When he went about creating the title character behind his Apple TV Plus comedy “Ted Lasso,” writer and star Jason Sudeikis was inspired by several different actors — including Robin Williams in his various mentor roles, from “Aladdin” to “Good Will Hunting.”
“(The character) is rooted in these teachers here, and mentors, these Obi-Wan Kenobi types that see more in you than you can see in yourself, and that optimism,” said Sudeikis, who also executive produces the show. “We wanted someone that when they spoke, could speak intelligently from a high EQ [emotional quotient], and celebrated the divine feminine.”
During a Variety Streaming Room dedicated to “Ted Lasso,” members of the show’s cast discussed the development of their characters over the course of Season 1. The series, which follows an American college football coach who travels to England to oversee a English soccer team, has been renewed for Seasons 2 and 3. Moderator Michael Schneider was joined by Sudeikis; Hannah Waddingham (who plays Rebecca Welton); Brendan Hunt (who plays Coach Beard and is also a producer and writer on the show); Brett Goldstein (who plays Roy Kent and is also a writer on the show); Juno Temple (who plays Keeley Jones); Phil Dunster (who plays Jamie Tartt); Nick Mohammed (who plays Nathan Shelley); and Jeremy Swift (who plays Higgins).
Waddingham’s character comes to own the football team through the process of her divorce and initially hopes to sabotage the team since it is a reminder of her ex-husband. Though some may have perceived the character as an antagonist, the actor said she responds in a way representative of someone going through similar circumstances
“In my eyes, there’s no part of her that’s the villain. She’s the wronged, usurped woman,” Waddingham said. “And I feel like I’m fractionally flying the flag for, well, men and women who’ve gone through that heartbreak in their lives. But people see something very different when they just look at the surface.”
Her character and Sudeikis’ have a heart-to-heart eventually as she comes to respect him. The 10 episodes allotted to the first season, she said, gave many of the characters time to develop in meaningful ways.
An up-and-coming football player, Dunster’s character Jamie Tartt also experiences growth as Ted Lasso’s mentorship begins to chip away at his arrogant demeanor. As he’s often lacks the motivation to build team unity, his coach’s lessons challenge everything the character has built his individual career on.
“For a lot of these young footballers, they come at it from an age of, I don’t know, 16,” he said. “They’re told that the world is at their feet, and so they get a demigod complex. It’s the lessons that sometimes you really don’t want to get, or the hard ones that you know that someones been trying to tell you for a little bit, and I think they can sometimes be the best lessons in life.”
Others like Mohammed’s character — a kit man named Nathan Shelley — are also influenced by Ted Lasso’s unwaveringly optimistic view of reality. And while the characters’ story arcs may take heavy influence from the team’s coach, their personalities, mannerisms and dialogues were often reworked by writers to match the actors themselves.
“Once we had this cast, from episode three on, it was so easy to write for everyone because you knew all these people now,” Goldstein, who is also a writer on the show, said. “And it did change how we wrote some of the characters, because you’d lean into what’s funny about that actor, and how their voice is.
Watch the full video below.