You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Brett Goldstein on Being a F—ing Sex Symbol, Wanting More ‘Ted Lasso’ and Breaking His Rule of Not Smiling in Photos

Here’s the quickest way to make Brett Goldstein speechless: Ask the “Ted Lasso” star and “Shrinking” co-creator how he feels about becoming a sex symbol. “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he tells me, after almost doing a spit-take when I bring up what I’ve dubbed “Sexy Brett Goldstein.”

“I’m flattered you’re telling me this, and I will expect you to address me as such from now on,” he says, grinning at the madness of me broaching such a silly topic. “How do I feel about becoming a sex symbol? I don’t know. You can say, ‘He blushes, looks confused, his head explodes.’”

Sexy Brett Goldstein blushes and looks confused. His head explodes. “Listen,” he says, “If that’s a thing, that has nothing to do with me. That has to do with the show, right? Because of the character.”

The way Goldstein distances him self from the hoopla all around him says something about how he’s grappling with his growing fame. He’s been a successful actor and writer in the U.K. for nearly two decades, but everything’s changed since 2020, when Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” became the definition of a sleeper hit.

Goldstein is a two-time Emmy winner for playing the gruff footballer-turned-coach Roy Kent in “Ted Lasso,” now in the middle of its third (and potentially last? More on that in a moment) season. Roy, known for his forceful use of the word “Fuck!” to punctuate his feelings, is the kind of angry yet sensitive character that causes audiences to melt — and swoon.

Peggy Sirota for Variety

“Yeah, the grumpy guy,” Goldstein says. “Maybe it’s hairy men. I seem to be the only person in L.A. in the last 15 years who has body hair. Maybe that’s a thing. Like, ‘Whoa, what’s this? This is new!’”

Goldstein is also riding high on the success of “Shrinking,” the Apple TV+ comedy series that he crafted with “Ted Lasso” co-creator Bill Lawrence. And he’s getting a lot more inquiries for high-profile film roles; Goldstein sparked shrieks of delight from Marvel fans online after he appeared as a super buff Hercules in one of the bonus scenes at the end of 2022’s “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Earlier this year, the producers of the animated series “Harley Quinn” featured a ripped and hairy cartoon Sexy Brett Goldstein as the star of the one-man show “Brett Goldstein Reads the Works of Lord Byron Shirtless While Polishing His Trophy.” “I really worked out for that,” he jokes.

Mae Martin, a friend of Goldstein and a fellow comedian, has watched his rise to boldface-name status. “I think he has a healthy level of embarrassment and bewilderment about it,” says Martin, who hosts a weekly comedy show with Goldstein at Los Angeles’ Largo where they lean into the whole sexy thing — closing the act by taking off each other’s shirts and pretending to make out.

Sexy Cartoon Brett Goldstein on “Harley Quinn” (HBO Max)

“Like all good British comedians, Brett thinks he’s a worm,” Martin adds. “I hope he continues to, even though he’s always been so handsome. But it’s funny — since ‘Ted Lasso,’ even I’m seeing him in a new light. He’s got some new mojo going on. Maybe Roy Kent unlocked some archetypal masculinity in him that now he can’t shut off and it’s like catnip to people.”

The irony is that Goldstein is nothing like Roy Kent in most respects. The two may share a similar anxiety about the world around them and a love for the F-word, but beyond that, they handle themselves very differently. “He’s a very soft-spoken, gentle dude,” says “Shrinking” star and exec producer Jason Segel. “It speaks to what an amazing actor he is, because, frankly, I don’t find him very much like Roy at all. He’s really, really sweet.”

Goldstein says he hears all the time from people who marvel that he doesn’t seem to share the character’s rage. “I really love playing Roy Kent,” he says. “People always say, ‘You don’t seem angry in real life.’ And I’m always like, ‘But I’m fucking angry.’ And maybe there is a part of me that gets to process it through Roy.”

Lawrence sees shades of Roy in Goldstein but with key differences that make him a good collaborator on both sides of the camera. “The language and the darkness inside is real. But how one man meets it with an open-arms sensitivity and the other is just closed off are completely different,” Lawrence says.

Whatever combination of angry and sweet he is, Goldstein still feels unsteady, at times, in his newfound fame.

“I worry I died a long time ago,” he says. “And this has all been like a post-death, pre-heaven dream.”

