Spoiler alert for season three of Ted Lasso: There won’t be mass casualties.
“It’s not like Thanos is in it and half of us die,” co-creator, executive producer and actor Brendan Hunt jokes to THR about the show’s third and possibly — as widely speculated — final season. “Most of us, anyway, will probably still be alive.”
Hunt spoke with THR from London, where production on season three is winding down, about the Apple TV+ series’ repeat and new Emmy nominations, criticisms of season two and what’s to come for the series.
Congratulations on the repeat best comedy series nomination. I have to imagine it’s gratifying to see some other castmembers get nominated this year, along with the people repeating.
They’re all gratifying, but it’s really cool that so many first-timers are on there. The guest category, too. [Guest stars James Lance, Sam Richardson and Harriet Walter received noms.] For three of the gang — they’re guests, but still the gang — to get in, too, was just fantastic. And for Sarah [Niles] and Toheeb [Jimoh] to get added, it was pretty great.
While season two was running, there was a lot of talk about the seeming suddenness of Nate’s (Nick Mohammed) heel turn. Going back through it, though, it did feel like the seeds were there. Did that criticism surprise you?
In terms of would people pick up on it, the Nate bread crumbs, we knew they were there, but we can’t control whether or not people see them. As people were going along and were like, “What’s happening to Nate?!” Well, it’s been happening to him since season one. People having reactions to it, that’s great, because it means people give a shit. For people to be mad or think we’re doing something that’s not earned, well, I don’t agree, but off you go. But I think we were dropping hints — we were worried we were dropping hints that were too revealing, but for a lot of people it was the other way.
In the last episode, when Nate really lashes out at Ted (Jason Sudeikis) and leaves, do you feel like it’s something Ted will really grapple with, or does he realize Nate’s state of mind at the time?
I can’t really talk too much about it, but I think any time Ted hears criticism, he takes it on board. But I personally think that outburst from Nate, as far as Ted is concerned, is so out of nowhere that you go, “This isn’t about me. It’s about whatever you have going on at that moment.” This wasn’t something we talked about in the room, but just my two cents is that when someone has that kind of outburst at you, you can’t respond with logic because it’s not logical. I think Ted the empath recognized that in the moment. And also halftime was ending (laughs), so what could you do? And then before he could do anything about it, Nate made his moves.
I want to ask about your showcase episode, “Beard After Hours.” How do you find a balance between paying homage to the movie but also giving more insight into Coach Beard’s character?
It ended up not being too much of an homage, because we went other ways with it. But After Hours was definitely the starting point — we knew it would be a crazy night out and he’d still show up for work in the morning, in whatever form he could get there. The balance of how much to reveal with Beard is always the thing, because what’s fun about him is the mystery of him. If you give away too much about him, you’re in danger of negating one of the main things that’s cool about him. We didn’t give too much information. We just showed what we think is a not-atypical night out for him, which is why he just rolled with it.
Ted Lasso has the spine of a sports show, but it’s also about several other things. How do you approach mapping that out and keeping everything in balance in terms of story?
When you’re building an episode or looking at the arc of a character, we just have to do it one thing at a time. In the most literal way, you get your index cards out for the stories, and the blue cards are the Ted story for this episode, and the pink cards are Rebecca [Hannah Waddingham], and the yellow cards are Nate, the green cards are Roy [Brett Goldstein]. Then it’s about finding the intersections of all that. You have to break it down to the smallest parts, and once you have those pieces of story, a natural sense of rhythm sets in, starting with whoever is writing that script and ending with the final cut. We can’t start an episode with trying to picture the whole mosaic. We have to go tile by tile.
Was there anything in season two that you didn’t initially plan for but which worked out well?
The “Beard” episode is an example. To get [soccer icons] Thierry Henry and Gary Lineker for that episode was a massive coup. It wasn’t them in the original script, it was just talking heads in general. Then it was them in the script, and then it was them in real life because they agreed to do it. Gary Lineker by then had come out in support of the show on Twitter, which was lovely of him. And Thierry Henry actually knows Jason a little bit, so Jason knew he would like the show, too. But having them on board and getting to hang out with them a little bit in the green room and chat about football, that was a fun day. “Never Gonna Give You Up” [which the team sings at Rebecca’s father’s funeral] was in the first draft of that episode that Jane [Becker] turned in. But you never know what’s going to clear. It was one from a list of songs that fit the profile of what we wanted for that moment. Sometimes a placeholder never lets go of that place. Largely due to Hannah and M.J. [Delaney], who directed that episode, and A.J. [Catoline], who edited it, it just came off so well. And Rick Astley’s grace — he not only let us use the song, but he was like, “Use the song, use the video, use it.” He gave the opposite of resistance.
There have been lots of reports saying season three will be it for the series. Did you write it to be a full- stop ending, or would there be a way to go forward?
We are writing an ending for this three-chunk portion that we’ve always seen, but it’s not like Thanos is in it and half of us die. Most of us, anyway, will probably still be alive, so I don’t think leaving an out is anything to worry about. It’s just a matter of whether or not we pick this up in some other way, and when. But right now, we have to get through this whole mishegas, and then we’ll have a clearer head to see what the future holds.
What can people expect next season?
What shows usually do in season three: We all adopt a child. A bunch of adopted children running around. It really becomes more of an Oliver! thing — Oliver exclamation point. No — the team is dealing with the reality of going back to the Premier League, where we’re minnows again. We’re minus our brightest tactical mind, and we know the way the Premier League structure works, we have to play West Ham twice, so Nate and Rupert [Anthony Head] are out there looming. We might see a bit of what’s going on at West Ham as well.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.