John Hartman speak with ATM about his roles on The Good Place, Young Sheldon, & Modern Family. Hartman dives in more on these shows from his point of view.
JH: The show points out the intentions behind someone’s actions. There are a lot of people who do good because they think they are supposed to. They are doing more for the appearance of what it is instead of actually doing it. It is all about the intention behind the action.
Gaby: What do you think is the main character’s problem on The Good Place in trying to maintain her life?
JH: She struggles most with fitting in. She has this struggle with essentially thinking she is not going to be accepted into a community or group of friends. She latches out and makes herself an island. She becomes this person who is completely on her own. Whenever she does something bad and her behavior is bad, she can say, “Well I was destined for his. I was always going to be the outsider.” She puts herself in all of these situations.
Gaby: How can someone see something good in a bad situation?
JH: Right. This is tricky. Primarily it has to do with putting yourself in the mindset where you have to make your body get to this place. You have to look at things from a more positive and optimistic standpoint. It is easy to be like, “This would probably not work out.” This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you do this the more these things will happen. The more you put out into the world that you are like, “Hey, things can work out.” It is about putting out the right energy. Things end up inevitably going the right way. A lot of it is the power of positive thinking, to use like a cliche from self-help books.
Gaby: Talk about your role.
JH: My character name is Joe. I do not think you ever hear his name on the show. He lives in Phoenix. I am present at the moment of Eleanor’s, played by Kristen Bell, death. I am an environmentalist. She is annoyed by me. I talk to her every day outside of the grocery store.
The script is very guarded, and they are very secretive about The Good Place, which is good. I think they do not want anything to get out about the plot. When you get what you are doing in the script, they only segment what your part is. You do not get to read the rest of it.
You may not know what the rest of the story is until you watch on TV like anyone else. I was pleased when she went back on earth later. She gets to interact in her attempts to be good, she goes and starts helping at my organization. It is funny that she thinks my character is annoying and a do-gooder. In one of her sorts of half-hearted attempts early on in trying to be good, this is what I am talking about in terms of trying to be good because she is supposed to be doing it. This is why she comes to my place. She quickly starts to flake on it and is not showing up and gives up on it. It is fun because I get yelled at in all my scenes by Kristen Bell.
JH: It is so different nowadays. This is why the show tries to show it can be anything of these of things. A modern family is truly whatever you call a family. It can be eight moms and a dad. A mom and dad with two kids like a 1950s traditional family. Or it can be no parents, an aunt, an uncle and 8 eights that run a household. Whatever you call it and you make it work and the people that live under the same roof love each other. I think this is a family.
Gaby: How important do you think our society views family?
JH: Even without the things going on in the world and how things have changed so much, society really values the family. Depending on which side of the country you live on you may look at it differently and it may be more of what you were brought up believing. People have become more open-minded about different kinds of families. From nontraditional same-sex couples as well as interracial marriages and families. It has become a lot more accepted and I am optimistic about this.
Gaby: How did your character as the Dragon Slayer fit into this show?
JH: There is this Game of Throne type show. They are at a comic-con event. The character played by Ty Burrell spoils a big part of this show that has no come out yet. He tells all the fans who are so angry at him. This is another fun scenario where I get to dress up in full medieval costume for this and it was not just cosplay, it was real and heavy. This is also a scenario where I get to be yelled at a bunch. In the episode, Ty Burrell gets mad. I get to turn the tables and get a little angry as well. I am pissed off that he spoiled the show. It was fun.
Gaby: Do you like playing a character that likes getting yelled at by other characters?
JH: Sort of. It is fun. I heard Larry Davis say that once that he loves getting yelled at by other people on his show. And I ended on that show, Curb Your Enthusiasm. I got to do the yelling and yelling at him for a bunch. He was laughing, and I could see the element of it being fun. It is not being yelled at for real. Seeing someone express a huge emotion right in your face, there is something kind of amusing about this.
Gaby: Let’s move on to Young Sheldon. What do you think about the younger Sheldon providing a younger version of the Sheldon on Big Bang Theory?
JH: I think it is great. It is nice that it is different than what people expected. It is not another multi-camera sitcom. It is kind of like the Wonder Years with the voice over. Jim Parsons does the voice over for the Young Sheldon. This is a great way to combine the two. You hear older Sheldon whenever you are looking at the younger one. This show is surprisingly sweet. It is nice how they portray a kid that is different. He has to go through growing up and being the odd one out.
Gaby: How do you feel about young child stars portraying comedy? Is there a different effect of when adults are portraying comedic roles?
JH: Oh sure, but in a way, it is not totally different. Iain Armitage, who plays Sheldon is so talented. He has quite a background in musical theater. He is already such a gifted actor. When they are doing comedy, there is certainly going to be, occasionally with kids, jokes they may not know why it is funny. The great thing about a lot of kids is that they want to do anything, and they do it so earnestly like they aren’t at an age where they are to cool for school. Or they are sarcastic or putting up these defense mechanisms that we do when we get to become adults. They are game for anything. This is what makes them so engaging and watchable whether it is a comedy or otherwise, but for comedy.