After five years as criminologist D.B. Russell on various CSI series, the Cheers star, 68, settles into The Good Place, the new “afterlife” comedy premiering Sept. 19 on NBC. He plays Michael, the middle manager in charge of the “heavenly” destination for
How would you describe The Good Place?
It’s a comedy, but at the same time the conversation around this funny portrayal of the afterlife is about what it is to be good and what it is to be bad.
Who is Michael?
He’s waited 700 years to get his first neighborhood to design and make sure that literally every blade of grass is perfect. In the pilot, we’ve had a clerical error, and all of a sudden I’m in way over my head.
What are you most proud of?
I’ve been really blessed with great writing. It was perfect to be a bartender [ Cheers] with a bunch of rowdy, funny people in my 30s. It was fun to be a grumpy doctor [ Becker] in my 40s and early 50s. It was fun to be hanging around with Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis [ Bored to Death]. And I really love The Good Place.
How did you get involved with the organization Oceana?
I grew up in a scientific community. My father was the director of a museum in Flagstaff, Arizona. I think that sense of stewardship rubbed off a little bit. I got involved with oceans because I moved into a neighborhood that was trying to keep oil wells from being drilled in Santa Monica Bay.