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Kristen Bell worries Disney princesses teach her daughters bad lessons

Kristen Bell worries Disney princesses teach her daughters bad lessons

Parents magazine

When it comes to stranger danger and conversations around consent, Frozen’s Anna has a lot of questions for Snow White.
Kristen Bell: ‘I couldn’t be Stepford if I tried’

Kristen Bell: ‘I couldn’t be Stepford if I tried’

The Guardian

She’s made philosophy fun in The Good Place, has a model marriage and still finds time for charity work. No wonder Kristen Bell struggles to keep it all together

Thanks to The Good Place, Bell can now crisply outline the debate between Kantian and utilitarian philosophy. But at this moment, right in the middle of a sentence describing her personal belief in moral particularism, Bell is stumped by something she can’t explain. “Look at that. What is that?” she blurts, extracting a pair of industrial-sized shapewear knickers out of her purse. “I can’t explain.” Then she pulls out one sock, then an entirely different mismatched sock, and then a mangled sticking plaster. “I don’t know,” she sighs. Just one more mystery in the universe.

She is very visible – a blonde in a bright shirt in a restaurant where everyone else is wearing black, and the most famous face in the place – yet brandishing her underwear doesn’t make her blush. “One thing I really want to do publicly – like on social media – is a, ‘What’s in my bag?’” she says, referring to the fashion magazine features that are usually just plugs for lip gloss. “Like actually videotape myself and go, ‘This is no bullshit. Here is what’s in my fucking bag.’

In The Good Place, Bell would be forced to substitute “bullshirt” and “forking” for those swear words. On Earth, her goal is to tell everything like it is, as though every day is an exercise in Celebrity Demystification. She is publicly seen as a Very Good Person, an empath who volunteers for a half-dozen charities. Thanks to The Good Place – and honestly, just being a celebrity in these tumultuous, take-a-stand years – she is often turned to as an oracle of ethics. “I personally think it’s a responsibility that if you’re lucky enough to have been handed a microphone in your short time on this planet, use it. Use it.

Within her radius, I tip extra, and yet she still tips twice as much. And yet she prefers to play characters who are selfish creeps. “That’s what I feel like!” she protests. “Look, I consider myself a very nice person and there are plenty of times I want to scream at someone on the street. And Eleanor does that – she tells people to eat their farts.

Bell and her husband, the comedian and actor Dax Shepard, are aware that their marriage inspires awe. While they were dating, he surprised her on her birthday with a live sloth, and her ecstatic, sobbing meltdown went viral. The day the supreme court legalised gay marriage, she proposed to him on Twitter. Internet strangers reply to their tweets with hashtags such as #RelationshipGoals. Instead of leaning into the mystique, Bell prefers to talk about the hard work they do every day to stay together. Couples therapy, sobriety, the challenges of monogamy, and their constant bickering, which they recently allowed people to eavesdrop on during an episode of Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert, where they relitigated whether or not he gawped at her chest on their first date.

I’m the polar opposite of my husband and that is not hyperbolic. We disagree on 99.9% of things and we argue all the time,” says Bell with affection. The 0.1% of things they share, she notes, are crucial. “We both have the type of brain that likes to be stimulated by the devil’s advocate point of view, so it totally works.” Plus, they were both born in Michigan.

As a child, Bell was a talented mimic. She would repeat unusual accents, Broadway warbles, even entire Lee Press-On Nails commercials from memory. Her parents split up before she was born, so to help her single mother earn extra cash, Bell began modelling for local newspaper ads when she was a pre-teen. She was small and cute, which made her perfect for posing with karaoke machines and kids’ bikes. “Every now and then, someone would bring a circular to school and be like, ‘Is this you? Ew!’” says Bell. “Kmart underwear and training bras was particularly embarrassing.” Her mother, a practising Christian, enrolled her in a Catholic high school, where she heard all the conservative fear-mongering that kept her gay friends from musical theatre hidden in the closet. Despite her daily religion classes, Bell refused to mimic their homophobia. “Definitely, people in my community had the same idea about lifestyles they were unfamiliar with, but I never had a point where I remember going, ‘Oh, being gay is OK!’ I was always like, ‘What are you talking about?’”

