Celebrities

How DArcy Carden “Yes, and”-ed Her Way to Stardom

Before she found herself with roles on two of the most acclaimed comedies on television, DArcy Carden “had a tendency to play nice, helpful moms, or 6-year-old boys.” This was on the subterranean stage at New Yorks U.C.B. Theatre, where Carden performed improv alongside a laundry list of fellow future TV stars, from Broad City creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer to Jason Mantzoukas.

“Is he the funniest man alive?” Carden says, rhetorically, when I bring up Mantzoukas. As it turns out, he was in the first improv show she ever saw—the long-running ASSSCAT—and Carden describes watching it as “a lightning moment where I was like, Oh my god. I have to do this. I need to do this. I don't know what it is, but I got to get on that stage.” Years later, she and Mantzoukas re-teamed on a primetime NBC sitcom to play, respectively, an all-knowing, Siri-esque “not a robot” named Janet, and the half-witted boyfriend she created for herself, named Derek.

The stardom Carden has found for herself, both on NBCs The Good Place and with a supporting role on the HBO series Barry, was unimaginable when she first came to New York as an actor in her early 20s. “I didnt really know that comedy was an option unless you were going to be a stand-up comedian, or maybe unless you were going to be on S.N.L.,” she said. “So I would always get cast in these Shakespeare plays as the funny old lady or the funny prostitute or whatever. And it still didnt quite click that I was a comedy actor.”

U.C.B. changed that—and after years of performing on the main stage while supporting herself as a temp and a nanny, she and her husband, Jason Carden, moved to Los Angeles in 2013. “I remember Adam [Pally, a friend from U.C.B.,] saying like, Its just like, a scientific fact. There are just more jobs out here,” Carden said. As she remembers it, the moment she moved to L.A., her old friends Glazer and Jacobson brought her back to New York for a recurring role on Broad City. But she still had “a couple of floundering around years in L.A.,” balancing writing and acting jobs with nannying.

“I did get to a point where I was like, “This isnt going to work for me,” she said. “Like, this dream isnt going to happen. But it was just O.K., because you get to do some things here and there, and you get to perform at U.C.B. all the time. The thing you wanted, that thing of, like, being in an amazing comedy—like, truly, a Mike Schur comedy, which was my dream for so many years—that thing that you wanted, that goal that you had, its just not going to happen. You missed it. Its too late. Lets be realistic. It sucks, but just keep doing what youre doing.”

One month later, she auditioned for The Good Place, created by none other than Mike Schur. Not long after, she shot the pilots for The Good Place and Barry within weeks of each other.

Through her “floundering” years, Carden watched many of her fellow U.C.B. alums—a list that also includes Zach Woods and Ellie Kemper—launch successful careers, a classic Hollywood story that usually ends with someone “accidentally” getting their leg broken or lying dead in a pool. But the tenets of improv, based on the “yes, and” concept of supporting your scene partners, kept the envy at bay. “Looking in from the outside, you would think that we would all be like kind of jealous monsters of each other,” Carden said. “I was in class with Aubrey Plaza when she got Funny People. You know what I mean? Like, were all just doing the same thing, and then someone gets plucked out.”

“The reason we get into improv instead of maybe stand-up or something—the deal with improv is that you want to support each other,” she continued. “You want to make your scene partner look like a genius, and trust that they will make you look like a genius. Its all about building each other up. So your foundation, your soul, feels like, oh, I just want these people to do good. I want the best for these people.”

Plus, Carden points out, a rising tide can lift all boats—especially in a TV landscape with more breakout comedy hits than it knows what to do with. “Like, look at Broad City, for example. Those are two of my closest friends. This incredible thing happens to them, and they know me, and they trust me, and they put me in the show. Like, whats good for them is good for me.”

Carden recently re-joined her Good Place castmates for the twisty NBC sitcoms third season, which picks up with its four main characters being sent back to Earth from the afterlife, working to prove they can actually become good people. Thus far, its an open question how this concept will make room for Janet, a creature of the Good Place—the shows equivalent of heaven—with no apparent role to play in the real-world dirtbag mecca of Jacksonville, Florida, where her unrequited love, Jason, has returned. Carden, of course, isnt explaining anything about the secretive series: “I have P.T.S.D. from that first year of like, Dont utter a word to anyone.” (Most of the shows cast, including Carden, didnt even know until halfway through the first season that The Good Place was building toward a big reveal.)

But she can at least gush about how shes bounced from one shaggy, happy comedy family to another. “[Mike Schur] doesnt allow dicks. So working at U.C.B. with all these nice, wonderful, kind, funny people and then going to The Good Place, where its dumb how nice these people are—oh my god.”

Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:21 Times Queen Elizabeth Wore Exactly the Right Thing to a Wedding

November 29, 1934

This Westminster Abbey wedding—between the Queens uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Princess Marina, daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark—is where she and the eventual Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, met. She was 8, and he was 14.Photo: From Haynes Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images.May 6, 1960

May 6, 1960

Queen Elizabeths sister, Princess Margaret, married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey. (She didnt serve as a bridesmaid; queens are not other peoples attendants.) It was the first British royal wedding to be televised, and for the occasion, royal designer Norman Hartnell made her a turquoise gown with a bolero jacket to match.Photo: By Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.June 8, 1961

June 8, 1961

The Queen wore a deep blush dress with matching hat and duster to the wedding of her cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and Katharine, Duchess of Kent, at York Minster.Photo: From Popperfoto/Getty Images.April 24, 1963

April 24, 1963

The popular Princess Alexandra of Kent is the Queens first cousin and served as a bridesmaid in Her Majestys wedding when she was 10. (And before Princess Elizabeth became Queen, the two were bridesmaids together in the wedding of Captain Lord Brabourne and Patricia Mountbatten.) Alexandra married the Honorable Angus Ogilvy at Westminster Abbey.Photo: From Popperfoto/Getty Images.April 29, 2011

April 29, 2011

Angela Kelly and team designed the Queens pale yellow, crepe-wool dress and matching hat for Kate Middleton and Prince Williams wedding. A particularly great feature is the pleats that resemble sunrays emanating from the collar, so Elizabeth looked like some kind of sun Queen.Photo: By Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images.July 30, 2011

July 30, 2011

The Queen chose the rare pale-pink look for her granddaughter Zara Phillipss wedding to the English rugby player Mike Tindall in Edinburgh.Photo: By David Hartley/Rupert Hartley/REX/Shutterstock.June 25, 2016

June 25, 2016

And yet, she chose a similar look thats subtly different for the wedding of Alexandra Knatchbull, great-granddaughter of the Queens cousin, Earl Mountbatten, and Thomas Hooper. Congratulations to the couple and to the Queens many successes as a very important wedding guest.Photo: By David Hartley/REX/Shutterstock.PreviousNext

November 29, 1934

November 29, 1934

This Westminster Abbey wedding—between the Queens uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Princess Marina, daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark—is where she and the eventual Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, met. She was 8, and he was 14.From Haynes Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images.

May 6, 1960

May 6, 1960

Queen Elizabeths sister, Princess Margaret, married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey. (She didnt serve as a bridesmaid; queens are not other peoples attendants.) It was the first British royal wedding to be televised, and for the occasion, royal designer Norman Hartnell made her a turquoise gown with a bolero jacket to match.By Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

June 8, 1961

June 8, 1961

The Queen wore a deep blush dress with matching hat and duster to the wedding of her cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and Katharine, Duchess of Kent, at York Minster.From Popperfoto/Getty Images.

April 24, 1963

April 24, 1963

The popular Princess Alexandra of Kent is the Queens first cousin and served as a bridesmaid in Her Majestys wedding when she was 10. (And before Princess Elizabeth became Queen, the two were bridesmaids together in the wedding of Captain Lord Brabourne and Patricia Mountbatten.) Alexandra married the Honorable Angus Ogilvy at Westminster Abbey.From Popperfoto/Getty Images.

November 14, 1973

November 14, 1973

The Queen plays mother of the bride at the wedding of her only daughter, Princess Anne, to Captain Mark Anthony Peter Phillips at Westminster Abbey. Her Majesty wore a royal-blue number with diamond-shaped details from—guess who?—Sir Norman Hartnell.By Anwar Hussein/Getty Images.

October 20, 1979

October 20, 1979

She put a pin in her typical matching outfit to do a color-blocked coat and turban for the wedding of Prince Charless Gordonstoun classmate Norton Knatchbull at Romsey Abbey.By Tim Graham/Getty Images.

July  29, 1981

July 29, 1981

The Queens mother-of-the-groom outfit for Prince Charles and Dianas wedding featured one of her favorite brooches. The 23.6-carat pink diamond in the middle was a wedding gift from Dr. John Williamson, a Canadian who owned the Tanzanian mine where the diamond was found. She had Cartier design and make the brooch in 1953, and has worn it for special occasions, including several more weddings, ever since.From Uncredited/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

July 23, 1986

July 23, 1986

Once again, the Queen plays mother of the groom for Prince Andrews wedding to Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey, this time in lilac and pearls.From Historia/REX/Shutterstock.

