florida Man" meme. In reality, Jacinto is not only Canadian, but also earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at the University of British Columbia.
Money, Dear Boy: A downplayed example, but Manny Jacinto and D'Arcy Carden have both admitted that them being "broke" was their main reasoning for taking their roles, though they also added that both the script and cast were good enough that they would have taken it regardless.
In the flashback showing Joe the environmental activist in the series premiere, his shirt was digitally altered to have an octopus inserted on it to serve as Foreshadowing for a talking translucent floating octopus that would later show up as part of the third-act chaos sequence. However, the talking octopus was later cut from the chaos sequence, leaving Joe's octopus shirt as just a minor background detail.
When Michael first shows Eleanor his paperclip collection in "What We Owe To Each Other", there was originally a sequence of her making him a paperclip bracelet. This part of the scene was cut out of the final episode, but Michael still wears the paperclip bracelet for the rest of the episode without any comment or explanation.
Out of Order: Invoked for the web shorts The Selection (which stars the Bad Place team) on the official Youtube channel. While all six shorts were uploaded on the same day, they were up at different times and not in the correct ordernote (4 → 3 → 5 → 6 → 1 → 2), because that's exactly the kind of thing the Bad Place would do. To top it off, the trailer for these web shorts was uploaded on the channel five days later.
Playing Against Type: Deliberately done with Ted Danson being revealed as evil in a shocking twist. Michael Schur even described the reasoning behind his casting: as soon as you see him, you start thinking things are going to be okay, even if you've just died.
Kamilah is Tahani's younger sister. Though their behavior and, often, their wardrobes make their relative ages believable, Rebecca Hazlewood is actually nine years older than Jameela Jamil.
At one point, John Wheaton proudly claims that his gossip site had a countdown clock for when the Olsen twins became legal adults, implying he's significantly older than them. However, John's actor, Brandon Scott Jones, is in reality only two years older than Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
Playing Their Own Twin: Jameela Jamil plays both Tahani and Tahani's pet mirror centaur Tahania (a centaur whose top half reflects their owner's appearance) in Season 3's "The Worst Possible Use of Free Will".
Several actors that have had roles on either or both shows appear on this one in some capacity, including Adam Scott (Trevor), Marc Evan Jackson (Shaun), Kristen Bell (Eleanor), Jason Mantzoukas (Derek), Maribeth Monroe (Mindy), Jama Williamson (Val), Dax Shepard (Chet), Mike O'Malley (Jeff), and Maya Rudolph (Gen). Nick Offerman plays himself in the finale.
The series also shares a bunch of writers with Parks & Rec, and directors with both shows.
Chet, one of the Bad Place demons introduced in "Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent", is played by Kristen Bell's husband Dax Shepard.
The finale has Michael taking guitar lessons from Guitar Mary, who is played by Mary Steenburgen (Danson's actual wife).
Re-Cut: Each season, extended cuts of every episode were put on Hulu. Netflix and iTunes however only have the broadcast editions.
The Red Stapler: Sales of T.M. Scanlon's philosophical text What We Owe To Each Other spiked after it was used as a recurring element in the show (though amusingly enough, Michael Schur has admitted that he himself has never actually been able to finish the book on his own). A number of viewers have also become far more interested in studying ethics and philosophy overall because of the series.
Refitted for Sequel: A throwaway joke revealing that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was originally intended for the series premiere, but got scrapped and was instead reused as a similar joke in the Season 4 premiere (with the only difference being the "true" identity of Kennedy's assassin).
Serendipity Writes the Plot: Maya Rudolph's schedule forced all her scenes in Season 4 to be held off to the end of filming. In the meantime, they were able to negotiate a guest appearance by Timothy Olyphant, with the delay allowing them to add some Foreshadowing to Gen's crush on him in the earlier episodes.
Shrug of God: In interviews, Michael Schur clarified that his own interpretation of the series finale's Ambiguous Ending is that the final disposition of Eleanor's soul itself is meant to be a mystery. The "sparks" left behind by her soul aren't a final answer of what happened to her soul as a whole, just one final effect her soul had on the universe before its exit.
Many of the bits were ad-libbed. Just a few examples from the Season 1 gag reel include Manny Jacinto giving different answers for what Jason's vanity plate said, D'Arcy Carden giving many misidentifications of a basketball, Adam Scott giving variations on how he'll excrete his meal, and Jacinto also giving different guesses on how he died.
"Butthole spiders" was an alternative line thrown in to see if it worked better than the original line: "Toilet spiders".
In the Season 1 finale, Michael's infamous evil giggle, and the petty moment where he pushes over a potted plant, were both improvised. In The Good Place Podcast, Michael Schur explains that Ted Danson pushed over the plant on the first take, but only tried the evil laugh after Schur felt the beginning of the scene was missing something.
The entire inclusion of a clam chowder fountain in "Dance Dance Resolution" was randomly decided upon literally two days before the episode starting filming by the episode's director Drew Goddard.
The prop for the "Final Door" (a.k.a. the forest archway that the humans in the Good Place go through when they're ready to end their existence) wasn't actually designed for the show; it just happened to have been left behind at the episode's filming location by a recent wedding party.
Instead of mentioning that her parents were in the Bad Place torturing each other, Eleanor claims that her parents were good people who are probably having sex in the Good Place, as opposed to Abusive Parents who hated each other and got divorced early in Eleanor's life.
