Ted Lasso sports one of comedy’s more interesting origin stories.
Its genesis was a commercial gimmick NBC counted on to drive interest in its newly acquired Premier League scheduling back in 2013. Its present iteration is a half-hour streaming dramedy, filled with homespun humor and salt-of-the-earth characters that win it countless Emmys, Golden Globes, and, most recently, a Peabody Award. The evolution of Ted Lasso — like Ted Lasso himself — is the story of an underdog with good intentions, one that manages to completely exceed expectations.
And it continues in the show’s highly-anticipated second season, as Jason Sudekis’ titular coach tries to earn his English club some respect, on the pitch and off. New arrivals, familiar foes, and the introduction of an alter-ego known simply as Led Tasso all make the highlight reel for season two (we’ve seen the first four episodes) but the core of the show remains the same. It’s a story about friendship, perseverance, and the power of a perfectly baked biscuit.
UPROXX chatted with Coach Beard himself, actor/writer Brendan Hunt, to figure out the secret sauce of season two, dive into his love of the game we call soccer (it’s futbol everywhere else), and finally get to the bottom of a central mystery: Just what the hell is Beard’s real name, anyhow?
Congratulations. A Peabody Award is huge. I think, more importantly, Alex Morgan did a Ted Lasso dance after scoring a goal last month.
That is the correct order of importance.
Right. I was going to say is there one you point to and you’re like, ‘I think we made it now.’?
I don’t know. A Peabody Award is so mature. I think when I was a kid, I probably wasn’t dreaming of a Peabody Award, but I might have been dreaming of athletes I respect doing celebrations that I helped invent. So yeah, definitely Alex Morgan.
This show is still being discovered and talked about a year after it launched, which is unheard of in this streaming era. Why do you think that is?
I wish I knew. I think one is just the pace of it. We very intentionally take our time with the show and we have since the pilot. Comedy, sitcoms especially, have gotten faster and faster over the last, I don’t know, decade. I’m spit-balling here, but network sitcoms are down to 22 minutes so they’re just trying to fit in enough to make a story [and] 22 minutes is not a lot of time. We had the luxury of streaming to let the episode be as long as the story needs it. We let moments breathe. We have grace notes, as Jason is very fond of saying. I don’t know how many shows are doing that and are still funny. That might be one of the things that make us stand out. I don’t think it’s enough to explain the onslaught of positive tweets we so much appreciate, but I think it’s part of the recipe.
You also had a weekly release schedule which is unusual for streaming these days.
I think the only people who were mad about it not coming out all at once is people who’d gotten really used to watching everything all at once. I don’t think that’s the majority of people, and I don’t think that means it’s the best way to do it. I think coming out week by week was a huge positive for the show. It didn’t hurt Game of Thrones none either.
For season two, how did you balance the sunny, optimistic humor the show is known for with some of the tougher storytelling these characters need to grow?
One is that we just know what the arcs of these characters are. We know where they’re going. So that’s down the road. But then way back at the beginning, the central kernel of the beginning of this show is a premise that is screwball ridiculous, absolutely insane. An absolutely insane thing that would have never, never happened.
So because it’s so ridiculous and because we prefer to work at the height of our intelligence, we had to then play [it] as straight as possible, and then by extension of that, make the characters in it as real as possible. So those two things together just make it kind of organic for there to be this push-pull between a comedy side and an emotional side. I think we have a writing staff of people who all enjoy playing with that tension.
I’ve written a couple of plays that are comedies but that have emotional moments too. It keeps the audience off-balance in a really wonderful way. You can make the audience almost hold their breath for a moment in a way that you don’t necessarily get from a straight comedy. So one thing that does is, when the laugh finally comes along, it’s not just a laugh, it’s a release. That release, especially several releases over the course of a half-hour, can be a very healthy thing.
There was this really lovely interview that Ashley Nicole Black gave about her love for Coach Beard and the role he plays on the show. How does that role evolve in season 2?
Boy, that piece. I did not know that was coming, by the way, and then suddenly there it was. That was lovely. It was so lovely that I have forgotten the question that came at the end of that.
Does Beard’s role in his friendship with Ted change in season two?
I think I can tell you confidently with no spoilers that it doesn’t really change in season two, because he’s rock steady. His role is to fill in Ted’s gaps without anyone knowing that that’s what he’s doing, which is why it starts with getting on a plane with a book about the rules of soccer and learning soccer as quickly as possible because he knows Ted’s never going to fill that gap. Then another gap that Ted will have later is Ted not quite realizing how professional sports are different than amateur sports, and the results are important, and that that’s, as he says, okay. But yeah, his role is to fill in Ted’s gaps and to be a little bit Navy SEAL stealthy about it. Maybe he used to be a Navy SEAL. Oh, I’m going to write that down.
There’s so much mystique around Coach Beard that, that kind of leads to my next question Is Coach Beard his real name?
We don’t know yet. We just don’t know.
Until it’s uttered by someone on camera, we’re all just speculating. Is his name Beard? Does he just have a beard? Is he Ted’s beard? There’s just a lot of options. I don’t want to commit to anything.
You and Jason recently announced the roster for the U.S. Women’s Olympic team. I assume that means you’re pulling for them this year. How did that come about?
I really get up for the women’s team in tournaments. In fact, the World Cup final two years ago, we had the whole writer’s room come to the bar with us. These are not really soccer fans, particularly so we say that the women’s team is part of the origin story. But how did that come about? They reached out to Jason, asking if he would like to do that thing, and Jason, as he often does, was like, ‘It would be more fun if I had company.’ It was a bit slap-dash, a little bit thrown together. But it was fun. Julie Foudy, I think she tweeted, ‘Best announcement ever.’
Probably the best review you could hope for.
Yeah, thank you, Julie.