Fuck. At 42, Brett Goldstein has indeed reached a strange point in his journey to becoming a superstar. “Touch wood, I have a lot more opportunities to do many of the things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he says as we get comfortable in a dark booth at Burbank’s Smoke House restaurant. It’s the kind of place, across the street from the Warner Bros. lot, where the mostly older clientele keep to themselves, and Goldstein can let his guard down. (It’s not until near the end of our two-hour chat that the joint has gotten busier, and a few fans have become bold enough to ask for a selfie with Roy Kent.)

“So that’s incredible,” Goldstein says of the options now coming his way. But the downside is he forgets that he’s now Roy Kent. Or Hercules. “I go out to a Ralphs at midnight because I want to get some groceries, and suddenly I’m accosted. It’s kind of a weird thing where you go, ‘Oh shit, of course.’”

But he’s not complaining. Like with the Sexy Brett Goldstein stuff, he’s still adjusting to it all. “You just have to be grateful. Because this is it, right? I can’t undo it.”

It took a beat for Goldstein to find his groove. For years he pursued dramatic gigs, but “all I would ever get audition offers for was terrorists. I guess they see my headshot and go, ‘Well, he looks like a terrorist!’”

Peggy Sirota for Variety

Goldstein says he always loved standup secretly, but he thought it was a “magical talent” that he couldn’t possess. “I used to do Edinburgh, which is a comedy and arts festival, and the drama side of it, I was really not having a good time with these people.” That changed when Goldstein first grabbed a stand-up mic, and found his people. Ever the late bloomer, he was 27. “I fucking stormed it,” he says. “The adrenaline was so powerful that I had a great gig, and I was like, ‘Wow! Fuck!’”

Then came the grind. “I died, died, died, died. Hundreds of gigs. It was embarrassing and depressing and humiliating.” Goldstein had become a minor celebrity in the U.K., appearing in series like Ricky Gervais’ “Derek,” but he was never famous famous. So his friend and frequent writing partner Will Bridges is now astonished at the speed at which his mate has become a household name.

“It did come as a shock, right?” Bridges says. “I’ve never seen him wear a baseball cap until he started getting famous. He’s got to wear the cap when he goes out and be careful about where he goes and stuff like that. And he accepts it. He’s fine with it. I’ve never heard him complain. But for me, the sadness of it is that we can’t just hang out in a café and chat now.”

Most recently, this wild ride took Goldstein to the White House, where the “Ted Lasso” cast sat down with President Biden to talk about the importance of mental health. “It’s so surreal. I have to really work to tell myself, ‘Be present and enjoy this amazing thing,’” he says. “Because your brain is almost disassociating going, ‘This doesn’t make any sense. I’m walking into the Oval Office, and there’s Mr. President and first lady Dr. Biden.’ Your brain is like, ‘What the fuck is happening?’”

Fuuck. Goldstein thinks about death a lot. His podcast, “Films to Be Buried With,” tackles the subject of dying, but through the lens of movies — for instance, if you had to choose one movie to bring to heaven, which would it be? But Goldstein isn’t morbid about the inevitability of death; instead, he’s motivated by it.

The star often jokes that he’s glad he didn’t achieve this level of success while in his 20s. “I’d probably be going insane, doing the Hollywood parties and ending up dead in a gutter,” he says and laughs, knowing that’s not really true. But Goldstein gets that the clock is ticking, and he wants to use that time wisely.

“I tend to think it’s sort of how I make decisions. Like, ‘Oh, I’ll be dead in a minute, so I might as well do this.’” What he might as well do includes a sold-out April 8 stand-up show at a 2,000-seat Seattle theater, making it his largest solo concert to date. It doesn’t faze him. “I’m sure, on the way to Seattle, I’ll be, ‘Oh God, this is happening!’ But I don’t need to waste three weeks worrying about it. Because at some point, I’m going to be dead. I keep having to say that.”

And if the fame runs out? “I had a great little run. And what a life — an amazing life. I’ll have made enough money that I can live by the sea, which is what I want. If Seattle is a disaster and everyone is like, ‘Kill him. This is the worst thing we’ve ever seen,’ I’ll be that guy who lives by the sea.”