I was so hungry for weirdos,” says Bell. “I couldn’t be Stepford if I tried.” She pauses and reconsiders. “Well, maybe I could fit that box, but I don’t want the people around me to fit that box.” So as soon as she graduated, she moved to New York. “My first memories were just being slack-jawed at the amount of stimuli from other people and immediately recognising that I found my people.” They were in her acting classes, in her first gigs on Broadway, and even today, she refers to the crew of The Good Place as “my family members”. Bell uses the word “tribe” a lot. It’s part of her current thinking about how humanity can improve. Now that she has producer-level clout, her last three projects have instituted what she calls a “no jerks policy”. This includes no sexual harassment, no making people uncomfortable, no passive aggressiveness, and if she spots a director being rude to a crew member, they won’t be hired back.

Recently, she went to a lecture by the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker and has fixated on caveman behaviour, which she refers to as the “outdated software in our brains”. Her cornerstone belief is that humans weren’t meant to live in large groups, not even places as fabulous as Manhattan. That we were meant to live in villages of 115 people, max, which is why we tend to be immediately suspicious of anyone unfamiliar. “If you and I met a couple thousand years ago in a field, we would probably kill each other,” she explains, with her friendliest smile.

Today, we’re less violent – at least, face to face – yet online, especially in 2018, that primal group-think is being battled with keyboards instead of clubs. “After the [presidential] election, the amount of hatred I saw from everywhere made me feel – and I could dare speak for my collaborators on the show – that The Good Place was more important.” This is good timing, as the show’s third season, which premieres on Netflix on Friday 28 September, starts off with Eleanor and her afterlife friends Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) alive and back on Earth with their deaths reversed, stumbling through a second chance at self-improvement, which comes with a new round of sinful temptations, such as when fatuous philanthropist Tahani publishes a best-selling book on enlightenment that gives her the Oprah-level fame she desperately craved.

There’s no bigger space that egos exist than in the non-profit world,” says Bell. Tahanis are real – and she would know. Bell’s current list of charities covers a staggering amount of ground: animal rights, prostate cancer, stem cell donation, Alzheimer’s disease, international child hunger, domestic chid poverty and young mothers raised in foster care. On birthdays, she and her friends prefer to furnish apartments for homeless people transitioning off the street rather than going out to a bar, and, this week, she will make her United Nations debut as an ambassador for the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund.

My job is not to go into politics,Bell stresses. “My job is that I have the ear of 18-year-olds because of The Good Place or Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” It is almost impossible to imagine how she fits everything in. “Honestly, every day you quit at seven, throw in the towel, scream, and then wake up and do it all over again,” she admits. “I know from the outside it can look like, ‘Oh! She’s got it so together! And has a career that looks nice and is doing all these things with these charities.’ But I am struggling to keep it together on a day-to-day basis, and I know that’s what everyone feels like, so that’s what I like to see in my characters.

Still, she is questioning how much Hollywood loves anti-heroes. There are plenty of them in the news – do we still need them on Netflix? (Witness Bell and Kelsey Grammer as an estranged daughter and father in Like Father.) Is there a way to break Hollywood’s insistence on pitting heroes against jerks, especially when most people, even her, are both? Bell points to Frozen, the Disney blockbuster for which she voiced the lonely Princess Anna. In the first versions of the script, the frosty Princess Elsa was more of a traditional bad guy. What if they broke the mould? “In the final draft, it was like, ‘No, not only does she not need to be forgiven for anything, she’s the most sympathetic character in the whole piece,’” says Bell. “It’s a much more complex story when there’s no villain.

“I want to watch someone fight for the underdog, I want to watch a hero without a cape,” says Bell. “I want to watch someone trying to be good like Eleanor.” Which means it’s the right time to resurrect Veronica Mars, the TV show about a teen detective that made her a household name. Next month, she is jumping back into production for eight new episodes that will premiere – in the US next year. “It’s not high-school crime any more,” says Bell. “It’s going to be Veronica as an adult, so it’s going to be different … and I mean that from an emotional perspective of what Veronica’s dealing with. She’s going to take on much bigger problems.

