Manny Jacinto played Jason Mendoza for four years on the hit NBC sitcom The Good Place. At the beginning of the series, we knew Jason as a Taiwanese monk. That silence broke early in season one, and I am eternally grateful. The 4-year journey for Jason finding love with Janet, connecting with his dad and, well, saying some of the most absurd things was an incredible part of The Good Place.
In the final season, Jason takes his character to the next level. You get to see this guy who has often frustrated some of the gang with his absurd takes come into his own as his love with Janet hits its snags. Jason’s final moments on the show are some of my favorite moments of the series. You get to see what makes this character so special and pure.
Jason is a key ingredient to this fantastic ensemble, and Manny Jacinto is fantastic in this role. It was an honor and a privilege to hear him talk about his journey with the character below:
Awards Daily TV: Why do you think the 4-year journey of The Good Place resonated with people?
Manny Jacinto: Sitcoms and comedies were taking a different turn. Mike Schur was executive producer for Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He wanted to do something different, and because of his success, NBC trusted him to bring this idea to the screen. I think a big part of it was that it was not something you would see on network TV. This is something you would see more on Netflix. On top of those things, Mike wanting to do something unique and different, and he succeeded.
Mike Schur has a signature comedic touch, and at the heart of it is/was positivity. Mike’s positive outlook on his comedies is what stands out. At this time especially, people need this escape, to laugh, to get to watch something with their families. We have come across a lot of fans who can say, ‘I watch this with my kids’ or have heard ‘Thank you for making a show I can watch with my whole family.’ Having this appeal helped connect us with larger audiences, and gave us a larger fan base.
AD: Jason is one of my favorite television characters over the last few years. How did you help shape the end to his story with your performance?
MJ: All the credit goes to Mike and the writing team. These writers including Mike do a great job adding growth and development to all of these characters
On my part it was just being truthful. On my part I can fall to playing dumb. One of the biggest nuggets Mike shared with me about Jason was that ‘Jason believes what he says.’ This helped me to channel how to deliver a line, or how to give Jason the depth and growth he had over the years. There is an earnestness to him, but truth at his core.
AD: I love watching Jason interact with Janet. Their relationship was incredibly sweet. What work did you do with D’arcy Carden as she was preparing to be Jason in the “Janets” episode?
MJ: We were all there for her on set while she was filming that episode. She was on set with six other doubles. While she was prepping for it, I remember talking to her about where Jason came from. I showed her a YouTube video to show Jason came from to get the essence of Jason. I still have never revealed to anyone outside of D’arcy what the Youtube video was, but she said that it truly helped her gather the essence of Jason
AD: What was your favorite Jason moment in the final season? (Spoilers)
MJ: My favorite moments were those ending moments with D’arcy in the woods when I wanted to give her the gift. I remember watching and even up until the final moment it got me once or twice, and I did not expect that. I love when Jason says, ‘Hey Chidi wait up!’ it was both a dumb Jason thing but also heartbreaking because he wants to see his friend again. It’s both simple but pure Jason
AD: You got the chance to work with a great ensemble, but I imagine working with the legend Ted Danson was pretty special. Was there any nugget or pearl of wisdom Ted shared with you?
MJ: Ted cared so much about this part. He came on set and would run his lines with his wife Mary. There were times when Ted would play something in a way you would not expect. He would take his performance in a different manner, and it would end up being so special. The choice where he reveals his true form, that he is actually a huge squid monster. I talked with Morgan about this performance. I thought he’d be more angry, but he made it more real and grounded. He was breaking down inside. In the end I learned two things you can take a performance in an unexpected direction, and to giving your work your all, it pays off.
AD: One final question and I would be remiss if I did not ask this, did you ever get to meet Blake Bortles?
MJ: (Laughs) I was 15 feet away, but we have not met in person. I hope we get to, because Jason was such a big Jaguar fan they have become my team in a way too.