After watching D’Arcy Carden kiss Abbi Jacobson’s shoulder for the third time in one Zoom call, it’s easy to see how their 15-year friendship survived the time The Good Place star was cut from the pilot of Broad City.
Over a decade ago, Carden and Jacobson met at an Upright Citizens Brigade improv class called On-Camera Commercial Acting. “I don’t think either of us thought we were gonna get on a show. It was like, Let’s get on a commercial,” Jacobson says and then laughs. Though the now 38-year-old comedian would go on to co-create Broad City, and is currently the co-creator and star of Amazon’s new series, A League of Their Own, she wasn’t appreciated in that particular class.
“Abbi was so funny and so specific and so unique. I remember going home and telling my boyfriend, who now is my husband, about this weird girl,” Carden says, recalling a performance in which Jacobson ripped open a heart and smeared blood all over her face. It wasn’t particularly well-received by their instructor, but Carden was enamored. “I do remember having that moment of like, I really see this girl. The teacher doesn’t but I do. A couple of years later, she has her own show, and it’s like, Oh no, and the world does too, but I felt like I discovered her.”
Carden, of course, would find notoriety of her own as Janet, Heaven’s all-knowing personal assistant on The Good Place from 2016 to 2020. However, one of the Emmy-nominated actor’s first roles never saw the light of day. Though Carden was initially cast as a Deals Deals Deals employee for the pilot episode of Jacobson’s hit Comedy Central series, the scene was left on the cutting room floor. Thankfully, that left room for Carden to return for five episodes as the chaotic Soulstice trainer Gemma, which caught the attention of The Good Place creator Michael Schur. “You had my back,” Carden says. ”She always stuck out her neck for me, and it truly changed my life.”
Now, the best friends have been reunited as lovers in Jacobson’s deliciously queer adaptation of the 1992 classic, A League of Their Own. Unlike the original film, which was centered around a down-on-his-luck baseball player tasked with managing an all-female team during World War II, Jacobson’s version follows an all-new batch of Peaches, led by her character, Carson Shaw. While her husband’s at war, Shaw takes the opportunity to follow her dreams of playing professional ball, but finds so much more than she could have ever expected in her mysterious—and very hot—teammate Greta Gill (played by Carden).
“I do have your back, but I didn’t make you brilliant,” Jacobson tells Carden. “I think it’s clear now. I’ll bring you on everything.”
The pair sat down with Glamour to talk about queer representation in A League of Their Own, improvising a pivotal scene, and more.
Glamour: Please tell me about how this project came about for both of you?
Abbi Jacobson: [My co-creator] Will Graham took me to dinner during season four of Broad City and told me he had the rights to make A League of Their Own into a TV series and asked if I would like to do it with him. I was just like, Yes! I was not done with my show, and we hadn’t planned the end of Broad City yet, so I wasn’t sure how involved I could be, I was always going to co-create it with him and write it with him. We pitched it in 2017, and I didn’t sign on to act on it for a little while. I think I was a little scared.
D’Arcy Carden: I knew she would though.
Jacobson: I needed to like make sure I loved it first. And then I signed on, and then D’Arcy was the first person we cast.
Carden: When it came up that Abbi was going to do A League of Their Own, I was still on The Good Place, so it just wasn’t an option for me. I remember feeling sort of like insanely jealous but in a happy way. I remember being like, Oh my god, this is perfect. I cannot believe I’m not going to be a part of that.
Then The Good Place ended, and I remember having a nice, long conversation with Ted Danson on the set where he was like, “Whatever the next thing is that you do, make it as far away from Janet as possible. Do something completely different. That’s my advice to you.” And then Abbi called me late one night. It was the perfect time.
Jacobson: I was terrified to send her the script.
Carden: Obviously, I have loved and been a fan of Abbi forever, and she’s just this incredible writer, but this was such a departure. I remember having this moment of like, Oh my god, I’m so excited. I can’t wait to read it. And then I was like, [sharp inhale] What if it’s not good?
I read it that night, I read it like in one breath, and it was just so good. I loved Greta. I loved Carson. I loved Max [Chanté Adams]. It was such a no-brainer. And it made my life easier because then I didn’t have to be stressed out about what was next. It was like, Oh, this fits. This fits like a glove. Like a baseball glove that fits you really well.
Considering your backgrounds, how many of your scenes were improvised? The pizza date scene felt particularly fluid.
Carden: In general, we stuck to the script, but occasionally we could breathe a little bit.
Jacobson: D’Arcy and I were on Broad City together in a very different capacity, so that’s what we’re used to. I love when we had time, and when we found the scenes in League in which we could do that, but at least for me it was like a different beast.
What about the last episode, where your characters were imagining different futures for themselves? That felt extremely off the cuff, but maybe your acting is just that good! (Warning: heavy spoilers ahead.)
Carden: I loved doing that scene!
Jacobson: In that scene, we improvised dramatically. That’s the best because that’s so rare to get to improvise in a dramatic way. D’Arcy was improvising comedically in there, but that was also the moment that makes Greta ask Carson to come with her. You need to see and feel that dynamic for her be like, Come with me. That’s a huge turn for Greta, and then the world gets in between us.
