What 'The Good Place' Taught William Jackson Harper: 'The Point of Existence and the Point of Our Lives Is Other People'

Illustration by Britt Spencer

It's so hard to say goodbye. This is exactly how William Jackson Harper feels knowing that the fourth season of NBC series The Good Place will be the last.

Fans have watched the actor star as the lovable but nervous Chidi for the last four years and have loved every minute of it. Harper, who will say his final farewell to his character and the show in the spring, has enjoyed it all too."It was very emotional," Harper told Newsweek of his last moments on the show's set.

"When you go on a TV set, you really have no idea how long the show's gonna run. You realize to treat every day as if it's the last day you're gonna do this," Harper continued. "Thankfully, we were on a show that went on for a while and one people responded positively to. So it was always like, 'Wow, I'm gonna keep revisiting this. This is great.' Knowing I'm going to say goodbye to this character has made me be a little more present and take a moment to enjoy it."

Fortunately, there are still plenty of episodes to go in Season 4, and several more chances to see Chidi ruminating over every little thing with his pals in the afterlife.

The Good Place airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET. Read Newsweek's full interview with Harper below.

This interview was edited and condensed for purposes of length.

What 'The Good Place' Taught William Jackson Harper
William Jackson Harper appears in the NBC award-winning series "The Good Place.' In an interview with Newsweek, Harper talked about the final season of the show. Colleen Hayes/NBC

How was the energy on set filming with everyone for the last time?

Working with everybody has been electric. When we first got in, we were all nervous, and now it's a situation where we're no longer nervous. It's been incredible. It's been super exciting working with this cast in particular. And for so many of us, it's our first big thing—something so significant culturally and something that people see or have seen.

Who was the funniest person on the show?

That's tough. Everybody has their moments, but I gotta say Manny [Jacinto] breaks me every time we have a scene together. There's always something that he does that is always just so odd and out-of-the-box surprising. He's the guy that has broken the cast more than anyone else because he's just ridiculous and he does ridiculous things.

What have you come to love the most about Chidi?

Well, he's incredibly considerate. He's deeply kind. He's deeply invested in doing what's right. He's indecisive, and sometimes that costs him and puts him at odds with other people. But those are the things that I really admire about the character. Just playing him for the last four years has really made me think about things a little more. His inability to deal with his anxiety and make decisions though—I think I'll do the opposite. Playing him helped me realize the importance of dealing with my own stuff and being more decisive. I think that's something that I've always struggled with, and a lot of people have that going on being in their heads a lot of the time. I'd like to work on that a little bit more.

Is there any hope for Chidi and Eleanor's relationship after having his memory wiped clean last season?

The only thing I can tease out for you is that the core of who he is is the same. It's just a certain hunk of memories that have been wiped away from him, but there's something there that exists between Chidi and Eleanor. There's something in their universe that keeps drawing them together. I think that's something that's been woven into the show, something that's very specific to that relationship and it's something that the show continues to acknowledge.

After being on the show for the last four years, what would you say is the biggest takeaway from The Good Place?

The point of existence and the point of our lives is other people. Looking for answers outside of ourselves—I'm not sure that for me that's something that's proven fruitful. When you think about what is the point of this existence, what is the reason we're all here, I think it's for each other. If that's as much as we can do, then I feel like that's a good place to start. If you want to have some sort of deep enlightenment about something else existing beyond this plane that dictates how we must behave in this one, great, let me know. If it brings you fulfillment, go after it. But for me, being on this show has shown me that the most desirable thing to me are the people around me, and that's the point because it's about the people.

Despite the ending of The Good Place, you now have several different projects down the pipeline, including Jack Ryan, which is a completely different change.

It's great! It's a very nice excursion into a world that I do not exist in, which is one with action. But they've told me so little about what is going to happen in this season, so I'm just as excited as everybody else.

And you have a drama film coming out with Anne Hathaway?

Yes, Dark Waters. It's a movie directed by Todd Haynes, who is a genius and a gentleman and incredibly talented man. There's a whole cast of incredibly talented actors. It's about this public defense attorney who finds out that this company has poisoned the water in this West Virginia town and decides to do something about it. He's kind of breaking across the aisle. Instead of defending the corporation, he's going after them. It's a really important story for people to see and to witness right now. It asks a lot of questions about putting profits over people when pushing the paradigm. What does it cost? What does it change? It's really brave. It's one of those movies where I got the script and I thought I was gonna read half of it and go to bed, but I stayed up and read the whole thing. I'm really excited for people to see it.

How do you decide on a role?

I just go for whatever I'm interested in whenever opportunities present themselves. I don't think about the genres, because at the core of it I just want to play a character because a character is interesting. It has depth, nuance on the page that I can see, that I can find a way to tease out. It's something so different that it will be an interesting challenge to undertake—that's what I think about. I don't really think about genres unless it's something really interesting in an off-the-beaten-path kind of way.

What will you miss the most about The Good Place?

I'll miss the people. I'll miss going and hanging out with that cast and that crew every day. It was as wonderful as a place to work in as it was for fans to watch. I'm going to miss that. I'm going to miss working with my friends.

Describe the final season in three words.

Y'all ain't ready.