“I grew up in the Bay Area, and what you should know about me is that my family is a theater family. We just really like going to see anything on a stage, so it didn’t take much for me to become obsessed with plays. I did so much community theater as a kid. My first acting role was in ‘Guys and Dolls,’ and I played one of the suit and fedora-wearing gangsters with no lines. Looking back, I so clearly was supposed to do comedy because I’ve been playing an old lady or the man since I was ten. I studied theater at Southern Oregon University, which has one of the best Shakespeare companies in the country. It’s very respected, so to get to be a little part of that was awesome. But as soon as I graduated I was like, 'Get me to New York as soon as possible.'
Anything that has humor is where I live. When I came to New York and I had a couple of floundering years, I went to UCB on a whim. I had never done improv before, and all I knew about UCB was that Amy Poehler was one of the founders. It was a life-changing experience. Within minutes my world shifted—it was almost the feeling I had as a kid seeing A Christmas Carol, where it’s like, ‘Woah! You can do that?’ I took a million classes and fell in love with it—I’m still obsessed. It gave me a home for ten years in New York, when I was not really sure what my home was. I thought I would spend a couple years here and then move to LA, and instead I spent almost 11 years because I thought I was meeting the coolest people I will ever meet at UCB.
I feel like as an actor, we audition and audition and audition, but in comedy—more often than not—you hire people you’ve already worked with. Like Broad City, for example. It was sort of my first TV job, and I’ve been friends with those girls since we were in level one [at UCB]. I could say it came from an audition because I auditioned, but of course it didn’t—it came from years of trusting each other on stage. I remember not even being bothered that my scene got cut from the pilot. I was like, ‘I’m so proud of my friends, they’re making this show.’ And then they found another role for me later—they just were looking out for me—and I always am so grateful for that. They’re two of my best friends and I love and respect them so much. Every time I’m on their set I just have to take them aside and be like, ‘Thank you for changing my life.’ [Laughs]
So what’s being on The Good Place like? Oh, it’s just the dream of all dreams. I feel so confident about what it is—it’s a show that I’m like, ‘If you watch it, you will love it.’ Playing Janet is interesting because when you’re playing somebody who’s not a real human, but who’s also not a regular old robot, you have to find this balance between being emotionless and engaging. It’s not going to be engaging to watch someone that’s just like, ‘Beep boop bop,’ you know? And then, Barry is about a hitman who wants to become an actor. So, there’s the hitman world where he’s killing people—and that’s Bill Hader paying that role—and he goes to acting class during the day. I’m one of the narcissistic, insane actors in a theater class taught by Henry Winkler. It’s great. I’ve been struggling for a good decade to make this acting thing work, and then getting to be on three of my favorite shows is beyond words. Jobs don’t come along very often, and when they do, you make it work. When I got cast in The Good Place and Barry in the same month, I was positive one of them wasn’t going to work out. But they made the schedules work in this insane way where I’m so grateful. So I’m busy, but being a typical actor I’m desperate for more.
Skincare centers me. Every morning and night I take the time to get out all of my serums, lotions, and eye cream. I don’t know what would happen to my skin if I didn’t! One thing I do that I’m really proud of is use contact lens containers for different things while I travel. The trick is to do two white caps for beauty products, and then the green and the white when there are contacts in there—I have a whole system, don’t worry about it. With beauty, I find that everything comes from recommendations. I’m not just going to walk into some facialist who I don’t know. A makeup artist I worked with recommended Joanna Vargas, so I’ve seen her and she’s amazing. You know who’s helped me a lot? Kristen Bell’s makeup artist, Simone Siegl. She recommended two things that have changed my skin—iS Clinical and Resurface by Shani Darden. From iS Clinical, I love the Eye Complex, the Active Serum, the Super Serum, and the Hydra-Cool Serum. And then this Retinol Reform from Shani Darden is the best product I’ve ever used in skincare—when I started using it, I saw a difference in my skin within a week. I bought a bottle for my sister, I’m like, ‘Start now!’ I’m scared of anything invasive—anything I can do to keep that as far away as possible is great. I do the Super Serum after I wash my face in the morning. It feels good, but it kind of stings. And then the Hydra-Cool I put on afterwards. I think they say it’s like ‘the makeup artist’s friend,’ because it just hydrates and smooths you out. I truly swear by this moisturizer—it has a 45 SPF, and it looks very…I don’t know. Not clinical. But the fact that it’s called Sport Shield, it’s like it’s for my husband or something. Anyway, it is my favorite—not filmy and no white-grayish thing—and I get it on Amazon. I get sun spots easily, so I try to wear a high SPF every day. And then I know everybody recommends this stuff, the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion. If you get a little pimple here or there, it’s the best.
Cleansing I’m more lax about. I’ve had the iS Clinical face wash—it was great—and now I have the Mario Badescu cleanser. It’s easier for me to change from thing to thing. Even a Neutrogena Grapefruit whatever-the-hell, I’ll use that! I’m kind of weirdly the same way about shampoo—I don’t care about the shampoo, but I care about the conditioner. One of my best friend’s mom is a hairdresser, and I remember her saying that if your shampoo is really good, you should be able to use it as a face wash. Maybe that just stuck in my mind forever. So, there you go. This little French Girl Rose Lip Polish is great, especially for traveling. And then for nighttime, this Elizabeth Arden Eight-Hour Cream. I put it all over. I don’t get dry or whatever, but I cannot moisturize enough.
