Courtesy of Apple
With the third season of Apple TV+’s Emmy-winning comedy “Ted Lasso” premiering on March 15, Variety spoke with series stars Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed and Toheeb Jimoh. The interviews offered insights about what comes next for the “Ted Lasso” characters, as well as the rationale behind creative decisions made in the writers’ room for Season 3 — including the 12-episode season’s longer episodes.
As “Ted Lasso” returns, AFC Richmond is considered the last place underdogs on the Premier League — and the stakes are raised, with former assistant coach Nate Shelley (Mohammed) now at the helm of West Ham United (AFC Richmond’s prestigious competitor). In Nate’s absence, assistant coaches Roy Kent (Goldstein) and Coach Beard (Hunt) double down on helping Ted (Sudeikis) coach the team of underdogs — as Ted continues to grapple with anxiety.
The first four episodes of this season range from 44 minutes to 50 minutes — and Sudeikis, who took over sole showrunner duties this season, said that comes out of needing more time on the growing cast and its multiple, ever-more complicated storylines.
“I’m just following the stories,” Sudeikis said. “I think we all are. It’s one of the lovely repercussions of the show having an audience. People want to want to hang out with these characters. In a first season, we didn’t know if people were going to like these guys and gals as much as we did. And then they did, and we got to investigate and explore those side characters, and the internal struggles within our main characters a little bit more in season two.”
Now, with Season 3, Sudeikis said he needed more room for further investigation “into some of those characters and the choices they’ve made throughout those seasons. Yes, Ted and Rebecca, Keeley, Roy. But people also want to figure out what’s what’s cooking with Sam, Nate, Colin and Danny. Each one of them can carry a storyline. It was something that just delighted us in the writers room and throughout production. And it’s a joy to edit even now. I really love watching all these people do what they do.”
Here’s a brief roundup of exactly what we’ll see some of them do in Season 3.
Ted Lasso is, of course, the heart of “Ted Lasso.” And as viewers have gradually learned, there’s something more complicated — and sometimes dark — brewing under that folksy facade. When Season 3 opens, Ted is coming off a lengthy visit by his son — and as Ted drops him off at the airport, he faces a bit of an existential crisis. Why is he still in London?
“For the Ted character, I think he’s just wondering, like, ‘What am I doing?’” Sudeikis said. “He got to spend six weeks with his son during the offseason, as we see at the beginning in the first episode of Season 3. He wants to know that what he’s doing is important enough to be away from something that is truly important, forging this relationship and co-parenting and raising his son Henry.” And the question is, if he’s going to stay at AFC Richmond, is he going to try to do better at his job?
Sudeikis characterizes Season 1 of “Ted Lasso” as being focused on the dynamics within the confines of AFC Richmond — pitting Ted against Roy Kent or Rebecca or Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster). Season 2, in turn, centered on those characters turning inward dealing with things within themselves. Now, for Season 3, “I would say the theme is how does AFC Richmond as this team, this community, this chosen family, deal with other people?” he said. “Deal with people coming through, deal with people coming in. And are these foreign bodies friend or foe? Is it something that we need? Is it something that we want? Is it something that has to happen? Are we safe? You don’t know. That, as a whole, was what going on with Season 3.”
Goldstein, who plays Roy, opened up about the challenges his character faces in the upcoming season, as he questions whether or not he made the right call in putting an abrupt halt to his soccer career. The possibility of Roy making a surprise return to the field was never fully ruled out after his transition to coaching, though Goldstein said fans shouldn’t get their hopes up: “I’d love that, I think he’d love that, but I think his knee wouldn’t agree. I think his knee would be like, ‘Are you fucking joking? You can barely walk, mate.’”
Lingering regrets are a prevailing motif throughout Roy’s storyline in the third season, which begins with the ex-athlete navigating the uncomfortable aftermath of breaking up with love interest Keeley Jones (Temple).
When Season 2 left off, Roy and Keeley had decided to spend their summer apart from one another — a nebulous conclusion to their relationship arc that Temple believes Keeley was also confused by. “I think Keeley is also surprised,” Temple said, adding that her character doesn’t know “whether it’s a breakup, whether it’s a break.”
