NEW YORK — Jameela Jamil can’t tell you how “The Good Place” ends.
But she can say that the existential NBC sitcom, now in its fourth and final season (Thursdays, 9 EDT/PDT), welcomes an “unbelievable guest star” from another NBC show in its emotional series finale: “I still can’t believe that happened – I have to keep looking at the pictures to believe it.”
On “Good Place,” Jamil plays shallow British socialite Tahani, who works together with Kristen Bell’s cynical Eleanor and Ted Danson’s well-meaning devil to save themselves (and the universe). It’s the first major acting role for the former English teacher, who got her start hosting TV and radio shows including “T4” and “Freshly Squeezed” in her native England.
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Now Jamil, 33, is returning to her roots with TBS’ “The Misery Index” (premiering Tuesday, 10 EDT/PDT), an irreverent game show. She chats with USA TODAY about the new series, “Good Place” and her self-worth movement “I Weigh,” which has nearly 1 million followers on Instagram.
Question: So how does the game work?
Jameela Jamil: “The Misery Index” is a way to make a fortune off of other people’s misfortune. So you have a scale of one to 100, and this is the “scale of misery,” basically. You’ll be given different real-life scenarios that have happened to people, and you have to decide where they land on that scale in order to win $30,000. And you have The Tenderloins (comedy troupe, better known as the Impractical Jokers) advising you on how best to make those decisions.
Q: What’s one of the grossest things you’ve seen on the show?
Jamil: I saw a zit that had been around for 20 years finally popped. That was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I almost threw up on camera, which was terrible, but very funny.
Q: On “Good Place,” Tahani is famously known for name-dropping all the celebrities she’s friends with. Has anyone mentioned on the show ever reached out to you in real life?
Jamil: I did meet Beyoncé once at a party, and she told me she watches the show, which was mortifying because of how much Tahani pretends they are best friends. Also, Duchess Meghan of Sussex spoke to me on the phone and said that she watches the show. Obviously, it is the (fictional) rumor that she introduced (Meghan and Harry), so she thanked Tahani for that introduction.
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Q: How would you describe Tahani’s journey in this final season?
Jamil: She’s surprisingly name-dropping more than all three (previous) seasons combined. It’s on steroids. But she’s growing up as a person, and we go deeper into her family dynamic in a way that I think people are going to continue to find very relatable. What I love about her story so much is how many people come up to me and tell me that it’s affected the way that they feel about their sibling (relationships).
Q: Has your own outlook on life changed since starting “Good Place,” which revolves around moral philosophy and human nature?
Jamil: Yeah. Mostly I’ve just learned that, you know, Tahani went to hell in part because of her obsession with other people’s opinions, and I don’t want to go to hell. (Laughs.) She ruined her whole life worrying so much about being liked, and that was a great learning curve for me and massively helped me let go of this need I have to be liked. Especially as a woman, there’s a particular expectation that you should be likable to everyone. And it didn’t get Tahani anywhere, so I’m not doing that anymore.
Q: What was the impetus for starting the “I Weigh” movement on Instagram last year?
Jamil: I suffered really badly from eating disorders when I was younger, and now that I’m in this industry that works hard to perpetuate that in young women, I want to do my best to undo it. I know exactly what kind of harm it causes because I was a victim of it, so I kind of also now know how to combat it. I’m able to be this whistleblower in the industry, and it hasn’t affected my career. So I hope that will be a lesson to other young women who feel they would like to speak out about things: They make you believe it’s going to ruin your career and you’ll lose everything, but speaking out actually empowers you.
Q: You successfully lobbied for Instagram to stop targeting ads for weight-loss products and cosmetic procedures to users under 18. What would you like to accomplish next?
Jamil: It’s not enough just to take it off social media – I want it off the internet. I want it to become illegal for minors to be able to consume these products anywhere. It’s not up to Facebook and Instagram: I’m glad they did it, I’m glad they took a stand, and it was important to have that avenue shut down. But we’re reaching epidemic levels of teenage suicide, teenage eating disorders, teenage depression, teenage self-harm and teenage cosmetic surgery, so the government has to do something. So that’s what we’re moving into next. We have the support of Harvard STRIPED (an initiative for the prevention of eating disorders) and other big universities to help us with research, which is exciting, and “I Weigh” is coming off just being an Instagram account and is going to become a full activism platform.
Q: You’ve been critical in the past of the Kardashian sisters, who have promoted appetite suppressant lollipops and meal replacement shakes on Instagram. Would you ever invite them on to your “I Weigh” interview series?
Jamil: Yeah, of course – I have nothing against those girls. They got loads of money and power and could do so much great stuff. I love what Kim does with the justice system. More of that and I’m happy! I think that’s really cool. I just would like to see people use their power in a way that is empowering.