Carden: This is truly cheesy to talk about it. But it felt like we were in a movie or something when we shot it. Like all the Peaches got in the way of us, and I was watching it as an audience member and as Greta. It was just cool. It was a cool moment.
Jacobson: It was magical. We are being such goobers right now.
We know by now that romantic scenes are often clinical to film and kind of awkward. What it was like to do that as very close friends?
Carden: Obviously it’s such a strange thing, but I guess what I was about to say is that it’s not that weird.
Jacobson: It’s not that weird. I guess I’ve done a couple of sex scenes, but not really where the characters were in love, and that felt pretty different. But I will say, by the time we got to the heavier sex scenes, I felt so comfortable. I felt way more comfortable than I felt with someone I didn’t know, necessarily, right away. I think I felt more uneasy around the 30 other people watching than with D’Arcy.
Carden: Kissing anyone on camera makes no sense. It’s weird. There are a million people around you who have to walk through every moment of it and talk about it, and where’s your hand gonna go? Where’s your butt gonna go? But it was surprisingly easy. And, you know, like, we got good at it.
It was just two friends that were working with an intimacy coordinator and French kissing a bunch. I just remember on set in Pittsburgh being like, Wow, we’ve kissed every day this week. Like, That’s what we do now. We just touch boobs and kiss.
As a queer person, watching this show felt so surreal. We’ve been starved for representation for so long that even though I knew this was a show with two queer creators, I was actively surprised every time another queer character—whether they were gay, trans, or nonbinary—was revealed. What was your goal when it came to LGBTQ+ representation?
Jacobson: When Will and I started talking, we decided that the movie did not need to be remade. Our series is telling the stories that were overlooked in the film—and not just in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, where that door opened for white women and white-passing women but closed on everyone else. So what do they do to live out their dreams? We were trying to tell the stories that the film didn’t focus on.
It’s also that queer stories are often, like, so tragic. I mean, the queer stories told so far. And in our show, there are those devastating and dangerous aspects of being queer at that time, but we are also really trying to show the joy within that, and the sacrifice, and all those things.
Even in progressive spaces, as more queer stories are being told, I’ve heard the complaint: “Does everybody need to be gay?” Has that ever been said to you?
Jacobson: First of all, everyone’s not queer in the show, right? But I’m also like, Why can’t they be? We’ve grown up watching every single show with all straight people.
I was particularly invested in Max’s storyline as they explore their gender identity and expression.
Jacobson: We have new vocabulary now, but it’s not a new feeling, right? Bertie [Lea Robinson], I think, would identify as a trans man if he were around today, but there are other characters on our show that would probably identify more as nonbinary or just queer. Toni [Saidah Arrika Ekulona] and Bertie both want Max to be like a mini-them. The scene where she wears the suit Bertie made for her the way she wanted to and was like, “I can’t be who everyone wants me to be,” I love that because I think that’s how a lot of people feel.
Whenever I feel a little frivolous about what I do—like, there are dire fucking things happening right now, and there are way more important jobs—I do feel like those bits can make people feel connected like, “I’m not alone in that.” Or someone who doesn’t identify that way can watch and they’re like, “Maybe I’ve been thinking about this the wrong way.”
What made you decide to get rid of Coach Dove [Nick Offerman], just a few episodes in?
Jacobson: Dove does have a very big impact on the Peaches and sort of throws my character, through Greta, into the coach position. That journey about finding your confidence is a very pivotal part, but the redemption arc of Jimmy Dugan is lovely, and I love it in the film, but we didn’t want to do that.
Carden: To cast Nick Offerman is so brilliant, and he’s so beloved, and we loved working with him so much. And that’s the only part of it that was a bummer because we just loved having him there. But I just love that it’s like, Oh, and then you never see him again. This is not his story.
Jacobson: Just as you think he’s gonna come around…. And it was very intentional. Nick was like, “But can he come back?” [Laughs.]
Obviously, the season ended on quite the cliffhanger. If you get a season two, will you pick up right where the characters left off? Or are we going to jump to the next baseball season?
Jacobson: I think whatever we do, if we get to do it again, I think that it’s a little bit of both. You don’t want too much buildup before they get back together. I think you just want to see enough so that when they are back together, they’ve changed right?
Before Carson’s husband, Charlie [Patrick J. Adams] caught Carson and Greta together in that final moment, Carson had already decided not to go to New York with Greta, but also said that she wasn’t planning to go back to Charlie. Can you share your thoughts about why she made that decision?
Carden: It was about her! It’s about Carson damn Shaw finding her own self and not being attached to anyone else—just about her own soul, her own brain, her own being. I know this is a question for you, Abbi. For this first time, she’s like, I’m figuring out who I am. Not who I am with Greta, not who I am with Charlie. It’s such a brave huge decision for her to say.
Jacobson: I think it’s so hard for her to not go home and to make that choice. I think the audience wants Carson to run down there and go with Greta, and I think part of Carson wants that too. Carson loves Greta but at this moment, she loves herself more. She would be going and living in Greta’s life.
I don’t know what happens in the future. I honestly do not know if we’re even getting a second season, but I think that she needs to figure herself out before she’s living in someone else’s life.