For now, though, Bell is continuing to handle her ordinary problems, such as answering her daughters’ questions about death. “When you tell [your kids] some gigantic mythical story that they can sense is not true, they know you’re lying to them,” she says. Reading her kids scripts of The Good Place as bedtime stories, with its flying shrimps and roguish devils, is out. Yet her kids seem to be absorbing her own straight-shooting spirit. Recently, while preparing for the death of their grandfather, her five-year-old shocked her with another huge question: Did she need to pack her toy shovel for when he passed away? And where were they burying the body? On the side of his house? Bell beams with pride. “She was all problem-solving!

Check the pictures in our gallery:

Photo Sessions & Outtakes > 2018 > The Guardian

Kristen Bell may play Veronica Mars again in Hulu Revival

Kristen Bell may play Veronica Mars again in Hulu Revival

Deadline – Rob Thomas’ cult favorite noir mystery drama Veronica Mars starring Kristen Bell is making another comeback, this time as an eight-episode limited series at Hulu.

I hear the streaming platform is finalizing deals for the new installment, with star Bell set to reprise her role as sleuth Veronica Mars. I hear there have been preliminary conversations about bringing back a number of the other cast members from the original series and follow-up movie.

Doing Veronica Mars is not going to interfere with Bell’s duties as star of the NBC comedy series The Good Place.

As he has done with all things Veronica Mars-related, Thomas is said to be shepherding the project through Warner Horizon TV, the cable/streaming division of Warner Bros TV, which produced the original series. Reps for Hulu and WBTV declined comment.

Created by Thomas, Veronica Mars was a critical darling and developed a devoted following during its three-season run from 2004-2007 on UPN and then on the CW.

Fueled by fan support, a successful Kickstarter campaign for a movie sequel launched in 2013 by Thomas and Bell raised $3.7 million in a matter of hours. The film, toplined by Bell and featuring a number of other original cast members, was released by Warner Bros in 2014.

The same year, Play It Again, Dick, a Veronica Mars digital spinoff series from Thomas, premiered on the CW’s Seed platform. It featured series co-star Ryan Hansen attempting to put together a Dick Casablancas-centered spinoff of Veronica Mars.

Hulu is the second streaming service to pursue a limited series revival of a beloved CW series. Netflix recently brought back Gilmore Girls for four follow-up movies, also from the original creator and featuring the original stars and also produced by Warner Horizon.

Bell is repped by CAA and Bailey Brand Management.

Kristen Bell opens up about her marriage to Dax Shepard

Kristen Bell opens up about her marriage to Dax Shepard

YOU Magazine 

Therapy, nudity and endless tubes of toothpaste: when it comes to having a successful Hollywood career and marriage, actress Kristen Bell has some incredibly frank and very funny advice…

As soon as Kristen Bell bounds into her publicist’s Beverly Hills office and leaps on to the sofa beside me, I can tell we are going to get along. The talented star of Forgetting Sarah MarshallBad Moms and Frozen (she was the voice of plucky Princess Anna) is quirky, charming and confiding, and we immediately bond over the ups and downs of being a mum.

Married to actor and director Dax Shepard, star of the TV series Parenthood, the couple live in Los Angeles with their daughters, five-year-old Lincoln, named after the iconic American president and the car (‘Dax has a 67 Lincoln that he’s been fixing up since he was 24’), and Delta, three. ‘I love my kids more than life itself, but they are also disgusting, feral creatures who live in my home. My daughter gave me pinworms recently,’ says Kristen, chatting nineteen to the dozen.

We’ve got together to discuss the 38-year-old actress’s latest role in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, a ‘funny and irreverent’ animated film based on the TV series. The Teen Titans [young superheroes who want to be taken seriously by the heavy hitters] ‘believe they deserve their own movie like all the other superheroes. I play Jade, a director who wants to make a film with them. She is exactly how you’d imagine a Hollywood director to be: big promises, sweeping statements and she’s a bit of a control freak.Kristen loves animation: ‘There is something challenging about only having your voice to convey emotion and leaving it to the animators to come up with your facial expressions.

