‘The Good Place’ and Chidi help redefine the Black nerd

William Jackson Harper is nervous. He and I have been on the phone for five minutes, and he’s walking around his living room as we speak, analyzing everything he’s saying and hoping he hasn’t said anything stupid. I can relate.

“Are you pacing right now?” I asked. “Because I pace all the time.”

“Yeah, I’m pacing,” he said. “I am.”

As a self-described neurotic, he takes his nervousness as a given. Later, he tells me about how hard it is to make dinner plans. He and his girlfriend have talked about it.