NBC’s “The Good Place” may be one of the twistiest sitcoms out there, but what may shock its fans most of all is that star Manny Jacinto can actually string more than two words together.
Jacinto plays lovable dummy Jason Mendoza on the heaven-hell-and-all-the-places-in-between comedy, and does it so well that hearing him speak normally can be a bit jarring. Yet the Filipino Canadian actor actually holds a degree in applied science in civil engineering.
“Yeah, I do; it’s a little 180 that I kind of took, a degree in civil engineering,” he said during an Emmy Contenders chat in the Los Angeles Times video studio. “It’s in my back pocket if I ever need it, but hopefully I won’t ever have to take it out or use it. We’ll see.”
The soft-spoken actor admits playing ultra dumb requires thought.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned, especially with Mike [Schur, the showrunner] … or observing my peers is finding the truth in what he has to say,” he says, chuckling — presumably at the notion of what Jason’s truth might be at any given moment. “So ... regardless of how crazy the words are that come out of Jason Mendoza’s mouth, as long as he believes it, it’ll be truthful.”
Jacinto says during his callback for the role, there was a moment when he messed up on his lines.
“I was interacting with the reader and all of a sudden I kind of just stopped talking,” he says, “but it worked so well because he’s not always there.”
That Jason is dumb as a rock isn’t the only way the character doesn't fit the American mainstream stereotype of the Asian male — he's ripped, good-looking, and women dig him.
“It wasn’t necessarily always there, the fact that he’s, like, this attractive guy,” he notes, “but the writers like to make me squirm a little bit, and sweat. They’ve said very nice things about Jason’s aesthetic, and I thank them for that. It’s fun and it’s nice to see, as well, because it’s not something we always see, in the media, anyway.”
“The Good Place” is known for its clever plot movement — especially one of the single greatest sitcom plot twists ever, at the end of the first season — but Jacinto says it’s the show’s move toward heartfelt relationships and scenes that excites him most.
“I think when I read the end of our third season, we were — we had a lot to live up to because of the first, but I feel like the writers ended up taking a step toward pulling the heartstrings and finding the humanity in the group … not just having a big twist, but for lack of a better word, getting the tears out, getting the tissues out. I think that was one of the biggest challenges they brought to us, but also one of the biggest things that we looked forward to, especially with last season.”
To watch the entire interview, click on the video below.