Lincoln and Delta must be thrilled that their mum is in the coolest family films. ‘They don’t care!’ she says. ‘They assume all parents voice cartoons. They’ve seen Frozen and one of them has the Elsa dress…not mine!’ Her daughters are under no illusion about the mechanics of cartoons. ‘When we watch [the TV show] PAW Patrol and a scary dragon appears, my little one says, “That’s not a dragon. It’s a man making a voice in the microphone,” and I’ll go, “You’re absolutely right.” We tell them all about the messiness of life.

We order lunch and she launches into a hilarious diatribe about her husband’s questionable culinary skills. ‘He calls himself “This Doctor”. One time, he decided to eat only broccoli for a week. He said it was “This Doctor’s First Superfood Cleanse”. It lasted four days! Now he is on a kick where he is only cooking meals we had as children in Michigan [Dax and Kristen were both raised in the Midwestern state], made with mayonnaise, Ritz crackers or a can of beans. He calls it “This Doctor’s First Worst Superfood Cleanse”.’

Kristen loves to cook, ‘but Dax has no desire to eat my food,’ she sighs. ‘When we met, I was desperate to impress him. I’d be wearing jeans shorts, cooking a three-course meal… No interest from Dax,’ who would ‘suffer through it’ and then suggest a takeaway. ‘He is the only man I know who doesn’t want a 1950s housewife.

Together for 11 years and married for five, the couple had a pact not to walk down the aisle until same-sex marriage became legal in California. ‘Dax makes me laugh even when I’m angry at him. He’s also romantic.Kristen’s favourite animals are sloths (‘They make me happy’) and, with the help of an expert, Dax ‘once arranged to have a sloth in our living room so I could learn about it. It was the nicest present I’ve ever received.

Kristen is candid about the challenges of relationships. ‘We fight about everything,’ she says, recalling how she used to get so frustrated with her husband that ‘I would slam the door to the room we were in, slam the door of the house, slam the car door and drive around the corner,’ before cooling off.

Couples counselling has helped, with Kristen and Dax learning how to defuse potentially volcanic rows before they escalate. Their therapist told Kristen: ‘The next fight you have, you can slam the front door, but don’t get in your car; then the fight after that, you can mentally slam the door.’ Five months later, all door slamming, both real and imaginary, had stopped. ‘We still fight, but don’t take disagreements to heart. I know he’s on my team. If you have a long marriage that thrives without therapy, please call me because you are a unicorn!

Counselling, says Kristen, has helped her to understand that everyone has deep-seated patterns, rooted in childhood. An example is her husband’s idiosyncratic shopping rituals. ‘He will buy 30 of the same item: toothpaste, butter, anything. I’m like, “We don’t have space.” Now I realise he thinks everything is going to run out because he grew up poor. So rather than try to change him, I reorganised the laundry room. I know he needs to have 30 tubes of toothpaste available at all times.

As for her own behaviour? ‘I think I’m perfect,’ she jokes, before revealing that her own ‘annoying habit is talking a lot, in a nonlinear fashion. This is how Dax describes me telling a story: “I saw Sarah at the grocery store – you know, Sarah, who I knew when I was living with my mum, before she had her boyfriend Dick – but not the second Dick, the one with the kid, also named Sarah…”’ Kristen takes a deep breath. ‘He’s like, “What is the story here?”’Dax ‘now understands that because I’ve always been small and didn’t get listened to when I was a kid, I struggled with feeling that nothing I said was of value. That’s why I have this scattered approach when I talk, because I’m trying to be heard.’ She gives me a friendly tap on the shoulder. ‘Good luck making sense of anything I say,’ she laughs.

One reason their marriage works is because they ‘have splendid debates and hate the same things: unkind people and a lack of self-responsibility’. They also share a similar approach to parenting. While liberal in some respects (‘We let the girls wear what they want – my five-year-old wears ballet leotards exclusively’), Kristen says that discipline is also important. ‘Other than at weekends, the girls can only watch television once a week when we all watch Planet Earth.