But hold up. That’s not what Goldstein wants now. “Shrinking” has become a critical hit and the perfect salve for our post-pandemic times in the same way that “Ted Lasso” was at the start of COVID. “Shrinking” dives into issues of mental health, grief and relationships — and is also (Roy Kent voice here) fucking funny.

Peggy Sirota for Variety

In “Shrinking,” Segel plays a recent widower who is finally reconnecting with his daughter after falling into a black hole of grief. “For me, it’s always about the characters and the relationships,” Goldstein says. “And with ‘Shrinking,’ what interested me was the story of a father and a daughter. He has not been there for her, and as he’s coming back to himself, he’s trying to repair things. And what’s interesting is this attempt to be forgiven and to be her dad again, and whether she will allow him — the change of dynamic between a father and a child over a season. That was what first got me excited.”

But “Shrinking” also tells the stories of the people around the little family, and how they’re struggling with changes in their own lives — including Harrison Ford’s character, who is adjusting to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Turns out that’s also a very personal storyline among the “Shrinking” creators for several reasons. For one, Lawrence remains tight with Michael J. Fox, having worked with him as the co-creator of “Spin City.” But Goldstein’s dad is also living with Parkinson’s, an experience that went a long way in drafting Ford’s role.

“I think the specificity of that storyline can only be achieved from experience,” Segel says. “There are such micro moments for that character that Harrison just plays so beautifully and so subtly. I think that’s very much from the experience of someone who has dealt with those things. And that’s what makes it work.”

The “Shrinking” team is busy putting together scripts for Season 2, and this time out, Goldstein gets to be in the Burbank writers’ room in person, rather than on Zoom. The first season was produced while he was in London working on “Ted Lasso.” This kind of juggling act has become his norm.

“It’s a little bit of an insatiable work ethic that some of these Brits have,” says Lawrence. “I don’t like it.” When he first approached Goldstein about writing on Season 1 of “Ted Lasso,” Goldstein was writing a film, “Nan,” starring Catherine Tate, while also waiting to see if the series he created with Bridges, “Soulmates,” would be ordered to series. (It was.)

“So Brett was simultaneously writing on ‘Ted Lasso’ and then shooting ‘Ted Lasso,’ and then writing the movie ‘Nan,’ and then leaving Thursday through Sunday to run his own show in Mallorca, Spain, where he was the head writer. It was crazy,” Lawrence says.

Goldstein says his secret to writing fast is not to overthink things. “It’s not me; it’s like magic. I don’t know where it comes from.” He wants to offer some writing advice but is hesitant. “This is going to sound so mad,” he says, “so I’ll shut my mouth now.”

But, pressed, he speaks up. “I think what stops most people is ‘What if it’s not perfect?’ I’m like, ‘I know it’s not going to be perfect; it’s the first draft. And then we’re going to rewrite it a million times.’ So just get it down. It’s much easier to work on something once you have a first draft. I always do first drafts really quick, because also the quicker you do it, the more subconscious will happen. Do the work.”

Fuuuck. If it sounds like Brett Goldstein is running a marathon right now, it’s because he is. “I always feel like I’m making up for lost time that I didn’t enjoy as a youth,” he says. “Because I was a very miserable kid. I was so miserable as a young person that now I enjoy things more. ‘Oh yeah, we should do fun stuff!’”

Peggy Sirota for Variety

Part of Goldstein’s stand-up routine has focused on being a grumpy old man as a kid. “I was a 6-year-old who sighed a lot,” he says. “I was born this way. I had a dark way.”

Even back then, at least one thing made Young Brett Goldstein happy: movies. “I guess it was through my mom and dad,” he says. “My mom and dad were film buffs. They saw a lot. But I liked films so much that I think I ruined it for them. Even they were like, ‘Fuck, it’s only film!’”

Goldstein was a comedy fan and collected Richard Pryor and Steve Martin albums. But in terms of film, he liked the dark stuff. Particularly horror. It was a TV show, though — “Twin Peaks” — that changed his life. Goldstein still remembers how he and his sister walked in on their dad watching the 1990 premiere and got hooked.

“We were so scared that I moved the mattress from my room into my sister’s and put it next to her bed. We were obsessed with the show and so genuinely terrified that we could scare ourselves just by saying ‘Bob,’” he says. “When they made ‘Fire Walk with Me,’ it genuinely took us a week to watch it because we could only watch it like 10-minute chunks at a time. It’s so fucking scary. I still love it. That final episode, nothing scarier in the history of TV. Can you top that?”

