“Ted Lasso” made a name for itself by prioritizing moments of kindness and forgiveness. The amiable coach (played by Jason Sudeikis) charmed us all for managing the AFC Richmond team with humanity. Which is why it’s pretty shocking that one of the all-time standout moments for the first season was absolutely ruthless.
After being bullied and relegated to the sidelines for countless episodes, the character arc of assistant coach Nate Shelley (played by the brilliant Nick Mohammed) climaxes in the most spectacular of moments: a team roast. Wanting nothing more but the very best for players, Nate pens an elaborate rundown for each player and hands it off to Lasso.
In a surprise twist of fate, Lasso decides the team needs to hear this assessment from Nate himself. What starts off as a timid collection of burns develops into a full-on roast of each player that is, as Dani Rojas says, “tough but fair.”
Variety broke down this beloved moment with Mohammed and director Declan Lowney for the latest installment of “Making A Scene.”
To capture the perfect look for this important away game, Lowney went on several location scouting trips exploring the guest locker rooms in various football stadiums across the UK. No shock here, “The away team always get a pretty miserable dressing room,” says the director.
One real-life locker room had strategically placed a pole in the center of the space, so the visiting coach could never actually address his team all at once. Lowney thought about implementing this strategic pole placement for the big roast but ultimately decided the focus should be all on Nate. However, they did manage to incorporate another real world scenario into “Lasso.”
“I noticed in one particular dressing room the partition into the toilets had fallen down, and the urinals, where the men were expected to go the bathroom, were completely open. In our creating and designing this room we actually did that. We stuck a pair of urinals behind where Ted and Beard stand.”
Before the motivational tirade kicks off, the whole thing starts with an apology between Ted and Nate. The act of forgiveness is used so often on this Apple TV Plus series, it would be an afterthought if it wasn’t so rare to see grown adults on television atoning and reconciling for their past actions. It’s one of the many things that makes this show special.
“I think it’s important that the characters can show forgiveness and apologize,” Mohammed says. “[Ted] apologizes to Nate for snapping the night before. If anything, it deepens the characters instantly. It makes them more relatable. It makes them human, that apology is really, really important. I can’t give anything away, but it’s really, really important… that stuck with me quite a lot, because you don’t see it much happening in comedies and comedy drama.”
Mohammed is fast to point out that this is also the same episode where Ted suffers from the panic attack. “You really see firsthand that Ted has, despite his cheery persona and the kindness and his optimism and hope, he still has his demons and his flaws as a character… I think it’s very important that we’ve seen him snap and that he has to apologize and Nate just accepts it. It’s a good thing that Nate accepts it. He doesn’t hold a grudge for him.”
The roast itself starts off slow with Nate finding his footing but climaxes into something bigger and essentially something everyone in the room needs. “It all culminates in this emotional dialogue with with Roy [Brett Goldstein] because he genuinely does feel for Roy and even protected him prior to Ted arriving,” says Mohammed. “He has a lot of respect for Roy as almost like an older brother, but he really thinks that what he’s saying needs to be said and will make a difference because Roy needs to be playing [differently] in order for the team to win.”
Lowney utilized the handheld camera to help capture this massive moment.
“I wanted [pan up and down] with the camera because it emphasized how small Nate is and how tall Roy is tearing over him… As Roy approaches and the feeling of suddenly looking down and you suddenly go, ‘he’s going to tear them apart!’ It makes Roy look so powerful standing over Nate,” he explains. “I love that moment, and I liked that he takes the note off and throws it away. He knows what he’s going to say and he’s able to do it. And he doesn’t falter… It’s what empowers Roy and the team to go there and win.”
This interview has been edited and condescend for clarity. “Making a Scene” is presented by HBO.