“It’s not that she’s saying, ‘I don’t want to,’ it’s her saying, ‘I can’t right now,’” Temple added.
As Keeley has embarked on a journey from the star player’s girlfriend to a PR executive, the actor addressed the importance of Keeley’s growth outside of her romantic relationships, from platonic to professional. Temple proudly reflected on her character’s maturity, explaining Keeley has “been given this extraordinary opportunity in her career, which is to run her own PR company — and that’s a big deal. She wants to get that right, and she wants to do it in the Keeley Jones way.”
Along the way, Keeley is guided by an unexpected mentor: AFC Richmond’s owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham). While Keeley’s unlikely relationship with Roy charmed audiences, it’s her unexpected friendship with Rebecca that has stolen the hearts of viewers — and Temple. As two of the main female cast members, Temple revealed how easy it has been “to put this friendship on camera,” noting that she and Waddingham are truly friends off-camera. “She’s one of my best friends and she teaches me a lot, and has just continued to blow my mind,” Temple said. “Getting to play out this relationship has been something that doesn’t feel like work.”
As some friendships begin to blossom, “Ted Lasso” fans watch other relationships crumble. Season 2 concluded with Nate betraying his biggest supporter and friend, Ted, by accepting a coaching gig at AFC Richmond’s fiercest competitor. Mohammed said that Nate’s decision could also be the result of his character similarly struggling with his mental health: “Undoubtedly, Nate does suffer,” he said. “His mental health isn’t the best it could be, and he’s got a lot of learning to do — a lot of soul-searching to do.”
“Ted Lasso” has been celebrated for depicting mental health struggles through its title character, but Mohammed says that Nate’s own personal struggles manifest in an entirely different manner. “There is a reality to it — that actually sometimes people have been picked on in their lives, and you give them a little bit of power, and they just decide that’s the only thing they know is to do that to other people,” Mohammed said. “There’s certain conditioning that comes with that, and so I think it’s a really smart and sensitive handling of a lot of very difficult subjects.”
Hunt, one of the series’ co-creators, continues to wear multiple hats in the third season as a writer and executive producer, in addition to portraying fan-favorite character Coach Beard. In juggling all of his on-set responsibilities, Hunt affirmed the importance of “letting the boundaries blur” in order to adapt to whatever role the production needs him to fulfill at any given moment.
Drawing from his memories in the writers’ room, Hunt relayed an anecdote about the detailed process of coming up with a last name for recurring character Jane Payne, whose complicated relationship with Coach Beard escalates in Season 3. It’s a “two-part tribute,” Hunt said, partly to the King of Payne in the pinball game Medieval Madness.
“But also, one of our writers — Jane Becker — when she was in high school, she was dating a musician,” Hunt said. “And the break-up was so heart-wrenching for the poor lad, he wrote a song called ‘Jane Pain.’”
Jimoh’s character, Sam, plays a pivotal role in the upcoming season, with the official launch of his Nigerian restaurant. Last season, Sam had an unforeseen romance with Rebecca — a door Jimoh said is “definitely not fully closed” — though the immigrant footballer has his hands full this season opening his own business.
“I think back to 12-year-old, 13-year-old Toheeb, and if he could see this opportunity that I have to play a Nigerian and tell Nigerian stories and open a Nigerian restaurant, he’d be super stoked,” Jimoh said.
“I helped name the restaurant,” he continued, reflecting on his involvement in bringing Sam’s restaurant to life. “There’s just fun stories behind the naming of the restaurant, so that was part of my insight. But a lot of it was just the types of food that would be served there — a lot of that comes from the Nigerian restaurants that I love eating in in London. Enish is one of those.”
“Ted Lasso” was created by Hunt, Joe Kelly and Bill Lawrence. The third season was penned by Sudeikis, Goldstein and Lawrence, with M.J. Delaney, Erica Dunton and Destiny Ekaragha taking the director’s chair. During its three-year run, the series has won 11 Emmys and been nominated for 40.
The first three episodes of Season 3 will be available for streaming March 15 on Apple TV+, followed by new episodes premiering each Wednesday thereafter until May 31.