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Remote Controlled: ‘The Good Place’ Star Ted Danson on His ‘Delicious’ Role

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In  this week’s episode, Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, talks with “The Good Place” star Ted Danson about his hit NBC comedy, which he calls “delicious.”

Danson says navigating the intricately plotted series has gotten easier as he’s settled into the role. “The humor was more recognizable to me,” he says. But now that his character, Michael, has been revealed to the audience as a demon. “You got to see what was going on in behind the curtain, which is an easier joke to play as well. When the ruse is clear to everybody, the humor is easier.”

Danson praises the show’s creator, Michael Schur, as one of the brightest people he’s ever met — and for creating a show that’s “about something,” he says — about ethics, and how we each navigate them. “Everything you do has consequences,” says Danson. “That’s a really good thing to put out into the world. And do it in a funny way.”

That’s the combination that makes the show work, he says. “It’s about what it means to be a good person, but it’s wrapped in this 9-year-old boy sense of humor,” he says. “And it has visual magic. So the medicine goes down, delightfully.”

Ted Danson photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled Podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Danson says choosing who he works with is a lesson he’s learned over the course of his career when it comes to selecting projects. “I realized my job as an actor is to find the most creative person in the room, and then to ask very nicely if I can part of it,” he says. “It’s more likely to be authentic.”

Although he doesn’t get to improv on “The Good Place,” he does get to flex that muscle when he works with Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “Your job on ‘Curb’ is pretty clear: it’s to corner Larry, and push him farther and farther into a corner until he explodes and becomes more Larry,” he says.

He credits David with changing his life career-wise. “I felt like I’d stayed too long at the half-hour comedy party, and other people were doing it way better than I was,” he says. “I was at a loss. Then I did ‘Curb’ and it was so playful and relaxing and easy, it made me excited about being an actor again.”

You can listen to this week’s podcast here.

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

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