The show remains an obsession. “Here’s a secret about me that I don’t that I’ve told anyone. Here you go, here’s the scoop: People ask, ‘What do you do to relax?’ What always makes me happy is looking up ‘Twin Peaks’ fan theories.”

That’s right, if you’ve ever written some out-there theory about “Twin Peaks” on the internet, chances are good that Goldstein has seen it. “I love reading about ‘Twin Peaks.’ I love thinking about ‘Twin Peaks.’ It exists in my head now and forever.” (His thoughts on the recent revival? “Magnificent. Five stars. Incredible. How did it happen?”)

After a pause Goldstein explains how the “Twin Peaks” experience influenced his own writing. “The thing I always find fascinating about writing and making this stuff is how much you always want to surprise the audience. But there are payoffs. The thing of giving people what they want,” he says. “Either you give people what you want, and hopefully you do it in a surprising way, or you don’t. But sometimes there are certain things where it’s like, an audience has earned this.”

Fuuuuck. So, have “Ted Lasso” fans earned a fourth season? It’s the question on everyone’s minds — a White House staffer even made a joke about it when Goldstein and company visited. But no, not even the President of the United States has been told whether there will be another loop for “Lasso.”

For the record, Goldstein would like the show to continue, and he has ideas. But he also respects that it’s Jason Sudeikis’ call. “I really do get that it’s a hard decision. Because it’s this wonderful thing, and these three seasons feel really perfect. Do you gamble? Do you leave the table? Or do you keep going because you have more?”

What Goldstein does object to is the idea that “Ted Lasso” should end before it turns to shit. “I’m like, ‘No, it wouldn’t get shit. Because it’s a really good fucking group of people who care about it. Jason’s a fucking genius. No way we’d make something shit. Because why would we suddenly be shit? Like, ‘oh maybe it would go downhill.’ Why? Have we suddenly all gotten shit at our jobs?”

Goldstein has a bit of confidence now, having two hit shows on the air, a sold-out stand-up show, the potential of a Hercules movie from Marvel (for the record, Goldstein claims he has no clue what’s happening there) and that whole sexy thing. And it’s not only his wise age that lets Goldstein calmly handle this sudden burst of success. It’s not quite a coincidence that both “Ted Lasso” and “Shrinking” are all about mental health and self-care — it’s something that Goldstein continues to work on himself.

“It’s why characters are interesting and why people are interesting,” he says. “And why you are probably interesting to yourself. Because you are born with a secret box inside you. And that box is filled with all kinds of shit. Sometimes stuff will come up. And you might behave in a way that you don’t like or that you wish you were better. That is what therapy is for.”

Unpacking that box and all its secrets is part of the human “learning curve,” Goldstein adds. “The mental health thing is a forever thing,” he says. “I had therapy this morning, and we were talking about something, and I was like, ‘Fucking hell, man, after all I’ve done to get better in my head, there’s still this!’”

Fuuuuuck. When Goldstein makes points like that, it’s easy to see why so many fans have been drawn to the star. “He is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever come to know,” says “Ted Lasso” star Juno Temple, who plays Roy’s now-former flame, Keeley Jones. “He is obviously hilarious, and incredibly kind, but also honest and just himself.”

Goldstein smiles throughout our conversation, and I’m reminded of how strange it is that he never seems to smile in any photograph. “I challenge you to find more than five photographs in the entire time he’s been photographed where he’s smiling,” Bridges says. “And the weird thing is because he’s always smiling. Except when you take a photo of him.”

I ask Bridges if he knows why. “I don’t know, I’ve never asked him!” Is it because Goldstein knows audiences have embraced Roy Kent’s growl, and he’s simply giving the fans what he wants?

Nope, the answer is more complicated than that — and hysterical. Goldstein has put on a sour puss for the camera long before “Ted Lasso” came into his life. Really, all his life.

“It’s a life project,” he reveals. “The idea was, if I never smiled in a photo, it seemed funny to me that when I die, if there’s ever an obituary, the obituary would say, ‘he was the smiliest, loveliest guy.’  And the editor would be look through every photo going, ‘This guy?’ That was the project!”

