When “Ted Lasso” debuted, the Apple TV+ series showed audiences that treating people with respect is more important than who wins a match or scores the most goals. During a difficult 2020, fans embraced the show’s warm emotions, welcoming characters who are easy to root for and relatable story arcs.
What started as a viral U.S. soccer promo that first aired in 2013 to promote the highest level of the men’s English soccer league became the hit comedy series — an underdog story about a once-lowly team and the goofy neophyte who leads them to moral and sporting victory.
Jason Sudeikis, also an executive producer and writer, stars as the titular character who coaches AFC Richmond and, through nonconventional methods, works to turn the players into self-believers. Though the team had a poor record to start, Ted quickly won over players, staff and supporters with his folksy charm.
Season 1 captivated audiences with its big heart and memorable one-liners through a fish-out-of-water premise; the comedy went on to garner 20 nominations and seven wins, including outstanding comedy series, at the 2021 Emmy® Awards.
Key to the show’s success is that audiences need not follow nor even understand soccer to appreciate it. “Ted Lasso” isn’t a series centered solely on the sport, but about looking more deeply at people. “By the time you leave with these characters, you know that they’re built to be able to withstand anything because they can stand within themselves,” says Sudeikis.
“Ted Lasso” follows Sudeikis’ character, a small-town college football coach in Kansas, hired to lead a failing soccer team in Richmond, despite no experience with the game. While his empowering mantras prove both universal and motivational, Ted quietly struggles to balance his happy-go-lucky public persona with the private issues he faces in his everyday life. “Lasso” makes clear that constant uplift isn’t the only way to support someone — which is a way for the show to challenge its characters’ vulnerabilities and introduce Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), a therapist hired to offer the team mental health support.
In addition to Lasso, the series features other characters just as beloved by critics and fans. Among the ensemble cast are Hannah Waddingham (owner Rebecca Welton), executive producer Brendan Hunt (Coach Beard); writer and co-producer Brett Goldstein (AFC Richmond veteran Roy Kent); Juno Temple (PR maven Keeley Jones); Jeremy Swift (the club’s operations director, Leslie Higgins); Phil Dunster (star player Jamie Tartt); Toheeb Jimoh (team standout Sam Obisanya); and Nick Mohammed (kit man-turned-coach Nate Shelley).
After Season 1 was praised for its unwavering heart, Season 2 moved away from Ted’s upbeat nature, detouring to focus more on how characters navigate their inner demons. In its sophomore season — upped to 12 episodes from 10 — the series again won outstanding comedy at the 2022 Emmy® Awards, bringing the series’ total to 40 nominations and 11 wins.
“Season 2 was the most Ted changed,” says Sudeikis. “The notion that he’s worth taking care of, within himself, and looking out for himself. That was the big shift last year, because now he’s gonna do something about it.”
The departure from the feel-good trope of Season 1 deepened the comedy’s character arcs, particularly those of Roy, Sam, Jamie and Nate, whom many fans rooted for as he transitioned from awkwardly shy to assertive, largely under Ted’s mentorship.
“Within [Roy] is a feeling that he’s not good enough and that is very hard to shift despite, you know, he is a Champion’s League winner. There is something broken within him that still needs really addressing. And I think that’s probably something people can relate to,” says Goldstein.
“For Sam, it’s just about figuring out where he is and just trying to find himself a bit more,” says Jimoh.
Meanwhile, says Dunster, “Jamie’s come to terms a lot with who he was growing up. And I think he’s stepped up into who he’s becoming. We see that with his story with Roy, him sort of coming to accept his limitations on [the] personality front and owning up to them.”
The show uses paternal figures to drive many of its emotional conflicts; the relationship between Nate and Ted is most prominent. “Ted was absolutely a father figure for him, particularly in Season 1. He’s a catalyst for everyone sort of addressing their demons,” says Mohammed.
If Season 1 highlighted the importance of positive encouragement from a father figure, as fans saw AFC Richmond players respond to their new head coach, then Season 2 took that exploration even further, examining the direct impact paternal relationships can have well into adulthood, both the good and the bad. “This show is just about understanding people. Understanding why they do the things they do,” says Jimoh. Dunster adds: “We’ve seen a lot of back story in Season 2.”
Season 3 picks up two months after the Season 2 finale — which concluded with the revelation that Nate’s left AFC Richmond to coach archrivals West Ham United, now owned by Rebecca’s ex-husband Rupert (Anthony Head) — and conflicts are boiling over, on and off the pitch. “One thing I don’t think any of us expected, any of the writers, is how much people would fucking hate Nate,” Goldstein says, laughing about Season 2. “So Season 3, we were like, ‘Well, whatever we do, we probably shouldn’t make him worse.’”
Mohammed teases: “Nate’s sort of hating on Richmond and still carrying a lot of that toxic energy from the end of Season 2, which ultimately points towards his toxic relationship with his dad, to be explored in Season 3.
“He’s a troubled soul still. He’s not fixed. Him joining West Ham isn’t a ‘Oh! That’s what he needed and now can be happy with that.’ He’s still uncomfortable in himself and there’s a lot of things for him to sort out.”
Season 3 of “Ted Lasso” premieres on Wednesday, March 15, with new episodes dropping weekly. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on Apple TV+.