The family are delightfully laid-back about nudity. ‘I’m naked way more than anyone else I know – but not on purpose. If it’s 7am and I’m trying to get dressed and one of the kids is begging for yoghurt, I will forget that I don’t have a top on.’ Is she body confident? ‘I have a fine body; I’ve had two children. I don’t dwell on it. I hope I bring something to the table with my personality, not because I have a flat stomach.

The couple will not be expanding their family, says Kristen, who had a pregnancy scare when Delta was 11 weeks old, while she was filming The Boss. ‘I told Dax, “I feel nauseous. I need you to get me a pregnancy test” and I saw the blood drain out of his face. It was a false alarm, but four days later he got a vasectomy.

Kristen’s parents – Lorelei, a nurse, and Tom, a television executive – split up when she was two, but she says she had a happy childhood with her two stepsisters and four half-siblings. She viewed divorce as ‘just having more people who loved me’. She says, ‘I’m a positive person. When I was 16, if I was in a fight with my mum, I would drive to my dad’s and vice versa, which was amazing!

I’ve rarely met someone as upbeat as Kristen, yet as a teenager she suffered from depression. Although she won a place at New York University, some of her experience was pretty distressing. ‘I dealt with a lot of ups and downs. The ups were super-exciting. I was getting auditions and I had a boyfriend who loved me, yet little things upset me. If a piece of clothing didn’t fit, or my toothbrush fell into the rubbish bin, tears would come down my face. Nothing was really wrong, but I felt sad. It was scary,’ she says.

She learned that ‘both my grandmother and my mum dealt with depression, so there is a hereditary line. We’re not going to figure out where depression comes from, but we have the opportunity to treat it and have better lives.’ Since her student days, Kristen has taken antidepressants. ‘I don’t believe in over-prescrbing anything, but I have a serotonin imbalance, which is akin to having diabetes.

There are concerns about her children inheriting the condition. ‘I’ll have the same conversation with them that my mum had with me: “Sometimes you might feel sad and not know why. If you feel that way, talk to me.” I don’t want them to feel there’s a stigma.’ The girls are encouraged to express their feelings. ‘I tell them, “Don’t be afraid of your emotions – you’re allowed to cry”.’

By confronting her issues, Kristen has fostered resilience in her personal life and career. She has starred in the popular TV shows Veronica Mars and Heroes and gained a following as the enigmatic narrator of Gossip Girl. Her big-screen breakthrough was the 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall with Russell Brand. ‘I adore Russell; he has a lot of cuckoo opinions, but so do I,’ says Kristen.

Her most celebrated role has been Anna in the Oscar-winning Frozen. The film subverts ‘prince rescuing princess’ stereotypes: ‘The boy doesn’t matter. It’s about a girl [Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel] who’s struggling because she doesn’t want to be who she actually is – a queen. People wanted to see Elsa accept who she is. That’s what every little person who lives inside us wants.’ In next year’s Frozen 2, ‘the sisters are back in the kingdom of Arendelle. It tells the bigger story about these girls and who they are meant to be.

Kristen has the knack of tapping into the zeitgeist with the roles she chooses. ‘It’s just luck,’ she says, ‘but one secret is saying yes a lot. When you think things are beneath you, you miss out on a lot of fun.

Her latest TV series is the brilliantly inventive hit sitcom The Good Place. She stars as the self-centred Eleanor Shellstrop, who when she dies ends up in a heaven-like utopia because of what appears to be a bureaucratic error. ‘The premise is: What if an a**hole got into heaven?’ In this pristine place, bad language is banned and, when Eleanor tries to swear, the words come out distorted, as ‘shirt’ or ‘fork’ or ‘ash-hole’. ‘I swear all the time and on set when I’m supposed to say fork, I still say f***. I have to train myself.’ Eleanor decides to earn her place by trying to be good.

Ted Danson plays the mercurial Michael, an angel who oversees the afterlife community. ‘Ted is like a 16-year-old boy – goofy, funny and kind,’ says Kristen. Moral philosophy is at the heart of the series, which is about ‘how every choice you make affects someone else’, she says. The show’s creator, Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation), dreamt up the concept for The Good Place after becoming aware that he would only tip the staff in his local coffee shop when they were looking his way. ‘He wanted to explore how selfishness and greed exist in us. But we all have empathy and goodness, too. If you nurture those qualities, they will rise to the top.Kristen’s philosophy? ‘Being good involves practice. If you choose it consistently, it starts to become second nature. I strive to promote happiness and alleviate suffering however I can. How we relate to one another is important.

