The Good Place is back for a second season, which means so is Tahani Al-Jamil, the self-obsessed Pakistani-English character who is eternally jealous of her sister and poured her energy into raising money for good causes. The character is played by Jameela Jamil, a 31-year-old British TV host who had never appeared in a scripted TV series before.
In the first season of The Good Place, Tahani was paired with Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), who was a silent Buddhist monk. They became friends with Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and her soul made, Chidi (William Jackson Harper). Eleanor knew she didn’t belong in the Good Place, since she was a terrible person before she died. Jianyu also turned out to be an idiot from Jacksonville, Florida named Jason who shouldn’t be in the Good Place.
Then in the dramatic season one finale, creator Michael Schur threw the entire show a curveball. Eleanor figured out that they never really were in the Good Place at all! This was an elaborate torture plan set in motion by architect Michael (Ted Danson) and they were all supposed to be in the bad place. Yes, even Tehani and Chidi were really supposed to go to the Bad Place and that’s where they were.
Since Eleanor figured this all out, Michael had to act quick by erasing their minds and starting everything over again. But quick-thinking Eleanor wrote a note to remind herself to find Chidi and stuck it in the mouth of robot Janet (D’Arcy Carden). Will this note help the four of them survive The Good Place 2.0? We’ll have to find out in tonight’s season two premiere after America’s Got Talent.
Now that you’re all caught up with The Good Place, it’s time to meet one of the show’s breakout stars, Jameela Jamil.
1. Jamil Never Appeared in a Scripted TV Show Before She Was Cast in ‘The Good Place’
Before being cast in The Good Place, Jamil had never appeared in a script TV show. Even in her native U.K., Jamil never had the chance to act on TV before. She got the role in February 2016, as she hopes to launch a career in comedy.
In an interview with iNews, Jamil said The Good Place was the first show she ever auditioned for.
“Oh god I honestly had no experience,” she told iNews. “Although, at the audition they asked me that question and I panicked and lied. I told them I had ‘done some theatre in England.’ Which was technically true. I had one line in the stage play of Oliver at primary school, I played his dying mother. I was six years old.”
She said that she had “beginner’s luck,” adding that she never intended to be an actress. Jamil said Schur didn’t give her all the details of the show during the audition process. The lines she had weren’t even part of the show.
Jamil also said she has enjoyed the diversity of The Good Place cast. She told iNews that Schur wanted to make sure none of the actors play racial stereotypes.
“At one point in the show, we had three Indian girls in one episode, none of whom were playing ‘Indians’, no thick accents, no doctors and pharmacists,” Jamil told the site. “Just people. And yet the world kept turning.”
Jamil also said in the interview that she is writing her own scripts and has auditioned for movies.
2. She Was an English Teacher to Foreign-Language Students Before She Was Hired as a U.K. TV Host
Jamil’s breakthrough job was presenting T4, a scheduling slot on the U.K.’s Channel 4, from 2009 to 2012. After that, she hosted The Official Chart on BBC Radio 1 and The Official Chart Update with Scott Mills until January 2015. “TV presenter” wasn’t a job Jamil saw herself taking. Before she was hired, she was working as an English teacher for foreign students.
“At the time I was a teacher I was also a part-time model scout, so I knew loads of models and actors and they were all going for in for T4’s huge nationwide search,” Jamil told Hexjam in 2010. “I emailed a picture in and a little letter about myself, but I never in a million years thought I’d get a call back. The ball started rolling and by some fluke I started to get through the rounds. I realised how much I enjoyed presenting and that it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I almost died of shock when they told me I’d got it – I thought it was a joke.”
In fact, Jamil got her start in TV much like she got her job on The Good Place. She had no experience in television or media when she auditioned for the role.
“All the producers said to me was ‘go in there, be yourself and have a laugh,'” she recalled in 2010. “Someone gave me a piece of advice at the time that literally saved my arse, which was ‘pretend it’s not a camera, pretend it’s a friend’. You have to pretend that you’re just telling a friend something and communicate it naturally and warmly.”
The role at T4 meant she had the opportunity to interview dozens of celebrities. She even became a celebrity herself in the eyes of the U.K. media.
“Half the time I’m in shock,” she said of interviewing celebrities in 2010. “It’s really hard to sit opposite someone like Jennifer Aniston and say human words in a normal conversation when inside you’re thinking OH MY GOOOOD!”
3. Jamil Survived a Deadly Car Accident & Thought She’d Never Walk Again
At 17 years old, Jamil survived a near-death car accident. According to the Daily Mail, she suffered several broken bones and damaged her spine. She thought she would never walk again and was stuck in bed for two years.
“I was on steroids to help my recovery, and I gained five-and-a-half stone [77 lbs.],” she wrote in a 2013 column for Company Magazine. “The steroids made me so hungry that I was eating a loaf of bread with every meal. The weight gain completely changed the way I felt about my body, and I became very negative – I started trying to cover myself up all the time to draw as little attention to myself as possible.”
Jamil said physiotherapy helped her recover and she started losing weight.
“I used to wear these big shapeless clothes and ended up just looking like a potato in a sack,” Jamil wrote. “I’ve learnt now to accentuate the bits that I’m happiest with. That’s probably my waist – a lot of my clothes go in at the waist and emphasise my hips, which I’m very proud of.”
Jamil has faced several other health issues. She wrote in a 2015 column for the Mirror that she was born partially deaf and suffered with labyrinthitis, an ear disorder. She still only has 70 percent audibility in her left ear and 50 percent in her right. She also revealed that she has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder, as well as food allergies.
To make matters worse, she had a breast cancer scare in October 2014. Thankfully, tests proved that the lump she found wasn’t cancerous. Her grandmother and two aunts died from breast cancer.
Jamil wrote a column for Company from 2011 to 2014.
4. Jamil Was a Victim of Bullying as a Teen, But Called the Experiences ‘Incredibly Character Building’
In a 2015 interview with the Huffington Post U.K., Jamil said she was bullied constantly as a teen and the car accident didn’t help things.
“I was a total academic and very socially inept around my peers – constantly saying or doing the wrong thing,” Jamil explained. “I didn’t really have a group of friends ‘till I was 19, and I didn’t kiss anyone until I was 21. It was a bloody nightmare. I am the only woman I know who loves getting older because it’s another step away from my god awful teens.”
Despite all these problems, Jamil said it made her a better adult, since it was “incredibly character building.” As for the car accident, it also taught her never to take another day for granted.
Since she was an underdog herself, Jamil has supported various charitable causes. In fact, she founded Why Not People?, which helps those with disability get access to events and entertainment.
“Why Not People? Ignores the notion of limits and discrimination and caters to all people for all walks of life. It is a chance for us all to party with the people we should have partied alongside all along. With accessible venues, the finest talent on the planet, we promise to put on gigs, events and club nights that you will never forget,” Jamil said in a statement on the site.
5. Jamil Most Recently Dated Musician James Blake
Jamil was last known to be dating musician James Blake. In a May 2016 interview with The Guardian, his girlfriend was only referred to as a “British comedy writer and actor.” But he confirmed in an October 2016 Standard interview that his girlfriend is Jamil.
“She was instrumental in helping me grow,” he told The Guardian, explaining that she was an influence for The Colour Of Everything. “Very often, you only make changes when you feel like there’s something to save. That’s an incentive to look in the mirror.”
Jamil herself hasn’t mentioned a boyfriend in her interviews. She did once write in Cosmopolitan that she fell in love with a married man before she knew he was married. “Married men will only break your heart,” was the name of the 2015 column.