Emmy nominee William Jackson Harper, who’s best known for playing neurotic Philosophy professor Chidi on “The Good Place,” stars as a newly divorced man on Season 2 of “Love Life” on HBO Max.
“I wanted to play certain things closer to who I am in life,” Harper, 41, told The Post. “I feel like I’m often called upon to be a little bit more enthusiastic and a little bit more bright and ‘up’ than I actually am. In a lot of ways, [my ‘Love Life’ character] Marcus’ persona is closer to how I move through the world than anything else that I’ve done.”
But, he notes that the show presented a new challenge in the form of having him “get naked every other episode.”
Premiering Thursday (Oct. 28), “Love Life” this season follows Marcus, a successful book editor who finds himself at a crossroads in life and love after his marriage falls apart.
Season 1 followed Darby (Anna Kendrick), a twentysomething stumbling through dating and work adventures in New York. Season 2 overlaps slightly (Marcus attends Darby’s wedding in the first episode), but otherwise his story is new. After he meets Mia (Jessica Williams) at Darby’s wedding, Marcus begins to realize that his marriage to Emily (Maya Kazan) is stale.
Mia (Jessica Williams) and Marcus (William Jackson Harper, right) begin connecting when are both already in other relationships. Although “Love Life” Season 2 has a new plot, Marcus (William Harper Jackson) goes to Darby’s (Anna Kendrick) wedding in the first episode. “After watching the first season, I really felt like [the show] wasn’t just about ‘dating is hard.’ It was more of a character study of a person trying to figure out how to be a person, looking at it through the lens of dating and relationships,” said Harper. “But that’s not the be-all and end-all; it’s a larger character study of what it was to be someone in your 20s in New York, trying to figure your life out.”
Marcus (William Jackson Harper) is a book editor in “Love Life” Season 2. Marcus is about a decade older than Darby, but that made his struggle even more appealing, Harper said.
“The thing that drew me in about playing Marcus was that this is a guy who thought he had it figured out, and very much does not,” he said. “It’s interesting to show someone having this weird kind of identity crisis … To be a grown man — not right out of college, but an adult who’s been around for a while — and still be making huge mistakes. Not understanding certain things felt very truthful to me.”
Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Michael (Ted Danson), and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) in “The Good Place.” Although “Love Life” shares some similarities with “The Good Place,” in dipping into rom-com territory, Harper said that wasn’t his goal.
“I don’t really think about genre too much when I think about projects. It’s, ‘Is the character interesting, is the story going to do something kind of wacky or unexpected?’ That’s what I lean into a lot more. The genre could be anything, as long as it does something that I feel is a little bit unexpected.”
As for Chidi, he lives on in pop culture infamy while “The Good Place,” which ended last year, enjoys a continued life in streaming (it’s currently on Netflix). Fans don’t approach Harper about it “daily,” he said, but, “It happens every now and again. In New York, folks don’t care, they’re just like, ‘Oh, there’s that guy from that thing!’ and that’s enough. But [sometimes], folks approach me and say they were really affected by the show. And that’s always really nice.”