Which brings us back to the subject of relationships and why they work. Kristen has been quoted as saying that monogamy is tough. ‘I see the benefits of a society with monogamous relationships, but it’s difficult because you’re still attracted to other people,’ she says. ‘Dax was in an open relationship in his 20s and it scared me when we first started dating. We don’t have one and I don’t know if we ever will.

Kristen believes that if both partners are secure, there is no need for jealousy. ‘I think what alleviates the pressure-cooker of monogamy is understanding that your partner’s attraction to someone else is nothing to do with you. I talk about who I’m attracted to in front of Dax, and he’ll say: “I could never pick your type out in a line-up”.’ Her line-up, by the way, includes actors Benicio del Toro, Riz Ahmed and Peter Dinklage. ‘If I ever get to make out with Riz, Dax will give me a round of applause!

Likewise, says Kristen, ‘I’ve told Dax that if, one day, Jennifer Lopez comes up to him and says, “I need a weekend away with you in Sonoma [a romantic city in California’s wine region],” you have to go now, because I am clear that Jennifer Lopez’s beauty is not a reflection on me not being good enough. Here’s the thing,’ she says. ‘I love this man and I would not want him to be on his deathbed thinking, “I could have had sex with Jennifer Lopez…”’

Can-do for Kristen

FAVOURITE BREAKFAST Takeaway porridge that comes in cardboard cups. They are great because the last thing you want in the morning is to leave the house with the kids for school, knowing there is a pile of dishes waiting for you at home.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Nothing. Other than my three-year-old. I’m a good sleeper.
GO-TO SONG Toto’s ‘Africa’. It’s one of the best songs ever written – Dax and I used it to get pumped up for a trip to Africa we took – so it has a special significance. It jazzes us up every time we hear it.
PLAN B I would explore working with kids because I can communicate really well with them. Maybe I’d be a nursery-school teacher.
LAST TIME YOU CRIED Reading the book It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora Mclnerny Purmort. I cry all the time. When have I not cried?
HIDDEN TALENT I can read a room really well and tell what people are like right away.
BIGGEST FLAW THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU Scrappy, kind, energetic.
WHERE ARE YOU HAPPIEST? In a pile on the couch with our ‘bunnies’ (Dax calls all the girls in our family bunnies).
MOTTO I live by the quote ascribed to Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies will be in cinemas nationwide on 3 August. The Good Place seasons one and two are available on Netflix

Kristen Bell and Ted Danson Dish on ‘The Good Place’ and Their Real-Life Bad Places

Kristen Bell and Ted Danson Dish on ‘The Good Place’ and Their Real-Life Bad Places

The Wrap – Don’t put Danson behind a bar or take him to an escape room, the way Bell recently did.

This story about Kristen Bell, Ted Danson and “The Good Place” first appeared in the Comedy/Drama/Actors issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

Heaven or hell? Devil or angel? And does it even matter?

NBC’s delightful comedy series “The Good Place” started out as a vision of paradise, albeit a rather odd and completely secular paradise; it ended its first season with the show-shattering reveal that our human characters had actually been spending their time in a radical new version of hell designed to get them to torture each other rather than leaving that job to the pros.

And in Season 2, the show from “Parks and Recreation” creator Mike Schur kept upending itself in the most delicious of ways.

This is a show that can make hell kind of charming and give a fun, cuddly twist to the afterlife. Kristen Bell somehow makes us root for a woman whose self-obsession knows no bounds but who’s smarter and maybe even nicer than she lets on. Ted Danson was a scene stealer even in the first season as a human-torturing demon who had to hide his true nature from the other characters and from the audience.

(Granted, words like demon may not be appropriate for an altogether nonreligious and bureaucratic afterworld; he’s middle management at best, and not very good at his job of torturing humans.)