July 30, 1988

July 30, 1988

Her Majesty wears the rare patterned coat and dress to the wedding of James Ogilvy—son of the Queens cousin Princess Alexandra of Kent, the Honorable Lady Ogilvy—and Julia Rawlinson at St. Mary the Virgin Church. Though shes a guest at someone elses wedding, Queen Elizabeth is bound to stand out. As Caroline de Guitaut, the curator at the Royal Collection Trust, told The New York Times in 2016, “The Queen has always been aware that she needs to stand out from the crowd, and it is for this reason that millinery has always played an important role in her wardrobe.” She added that the hats, like the one above, are strategic, and made to ensure that “her face is fully visible, but also framed in a range of styles over the years that were often considered very avant-garde for their day.”By Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images.

December 12, 1992

December 12, 1992

The Queen may have had only one daughter, but she had two chances to be M.O.B. Anne re-married in the 90s to Vice Admiral Sir Timothy James Hamilton Laurence at Crathie Kirk. For the occasion, the Queen matched the tartan in head-to-knees emerald.From RA/REX/NRE/REX/Shutterstock.

October 8, 1993

October 8, 1993

Speaking of hats that show off the Queens face, she wore this upturned salmon pink one by Philip Somerville to her nephew Viscount Linleys wedding to the Honorable Serena Stanhope. The brooch she wore to Dianas wedding makes another appearance.By Michael Floyd/Daily Mail /REX/Shutterstock.

July 14, 1994

July 14, 1994

One of the Queens clear favorites, Princess Margarets daughter and her niece, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, married Daniel Chatto at a small ceremony of only 200 at St. Stephen Walbrook. (The church, a small 17th-century building in London, was supposedly chosen to keep the wedding party intimate.)From REX/Shutterstock.

July 1, 1995

July 1, 1995

On the opposite end of extravagance to Lady Sarahs wedding was the nuptials of Prince Pavlos to Marie-Chantal Miller. Nearly the entire royal family attended their ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Sophia in London. The pre-wedding dinner dance boasted 1,300 guests, and the reception involved a garden party with a tent that looked like the Acropolis. For the occasion, the queen wore lilac.By Tim Graham/Getty Images.

November 7, 1998

November 7, 1998

The Queen wore banana yellow to the wedding of Timothy Knatchbull and Isabella Norman, which she attended with Princess Margaret, who wore all green. She also chose a pearl and diamond brooch that once belonged to Queen Mary, and was passed down from Marys grandmother, Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge. Yes, its the Duchess of Cambridge brooch. (No word yet if it will be passed on to its current namesake.) Queen Mary wore it as a necklace to Elizabeths christening, as well as to Charless christening in 1948.By Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock.

June 19, 1999

June 19, 1999

Once again the mother of the groom, Queen Elizabeth broke out of her suit habit and wore a lilac dress to the wedding of her youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, to Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones at St. Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle. By now, she had been working with Angela Kelly, a dress maker and milliner, who became the personal assistant to the Queen in 2002, and has made, commissioned, or curated the Queens wardrobe ever since.By Tim Graham/Getty Images.

November 6, 2004

November 6, 2004

A royal purple for the wedding of Lady Tamara Grosvenor, daughter of the Duke of Westminster, and Edward van Cutsem. Edward is a friend of William, and Edwards dad, Hugh, was a friend of Prince Charles.By Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock.

April 9, 2005

April 9, 2005

Prince Charles and Camilla were married before this photo was taken, which is from the reception. The Queen skipped the ceremony, since both her son and Camilla were divorcées and she is the head of the Church of England.From ROTA-Pool/Getty Images.

May 17, 2008

May 17, 2008

Prince Harry kisses his grandmother on the cheek at her grandson Peter Phillipss wedding to Autumn Kelly at St. Georges Chapel in Windsor. The silk brocade coat and dress are by Angela Kelly, as is the thin crown of feathers. The headpiece is an unusual look for the Queen, but it abides by her main rules for headwear: out of her face and locked in, so her hands are free for waving.By Sang Tan/AFP/Getty Images.

April 29, 2011

April 29, 2011

Angela Kelly and team designed the Queens pale yellow, crepe-wool dress and matching hat for Kate Middleton and Prince Williams wedding. A particularly great feature is the pleats that resemble sunrays emanating from the collar, so Elizabeth looked like some kind of sun Queen.By Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images.

July 30, 2011

July 30, 2011

The Queen chose the rare pale-pink look for her granddaughter Zara Phillipss wedding to the English rugby player Mike Tindall in Edinburgh.By David Hartley/Rupert Hartley/REX/Shutterstock.

June 25, 2016

June 25, 2016

And yet, she chose a similar look thats subtly different for the wedding of Alexandra Knatchbull, great-granddaughter of the Queens cousin, Earl Mountbatten, and Thomas Hooper. Congratulations to the couple and to the Queens many successes as a very important wedding guest.By David Hartley/REX/Shutterstock.

Katey RichKatey Rich is the deputy editor of VanityFair.com.

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