She may play the fiery slugger “Greta Gill” on the empowering A League of Their Own series on Prime Video, but actor D’Arcy Carden is the one scoring big right now. Remaining the #1 show on the video streamer in the U.S. since premiering back on August 12, this fictional episodic re-imagining of the hit 1992 film A League of Their Own centers around the very real group of female baseball players who boldly stepped up to the plate during World War II, defying gender norms during a time when tradition was not just encouraged but expected.
“It feels so good, not just because I love this show and it was so special to make it,” Carden, 42, tells me when reacting to the feedback she has received about the series so far. “We made it a long time ago. We shot the pilot back before the pandemic and then we shot the show last summer, so we’ve been just like excitedly holding onto it. I started to get anxious about it and it has just been such a nice relief and so lovely that people seem to be into it.”
Carden goes on to tell me that the response she has received about her performance as “Greta” from viewers within the LGBTQ community has been a bit surreal, saying it’s not something you can ever expect but a responsibility she does not take lightly.
Coming from an improvisational comedy background in her early acting years at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York alongside her longtime friend and A League of Their Own on-screen co-star and series co-creator/co-showrunner Abbi Jacobson, Carden says the scripts were incredible but she was often encouraged to use her improv skills when filming her many scenes.
“Some sets are like that and some sets are not and this one definitely was,” Carden continues. “A lot of times, we would do it as scripted and get one like that and then they would just say Now make it your own. They let us give such life to it. With Abbi, I think because we both have backgrounds in improv, it felt especially easy and fun to go off-script. Also as ‘Greta,’ surprising Abbi as ‘Carson’ was part of what made our dynamic exciting and interesting. Throwing her off or making her blush or surprising her was all part of our dynamic, so I really tried to push it whenever possible. It was nice that Abbi and [her co-creator/co-showrunner] Will [Graham] and the directors let us do that.”
Beyond her work on A League of Their Own, Carden may look most familiar from her Emmy-nominated performance on the popular NBC fantasy-comedy series The Good Place, where she brilliantly played “Janet,” the hilariously non-human source of endless information and knowledge in the afterlife. Even more recently, she can be seen as “Natalie Greer” on the critically-acclaimed HBO dark comedy series Barry. I asked Carden how she would describe her professional journey so far and what has been the most memorable & defining moments that have helped her to persevere and not give up on her acting craft & passions over the years.
Carden responds, “I’m so beyond lucky with Barry and with The Good Place and now with A League of Their Own and not to mention Broad City – these are four shows that I just feel like, I can’t even wrap my head around it. I feel so lucky that I get to be a part of these shows that I love and that I would love if I was just watching them. When I think of reasons that I kept going, I actually think of the lower times or ‘bombing’ on stage or not getting a role. I know that’s a little dark but those are kind of the things that you can only go up from there and when I think back on some of the moments I felt the lowest, the ‘high’ came right around the corner.”
Now as Carden continues to make a name for herself in Hollywood, I wondered if her mentality or approach toward projects has evolved at all, now that she is consistently getting more and more leading roles.
“It’s funny, for so long as a struggling actor, all you are doing is auditioning and hoping to get any role – anything that comes your way, you say yes to. To get to have more of a choice is like such a new thing for me. By the way, I’m still auditioning all the time and not getting roles. Don’t be mistaken – that’s just the life of an actor, but I get to have a little bit more of a choice is fantastic. I have been lucky in my career so far to get to work with incredible writers and I hope to keep doing that. It’s kind of all I want, really, is to get to do good work with good artists.”
Carden goes on to tell me that taking the role of “Greta Gill” on A League of Their Own was a little scary for her and outside of her comfort zone, but she says the reward has been worth it and that “Greta” has taught her to take the scarier roles, instead of falling back on the “comfortable stuff.” She adds about embodying “Greta” on-screen that, “She’s just so cool and so confident. I like living in her skin.”
Looking to the future of Hollywood and female-led stories like A League of Their Own, I asked Carden if she feels that the industry is on a good path toward telling stronger, more diverse female stories on-screen that reflect our real-life society and culture today.
“I think it’s a little bit of both because we absolutely are on the right path, but we have such a long way to go because it’s still not equal at all. It’s still so heavily male-dominated and we get these pops of female-led movies or shows or with these female ensembles, but it’s few and far between. It’s a newer thing, so I think we are on the right path but I want equality, like in every sense of the word.”
Now after transforming into “Greta” for all eight episodes of this A League of Their Own series, I wondered what Carden would say to her character after experiencing firsthand all of the highs-and-lows that come with “Greta” striving to embrace her sexuality. Carden reveals, “I think I would tell ‘Greta’ to trust her gut. I think I would tell her she is enough, the way she is. I mean, the 1940s are different than 2022. There’s a lot I could tell her that wouldn’t make sense at the time, but she means so well and she has such a good heart. I wish she could let that be enough.”
Even though a second season has yet to be officially announced, I spoke briefly with A League of Their Own’s co-creator/co-showrunner Will Graham about show’s season two hopeful efforts, saying, “We’re in the early stages of developing the story, but we know where we want to take the show and we think it’s a journey that the fans are going to be very excited about.”
When I asked Carden if she would be interested in bringing “Greta Gill” back for more story, she quickly responded, “Totally! I love ‘Greta’ and I love those girls that I get to play baseball with. I love my team. I long to be back on that set with those people. That’s what I’m hoping happens next.”
As I began to wrap up my conversation with Carden, knowing the impact her character and performance has had on people all across social media, I left her with one final question: This A League of Their Own story takes place around 1943, yet nearly these 80 years later in 2022, we still somehow live in a world and even pockets of America where the LGBTQ community is still not accepted and not given the same equal human rights as everyone else. So, after seeing the outpouring of admiration and enthusiasm toward your performance on-screen as “Greta Gill” and the figure she has come to represent for so many in our real world, what message might you have for those of us in the LGBTQ community that identify with “Greta” and value your compassionate performance?
“You’re going to make me cry, Jeffrey! I’m honored, I really am. That’s how I feel about this. I’ve seen the tweets and I’ve seen the love and it really means a lot to me. It doesn’t make sense to me, not having equality. I never have been able to wrap my head around it. I know that is an obvious statement – so many of us feel that way, but I truly cannot understand it. It is something that just like doesn’t compute to me, so anything any of us can do to make people feel more themselves and more welcome in any space and more seen, it’s an honor. It’s not lost on me. It’s a big deal to me.”