On a break early in the filming of Season 3, Bell and Danson discussed the pleasures and challenges of a show that delights in blowing up its own premise over and over. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

Season 2 must have been a real kick for you, Ted, because you finally got to…
TED DANSON Be who I am. Yeah, it was really fun. And it was easier to find the funny, because funny usually is this kind of triangular thing between you, another character and the audience. But I had no relationship to the audience in Season 1. They never saw me in a private moment, or I would have been twirling my mustache.

Would you have taken the part without the knowledge that eventually you were going to get to show who this guy really is?
DANSON Oh, I would have done it. I signed on before I saw a script. I knew that Kristen was likely going to do it. I then listened to Mike Schur empty his mind for an hour and tell me everything he knew about the show and the twist. And I really signed up for Mike Schur.

KRISTEN BELL He can tell a story with detail that is frightening, like a computer. “Here’s what I want to do in Episode 9, and it’s a callback to Episode 6…” And I’m like, “You haven’t even written the pilot, bro! Slow down!”

DANSON Is this the first job you’ve taken when you haven’t read a script?

BELL Yeah. Wow. Yeah. We were sold on the idea, with the twist, and with his commitment to cliff-hangers and pulling the rug out from under people. I just thought, “What a goal. Let him try, I’d love to be a part of it.”

I feel as if Ted needed to know the twist to play his part, but you didn’t.
DANSON But she needed to know in order to take the part.

BELL Well, yes and no. Mike is an unparalleled collaborator, and I think he had respect enough for me to say, “I would like you to know what you’re signing up for.” So he opened the whole kimono that day.

Was it frustrating to hide who this guy was, Ted?
DANSON I don’t know about frustrating, because I had my hands full just trying to fulfill the script. But watching it, I would go, “You’re either doing a really good job, Ted, or that’s some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen.” And I couldn’t quite make up my mind.

BELL Around Episode 8 of the first season, my husband [Dax Shepard] said, “I love your show, but my one critique is that Ted is just wildly underused. He’s just kind of one-note.” And I didn’t tell him the twist, because I can keep a secret.

DANSON [Silently mouths] I can’t.

BELL I couldn’t tell him that there was a very specific reason you’ve never seen Michael on camera by himself, that all those choices were leading up to something wonderful.

DANSON It was hard.

BELL Keeping the secret?

DANSON No, that was easy, because I didn’t. But I didn’t know how to be funny.

BELL I don’t think you realize how funny it is when you’re bumbling.

DANSON I don’t.

BELL It’s pretty cute.

So Kristen, were you looking forward to working with the unleashed Ted Danson in Season 2?
BELL Big time. That terrifying cackle he gave at the end of Season 1, I was like, “What is in store?”

What’s in store is that Michael changes — he starts the season torturing humans and ends as something of a guardian angel.
DANSON Well, he’s madly in love with humans. And I think he recognizes that Eleanor’s way smarter than he is.

BELL I agree.

DANSON He watches her change and still be doomed. And if you can change in the afterlife, you should be able to garner points or something. The system sucks, and it just seems horribly unfair to him that people he’s grown to love don’t stand a chance to be in the Good Place.

As a viewer, I have no idea where the show is going in Season 3. You blew up the premise at the end of Season 1, then took the setting for both seasons and stuck it in a museum on hell. The humans are back on Earth, but for how long?
DANSON Nice try, thinking you can get us to tell you something about Season 3. Not me.

BELL It’s impossible not to say at the end of each of our seasons, “Where on Earth are they going to put us?” No pun intended. “What is going to happen, how could we possibly raise the stakes?” But they figure it out. They are given a problem in that writers room and they figure it out. I don’t even know how they do it, but it’s fascinating what they do.

Kristen, when you were on TheWrap’s comedy actors panel, you talked about how we’re in a time where we need heroes who are good — that we’re not looking for Walter White or Tony Soprano anymore. Do you think this is a show for its time?
BELL I do. I think that when your reality is comfortable, you can be entertained by something uncomfortable. When your reality is more uncomfortable, I think you want to see people fighting for good. You want to see something relatable: “Oh, those people are in a crazy/s—ty situation as well, and they’re figuring it out, and they have hope and drive.”

