There was a great scene earlier this season on NBC’s The Good Place – three Asian guys on screen, just being guys. There were no accents, no one was being made fun of, just three guys. It was a moment that is fast becoming the norm on TV. Representation matters and we’re seeing it on shows where there are no funny accents, no stereotypes. Manny Jacinto plays the ever adorable Jason. He’s sweet and he has anxiety. How similar is Jacinto to his character?
We talk about Filipino parents and how they reacted to his fame. Jacinto also shares his audition process and what he’d do if The Good Place ever ends.
We’re seeing more and more diverse characters on screen and it’s great to see a fellow Filipino on tv, just being a regular guy. What is that like for you?
It is such an incredible gift because not only do I get to play a role that isn’t stereotypical of what’s seen as Asian. I get to play an adorable dummy that’s being admired by other females and other people in general. Also, to have him be emasculated and to show something different on screen, it’s great. I was speaking to Mike (Schur) about this, and it’s one of the first times I’ve really seen three Pinoys together on screen. There was that one episode with me, Pillboy and my dad Doug, the great thing about that scene was that we were regular dudes and didn’t have ties to our culture. We didn’t have accents, instead, we were just dudes getting along and talking about the most ridiculous things and Mike and the writers has allowed that to happen.
In terms of Jason, how much is he like you or not like you?
[laughs]Jason is oblivious or dumb, but he’s very aware of people’s emotions. I think he has that emotional intelligence and he has that sense of loyalty and empathy towards his peers and friends. I hope that’s something I exemplify as Manny.
I think that’s the biggest area I relate to and his loyalty and empathy with what people are going through.
In terms of how he’s not like me, at least I hope I’m not. I hope I’m aware of my surroundings, and I’m not that dumb. I have my moments, though .[laughs]
Talk about the audition and how you got the part.
The audition itself was a whirlwind. It came just like any other audition. All I knew was that it was being written by Michael Schur who created Parks and Recreation. I don’t think I knew at the time that Ted and Kristen were going to be a lead in it. It’s a good job I didn’t because I think that would have put a lot of pressure on me.
What was so unique about this audition was when I read comedy scripts, with these sides and the lines that I auditioned with, I laughed out loud. When I was running it with a friend of mine, we were laughing because it was such a joy to play. There was so much joy to do those sides, and I think that came across when I did the audition.
What was your family’s reaction when you got the part?
Asian parents never show any emotion whatsoever. My barometer always comes from how much my aunt and uncles are talking about it and how much they know. If they know things, then I know my parents are talking about me.
When the show was starting out, I had nothing to show them; they’re definitely the kind of people who want to see the proof in the pudding. It wasn’t until they came on set last year and visited and met Kristen and Ted that they were OK. I got the credit within my family.
They’ve been very supportive throughout the whole experience.
What is it like going to work every day, working with Mike and these actors?
It’s like going to work and playing pretend with a bunch of your friends. It’s a dream job. This whole industry and career can have so many nos and so much rejection. Going to so many years of rejections and then getting something like this makes up for that. Coming to set is like coming to play with your friends. It’s such a dream.
You hear stories and different things, but Mike has created a show with a group of people who are so kind and so giving and so genuine on and off screen.
I’m so scared that whenever it ends, I don’t know if I can find anything else like this. I’m going to stick with Mike because he creates such a great environment. I’d even be his assistant. [laughs]