Theater kids always know how to do their own makeup. I’m not super adventurous with new makeup because it feels like I’ve been burned before, you know? I’ve had Boi-ing from Benefit for the longest—I used it back when it was a flip-open compact, and now it’s a screw-off top. I feel like it doesn’t crease, and it brightens the undereye without looking too thick or too light. And then there’s this eyeliner pencil from Lancôme called Black Coffee that I’ve been getting since college. Last weekend I was at a wedding where everybody stayed in their own individual cabin. I was putting my eyeliner on—a full, nice, new one—and it fell down the sink drain. Straight. Down. I was like, ‘I’ll be able to grab this’—no. It went straight down to I don’t know where. The ocean? It was like, zoop!
I love a strong brow and an open eye—like an eye that sort of pops. My eyes turn down a little, so I’m always trying to get them to be up, and open, and bright. I used to be scared of lip color, but now I’m getting more into a brighter lip. Do you want to know why, for real? I have two sisters, and they both have the most beautiful mouths—full, beautiful, ideal lips—and mine are just fine. I’m not even saying they’re terrible, they’re just totally normal. So I was like, ‘I’ll play up some other aspect like, you know, my sense of humor!’ [Laughs] No, but I was like, I’ll leave the lips to them, and I’ll do something else. But recently, having people do your makeup who are professionals, you sort of learn to take more chances. Also, if I’m being perfectly honest, when I started doing The Good Place, any time there would be an event where I would have to get my makeup done, I stuck to a look that I knew was safe—a natural lip and a little bit of a defined eye. I think I was afraid each time was the last time I would get my makeup done. I’m not kidding! I’m so used to a lifetime of struggling in this business, and you really don’t know how many more chances you’re going to get. I don’t know how to say this in a way that isn’t so sad, but I don’t think of myself as a good looking person. I’m still figuring out how to work with a makeup artist, but I have a lifetime of doing my own makeup, so I know what I like. It’s a weird balance where no one knows my face better than me, but makeup artists know makeup better than I do, so we have to give and take a little bit.
Right now I’m using this Bobbi Brown foundation. It has a little SPF—I feel like SPF is a hard thing. I think the idea is that you’re supposed to do it throughout the day, and I don’t really know how that works. I don’t know if the math is right on that. So, I wear a lot of hats, I try to avoid the sun, but I’m going to load up [on SPF] in the morning. I would say I’ve never found my ideal foundation. I still use the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, but as I’ve gotten older and more freckly or whatever, I wanted to have more coverage. On The Good Place they use the YSL Touche Éclat on me—it’s great for a midday brightening touch-up underneath the eyes, or on the cheekbones. This La Prairie creamy glow blush goes such a long way. Next, I have this Watt’s Up from Benefit, or I love the Nars Hot Sand, and I just put a little on my fingertips and dab my upper cheek bone.
Because my eyeliner or mascara has a tendency to transfer to my undereye, I use a makeup wedge to pick up some of this powder and dust it under my eye. That keeps the makeup from transferring. But the fact that I don’t know where it’s from because the label has rubbed off is maybe a sign I need to get a new one. Then I do this Urban Decay Foxy eyeshadow—just a nice sandy color on my full eye. This Bobbi Brown is also great—I know a lot of makeup artists love gel, but I am a pencil kind of gal. I’ve been using this since I dropped my eyeliner down the sink. I take a dark brown, and I line my upper eye. After that I apply some kind of brown eyeshadow in my crease. I feel like I have the type of eyes that I don’t really know how to do makeup on. This is a Japanese mascara that stays on without needing to be waterproof. It’s called Lash Expander Liquid Extensions from Majorca. And then I really, really love the Dior It-Lash. The top of [the wand] makes it easy to get the bottom and corner lashes. The Dior is my everyday, and the Majorca is for more intense looks. Sometimes I do both. I love a thick ass brow, so I use the Goof Proof pencil from Benefit, or the Anastasia one that everyone uses. The Benefit one makes a thicker line though, and then you just brush it through. And when it comes to lipsticks, Black Honey is perfect. Everyone should have it—and if you don’t you’re not taking yourself seriously, or your career, or your life.
I’m a little all over the place with hair. I usually go to the same guy I’ve been going to since high school, but now I’m not at home as much. A lot of times I’ll get haircuts on set—I cut my hair so infrequently that that sort of does it for me. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Streicher sisters in LA, and I’ve been to Ashley for my hair. She’s amazing—she gave me a great haircut. A couple of my best haircuts were from Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye. We met doing his web series called ‘Gay of Thrones,’ where he talks about Game of Thrones while doing your hair. One time I had a really long, mid-boob, crazy harsh green ombré. He gave me this cool girl haircut, and I was like a new person. I would go back to him, but I don’t want to make him try to find time to do it, so I’m not going to ask. [Laughs] When I play Janet on The Good Place I just have my regular, natural brown. We just finished season three, and since season one, I haven’t messed with my hair in between. The day after we wrapped this year, I was like, ‘I’m just going to put something in it while we’re on a break.’ I went to this amazing woman named Nina at Mare Salon in West Hollywood. She does a lot of beachy blondes, and I got this balayage-y, sun-bleached thing. I totally see, especially after not having changed my hair for a couple of years, the instinct to go crazy when you’re not shooting. I have kind of wavy hair, so I use a curling iron most days. I usually round brush blow out the front, and let the rest sort of dry on its own. Then I’ll do big barrel curls with the curling iron and then brush them out.
The Maison Louis Marie Bois de Balincourt No. 04 is my fragrance. I have it in travel-size and a big spray one. It used to come in an old fashioned puff thing, which I absolutely loved. I was a big perfume girl in high school and college, and I wore Victoria’s Secret Rapture, and then I wore a Marc Jacobs gardenia smell. After that I sort of was over scents. I felt like everything smelled like chemicals, or was just too heavy. I also love the smell of coconut, so coconut oil, or a good citrus-y or coconut smelling lotion would do the job. Then I wouldn’t use perfume.”
—as told to ITG
D’Arcy Carden photographed by Tom Newton in New York on September 5, 2018.