That attempt at a life-long prank may be the wildest thing anyone has ever revealed to me in an interview.  But sadly, Goldstein admits that it’s been a bit ruined by his sheer number of on-screen appearances and TV interviews. You can screengrab anything, after all, and most YouTube clips of Goldstein feature him at some point flashing a big smile. And this Variety cover story — with Goldstein sporting a grin under our flying “V” logo — won’t help.

“I think the life project has been slightly fucking ruined,” he sighs.  

Fuuuuuuck. But that’s OK, because we know what Brett Goldstein’s real-life project is, and it couldn’t be going better: Embedding himself among the Muppets.

Goldstein’s love for the Muppets can also be traced to his childhood, but really became known thanks to a video of his one-man dissection of “A Muppet Christmas Carol” that went viral. He’s described a visit last year to guest star on “Sesame Street” as the best day of his life. And in a bit of serendipity, “Shrinking” brought him together with the other biggest “Muppets” fan in the world, Segel, who wrote and starred in 2011’s “The Muppets.”

“The first time I met Brett was on the Zoom pitch for ‘Shrinking,’ and Brett had a Muppets poster in the background,” Segel remembers. “It kind of indicated to me that our Venn diagram of tone might align. Because there’s something about the Muppets that is very earnest, not ashamed of real emotion and is never snarky. And that’s a big dividing line in comedy. I’ve always felt like being snarky was easy. Brett and I, I think, are kind of underneath it all pretty gentle dudes who want to be nice.”

Goldstein says he has always been drawn to the mix of sincerity and subversiveness of the Muppets. “There’s a lot of great shit in the Muppets.”

OK, I was wrong before. This is really the quickest way to make Brett Goldstein speechless: Introduce him to something he’s never seen from the MCU (that’s the Muppet Creative Universe, of course). I ask him if he ever subscribed to or read Muppet Magazine as a kid.

He perks up. “No, I didn’t know that was a thing. Now I feel ashamed.” I ask if he’d like to see some issues. “Yes, please!”

For four decades, I have held on to copies of Muppet Magazine, a periodical I subscribed to as a kid in the 1980s. Yes, it was a monthly magazine that really existed and featured Kermit as editor in chief. Statler and Waldorf wrote about movies and TV. Miss Piggy penned an advice column. In one issue, Fozzie Bear interviewed Henry Winkler. It inspired me as a budding journalist. And I never threw them away.

Now I’m showing them to Muppet fan Brett Goldstein. “Whoa whoa! Wow wow! No shit! This is quality stuff,” he says, flipping through the magazines. “Even this stuff is solid, thoughtful, subversive, funny. This is why you’re here. The Muppets brought us together.” Goldstein would love to do something more with the Muppets, and Segel wants to see him do that.

Segel is also pressing Goldstein to make a guest appearance on Season 2 of “Shrinking.” But first Goldstein has to prepare for that Seattle show. And next up, a long-gestating indie film he’s been trying to make for years — it’s a romantic comedy he calls his other baby — has finally received funding and will shoot later this year. Goldstein also has an overall development deal at Warner Bros. TV (which produces “Ted Lasso” and “Shrinking”) to create new TV projects.

“He’s a really good egg and he would probably hate me for saying this, but he is a generally all-around really decent guy and we are so lucky to have him as part of the Warner Bros. family,” says Warner Bros. TV Group chairman Channing Dungey. “I think he’s taking all of this with a lot of humility, a lot of grace. And I think he’s really finding ways to enjoy the experience and not be run over by it. But the question has been asked, when exactly does he sleep? I don’t know the answer.”

Does he have an answer? “I don’t sleep,” he admits. “I mean, I do. But, again, we go back to death. All jokes aside, I don’t know how long the window is. And I do feel like there’s so much I want to get out. I’m fit and healthy and have these opportunities. Let’s fucking do them.”

You heard Sexy Brett Goldstein. Let’s go.

Styling: Rose Forde/The Wall Group; Styling Assistant: Daniella Nikolic; Grooming: Kerrie Urban/The Wall Group; Production Design: Francisco Vargas: Look 1 (hoodie and sweatshirt): Full look: Christian Dior; Look 2 (long sleeve black top): Top and pants: Lanvin; Shoes: Jimmy Choo; Look 3 (green short sleeve shirt): Top: COS; Pants: Dzojchen; Coat: Vince; Sneakers: Santoni DBS; Look 4 (cover and jumping): Suit and shoes: Christian Dior