I think that’s why our show has been successful, because people enjoy that these characters are fighting for goodness amidst all their bumbling complexities and idiotic behavior.

DANSON When I think about Mike Schur, one of the things I think about is that he’s a decent man. And I think to talk about decency and ethics and consequences and do it with a 9-year-old’s fart sense of humor and magical visual effects, it’s just brilliant.

Was the morality of it, for lack of a better word, one of the reasons you were interested?
DANSON I don’t think I got it until I started watching the shows and would see Eleanor wrap up a little moral to our story. It took me a while to get it. You must have gotten it faster.

BELL For sure. In that love fest with Mike in our first meeting, I realized that he, too, has long been preoccupied with what it means to be a good person. I felt a connection with him.

So you have that preoccupation as well?
BELL Oh, yeah. It began as your regular old therapeutic codependency. I wanted to please people, and I want to be liked, and I’m afraid to disappoint people. And in learning how to manage that a little bit more, and figure out how to be good to myself with self-care and boundaries, I realized that a lot of my codependency was things that I really enjoyed, and some of it wasn’t codependency at all. It was just who I wanted to be.

There is a part that recognizes that good behavior makes me feel good. Who knows if there will ever be a reward, but the reward of feeling good is enough for me right now.

Ted, was it as much fun for you as it was for the audience when you showed up as a bartender in a scene late in Season 2?
DANSON No! I hate getting behind a bar. It took me a year on “Cheers” to not be embarrassed or shy. I was so not a bar person or a confident Romeo. I was a backwards, shy kind of kid. Took me almost a year to get that Sam Malone relief-pitcher, bartender arrogance. So having stopped that, I seriously have anxiety stepping behind a bar. It was a great scene, but I was so uncomfortable.

Had you two met before this series?
BELL We had. My husband and I had just watched the first season of “Damages,” which is so good. Ted plays Arthur Frobisher, and we were so obsessed with it that for that year or two, we changed our alias to get mail to Holly and Arthur Frobisher.

Then I booked this movie called “Big Miracle,” which Ted was also in. And I met him for the first time in Alaska in this lobby of the hotel. And I said, “Hello, Mr. Danson, my name is Kristen Bell. I don’t want to freak you out, but I do want to let you know that I am checked into this hotel as Holly Frobisher.” And he was like, “Oh, OK. Very nice to meet you.” I realized in retrospect that was maybe not a good opener.

DANSON Captain Cook.

BELL It was the Captain Cook Hotel. Did it freak you out when I told you I was checked in as Mrs. Frobisher?

DANSON Well, maybe.

BELL Did you, like, tell the ADs to keep me away?

DANSON No. And now that I know you and Dax, I can see how much fun you must have had doing it.

BELL Oh, we loved it.

I hear you took Ted to his first escape room, and I’m wondering if there will be a second.
DANSON No. No f—ing way.

BELL Shut up! There will be a second escape room. First of all, if Mary [Steenburgen, Danson’s wife] and I have anything to say about it, there will be.

DANSON Mary is dying to go again.

BELL I should have done more research, so this one is on me. I should have realized that this was an escape room where A, they split your group up, which is already no fun, and B, they turn off the lights, so it’s pitch black. You are given flashlights, and Ted just sat down on the little twin bed that was in the room and handed Dax his flashlight…

DANSON And just stretched out.

BELL Meanwhile, Mary was killing it on our side. She was an amazing detective.

DANSON It wasn’t just that the lights were out and I like to take naps. It’s also that I was with the guys, and the guys are meant to relax. If I’m around women, I’m up and interested. If it’s the guys, I’m gonna stretch out. There’s no one to impress.

Getting back to your show, do you have any ideas of how you’d like things to end for your characters?
DANSON I can guarantee that whatever I could possibly imagine would fall so short of whatever comes out of Mike’s noggin.

BELL Ditto. Yeah. We know our place, and we’re so happy to live here.

It’s a good place?
BELL Exactly. I have no problem leaving the heavy lifting up to them.

Read more of TheWrap’s Comedy/Drama/Actors Emmy issue here.

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