Most transplants have a story about couch surfing during their early months in L.A. Kristen Bell’s is better. “My friend Ariel Ash had an internship at SNL and was living at Chris Kattan’s house while he was gone,” she says. “So me and my friend Jennifer Carpenter were like, ‘We’re moving in.’ We put a blow-up mattress in his pool house.”
Only slightly more than a decade later, Bell has graduated from plastic furniture—she now lives in Los Feliz with her husband, comedian Dax Shepard, and their two daughters—and has landed roles in cult classics (the CW’s Veronica Mars), studio juggernauts (Disney’s Frozen), and tentpole franchises (Bad Moms).
On September 27, she reprises her role as Eleanor Shellstrop in season three of The Good Place, NBC’s critically lauded comedy about an afterlife where swearing is not allowed (for example, f— becomes “fork,” as in “motherforker”—much more network-friendly) and whose pitfalls include ordering vanity plates and using “Facebook” as a verb. We’re well within our right to spoil the first season and one of the best plot twists television has seen in a while, but we won’t. Catch up on Netflix.
With a delightful social media presence—note the Instagram posts about her addiction to the board game Settlers of Catan—and real-life Disney princess charm, Bell has accessed a realm that’s almost as exclusive as the Good Place: the pantheon of relatable celebrities. On a recent Friday, she considered Kattan versus Catan and her very own Bad Place.
Settlers of Catan or Chris Kattan?
Truly, that is the question version of where the mothers are pulling the baby and you don’t want to kill the baby. That’s very difficult for me. In reference to human life, I’d have to pick Chris, obviously. But I’d be heartbroken to never have Catan again. The caveat would be: If I knew Chris wouldn’t get hurt, I’d choose Settlers of Catan.
Three characters you’ve played that you’d like to take in a game of Catan?
For sure Anna from Frozen because she’d be positive even if she lost. Eleanor because she’d probably bring booze. And Jeannie from House of Lies because I bet she would have a ton of snarky stories. And I feel like Jeannie and Eleanor would get along.
Three characters from musical theater you’d want to be stuck in the Bad Place with?
Henrik from A Little Night Music because I love how grumpy he is, and he can play a beautiful cello in one of the best trios of all time, “Now/Later/Soon” by Stephen Sondheim. Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd—if I had a problem with anyone in the Bad Place, she could make them into a meat pie. And the dudes from The Full Monty. Always have a show. Always have entertainment
Your personal Good Place?
Troubling, because I’ve never been to the Good Place. But: A Whole Foods where everything is free. Everything.
Your personal Bad Place?
The bathroom at my house, where nobody can get a fucking break. You can’t go in there for a nanosecond without, [knocks] “Mommy? Mommy?” Or sliding things under the door—it’s not a respite. Having a place that seems like it should be a respite, a place of privacy or meditation, perhaps, and never getting that? That’s the bad place. That is the fucking. Bad. Place.
The businesses in the Good Place all have puns for names. In a sloth-themed version of the Good Place—possibly your truest Good Place, considering your obsession with sloths—what would one of the businesses be called?
Oh, wow. I want to impress you so bad. I feel like it has to do with time. So the bad version, the rough draft, is a watch store called Stop Time. Where none of the clocks move.
You lent your voice to the murder mystery podcast Deadly Manners. Three L.A. comedians you’d want to go through a real-life murder mystery with?
Melissa McCarthy because of everything. But OH, Megan Amram, without a doubt. And let me tell you why. She has been to—I can get you the real number, but I think it’s upwards of 60 escape rooms. For her birthday, her boyfriend got her a tour around the United States of escape rooms. So I feel like, as far as a murder mystery goes, I would choose three Megan Amrams. Or maybe I’d choose Melissa because I love her, Megan to solve it, and then my husband because he comforts me when I’m scared. And if people are going to get murdered, I’m going to be scared, you know what I mean?
I do know what you mean.
Because of the murder.
Right. The best kind of humor is the kind you have to explain.
Disney song you’d use to score a musical montage of your life?
“Colors of the Wind,” end of story. We don’t own this place, motherfuckers! We share it! Get over yourselves! I mean, obviously I’m a little harder than Pocahontas, but.
You’re not wrong.
When she hands that gun back to John Smith and says, “Still I cannot see that the savage one is me”—truly, every time I say it out loud, I get the tingles. I’m like, bitch is right—holding up the mirror to herself.
Disney character you’d want as an L.A. Uber driver?
Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast. Wait, she doesn’t have arms. So Mrs. Potts when she goes back to her human form. She’s got kids, she knows the value of staying safe on the road, and I bet she’d have snacks.
L.A. vanity plate that would send someone straight to the Bad Place?
My friend and I saw a license plate that said DIVA BOY. I was like, maybe it’s a cool ironic joke? We pull up beside the car and the driver opens his door, pukes, closes it, and then takes a drag of a cigarette. And I said to myself, “You know what? You earned that plate.” I’m not sure if he’s going to the Bad Place, though, because he was so adorable.
One super-L.A. thing that would kill someone’s chances of getting into the Good Place?
Being in an in-depth conversation about your food obsessions. By the way, I’m definitely going to the Bad Place, because I talk about food all the time.