The flashback of Eleanor mouthing off to an activist was originally a flashback of her scraping against somebody's car and leaving a Post-It note blaming them for parking badly.
The party dialogue and subsequent chaos scene is different. For example, Eleanor calling Tahani a "butthead" would have resulted in Tahani's head being on her butt during the chaos scene.
Speaking of the chaos sequence, it was eventually decided that each part of the sequence should be directly related to a selfish act by Eleanor at the previous night's party. Before this was decided on, two additions were going to be made for the sake of Rule of Funny (according to the DVD Commentary): A talking translucent glowing octopus would try to support Michael right when he was reassuring everyone that everything was okay (scaring Michael off), and two human-sized grasshoppers "dressed like they're characters from Dangerous Liaisons" would have a The Three Musketeers-style sword fight where they'd be both arguing in French and one of them would yell at the other in French "You have dishonored the House of St. Germaine!" Both of them were cut due to being too surreal for the episode, though the grasshopper duel actually got far enough along in the production schedule that actual actors were picked out and given mo-cap suits before anything else could come of it.
Near the end of the original draft, there was a montage of Eleanor's bad actions overlaid with text pointing out her negative traits (such as "Narcissistic" or "Selfish), which was presumably cut in favor of a Show, Don't Tell approach.
Other jokes that got cut were Eleanor burping after discovering how she died, the reveal that Albert Einstein's theories were incorrect and he set physics back centuries because of it, and a reveal that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by six people, including Frank Sinatra.
The Butthole Spiders were originally scripted as "Toilet Spiders", but they found "Butthole Spiders" to be funnier.
invoked The Obviously Evil glowing-red black obelisk seen in "Dance Dance Resolution" was originally going to have a throwaway joke where Michael would claim "If [the obelisk] gets angry, then it'll give birth!". However, it was cut because while Megan Amram (the episode's writer) thought the joke was a hilarious bit of Surreal Humor, she also felt that it would've detracted from the moment via invoking Fridge Logic and so the scene would've flowed better without it.
After letting some fans wallow in confusion for several months because they came up with so many different theories, Michael Schur revealed that at the end of Season 2, the four were returned to life in a new timeline rather than resetting the universe, being in a simulation, or having them mindwiped in a new area of the afterlife.
After fans expressed confusion over Michael and Janet not saying Doug Forcett's motivations were corrupt over his attempts to gain points, a podcast after the relevant episode aired explained that Doug's points aren't invalidated as he doesn't unequivocally know that's how the system works, unlike the Soul Squad who know it as a 100% fact and thus can't earn more points to save themselves—Doug believes it, but they know it.
Michael Schur drew a very clear line between this show and Parks and Recreation, saying that the little references to Parks and Rec are just fun little in-jokes and not indicative of a shared universe. Nick Offerman cameos as himself and not Ron Swanson in the series finale, finally driving home the fact that the two projects are separate.
Word of Saint Paul: Although fans typically headcanon Michael as asexual, Ted Danson revealed he personally sees the scene with Michael's guitar teacher in the series finale as a very mild Ship Tease hinting that Michael's human life will give him the gift of romantic love for the first time. Of course, Danson's clearly biased, because the teacher is played by his real-life wife.
Season 3's "The Snowplow" originally had the title of "The Cloning Of Agamemnon."
Season 3's "The Worst Possible Use of Free Will" was originally listed as "The Lizard and the Owl."
Other Assorted Trivia:
The first scene ever filmed for the series was the flashback in the series premiere where Eleanor insults Joe the environmental activist by telling him to "eat my farts".
As real frozen yogurt would have quickly melted away under the lighting during filming, whenever the characters seem to be eating frozen yogurt on-camera, they're actually eating either cream cheese or mashed potatoes.
Tahani Al-Jamil's character was explicitly envisioned as a "statuesque wealthy Indian/Pakistani-British woman who was basically a modern Grace Kelly." Schur was willing to let any actress who he felt was good enough for the role take it if possible, but lucked out when the series' casting director Allison Jones found Jameela Jamil, who almost perfectly fit the role Schur had unintentionally envisioned just for her.
Jameela Jamil's role as Tahani is only her second-ever acting role.
Max Greenfield - best known for his role as Schmidtt on New Girl - is a good friend of Michael Schur in real life, and was the one who came up with the idea for there to be a Running Gag of Chidi getting stomachaches whenever he's forced into a stressful situation.
Drew Goddard was first brought onto the show when Michael Schur was having dinner one night with Damon Lindelof (of Lost and The Leftovers fame), and Lindelof helped organize a meeting between Schur and Goddard since he thought Goddard would really like the show and find its premise interesting.
The posterboard displayed in "Michael's Gambit" showing the four main humans that Michael unveils when making his pitch for his "Good Place" experiment to his Bad Place coworkers is almost the exact same posterboard used in the writers' room (just cleaned up and made less messy).
Schur wanted to introduce moral particularism into the show, but found its primary proponent Jonathan Dancy's book on the matter difficult to understand. His solution? Go up to actor Hugh Dancy, Jonathan's son, at a party and ask him to explain it.
Ted Danson stole the vase featured in the jazz bar in "Dance Dance Resolution" and brought it home with him specifically because his wife liked it so much.