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The Untold Truth Of Ted Lasso

As the exuberant Dani Rojas puts it, "Football is life." Well, that's definitely the case for everyone on Ted Lasso, the Apple TV+ breakout hit. Saturday Night Live great Jason Sudeikis stars as the titular Ted, just about the nicest guy on the planet. But he's also dealing with some dark personal stuff as he jumps on the change of scenery offered when a struggling English Premier League soccer team brings him in as head coach. 

However, there's one problem — Ted coaches American football (not the sport the rest of the world calls football). The solution? Ted is a very eager learner. Sure, it's all part of a scheme from the team's owner to get back at her nasty ex-husband, but Ted and his crew — Coach Beard and kit man Nate the Great — aim to win, both the matches and the jaded professional soccer players and hostile local fans.

Even people who don't enjoy soccer like Ted Lasso, as it's one of the funniest, warmest, and kindest shows to hit the small screen for some time. And as you might expect, there are quite a few interesting tidbits about this beloved series. So make some amazing cookies, throw away that cup of tea, and train hard for the next season with all there is to know about Ted Lasso.

The Ted Lasso character originated in a forgotten commercial

The inspiration for a TV show can come from almost anywhere. It can be an adaptation of a book or movie, or it can be based on a situation from the creator's life. Ted Lasso is one of the few times in television history that a full-length show, and one of depth, was born out of a series of necessarily superficial and short television commercials.

In 2013, around the time that he was leaving Saturday Night Live after eight years, Sudeikis entertained an offer from NBC Sports to appear in spots to promote its broadcasts of English Premier League soccer. Why Sudeikis? Soccer from another nation was perceived as a hard sell and a distant concept to American sports fans, so NBC needed a familiar, funny face to make the introduction. "They had like four or five ideas and one of them was an American coach coaching soccer in London," Sudeikis told Entertainment Weekly, adding that the character the ad writers had initially devised was based on a character he'd played in some SNL sketches. But this guy had "more of a yelling, screaming, kind of Bobby Knight drill sergeant vibe." 

However, Sudeikis was uninterested in portraying that kind of character anymore. "I just saw something a little bit different, and that is what ended up becoming Ted Lasso."

It took a long time for Ted Lasso to return

That first NBC Sports promo was so well received that the network asked Sudeikis to make another with the same character. "The whole story of that first commercial was that he gets hired to coach a professional soccer team, and he gets fired three days later, and we just thought it would be funny if he wasn't cynical or angry about that, that he just loved the experience, and he loved London, and he loved soccer," Sudeikis told Entertainment Weekly.

In 2015, two years after production on the ads began, Sudeikis got together with writing partners Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt (who also acted in the promos) to brainstorm ideas for other things to do with the character. The trio thought a show could work, but further development was slowed when "life happened," in the form of professional and personal obligations. Some time after that, Scrubs and Cougar Town creator Bill Lawrence met with Sudeikis about a completely different TV show idea, which didn't interest the comedian. But when Lawrence asked if Sudeikis had any comedy concepts that he wanted to pitch, he broached reviving his coach ads as an actual show.

Jason Sudeikis has a wide array of inspirations for Ted Lasso

Initially, the character of Ted Lasso is straightforward — an overly nice guy, quick with a joke or compliment. He's a real-life Ned Flanders. But as the first season of Ted Lasso progresses, audiences learn that Ted contains multitudes, that he's complex, that his sunny attitude is an act of aggression against a world of cruelty and indifference, and that he's also going through a painful divorce.

Jason Sudeikis had to piece several influences together to get the characterization just right. "I just felt like it'd be nice to play someone [kind] as a little bit of a challenge to myself," he told Collider. He went on to add, "It was an exercise in trying to prove to myself that it's possible to be a good person and still be interesting." And parts of the Ted Lasso look greatly inform how Sudeikis inhabits the role. "My joke has been that Audrey Hepburn used to say that she really would find a character through the wardrobe through some Givenchy outfit. And me, it's facial hair and the aviators and the visor."

On a broader level, Sudeikis, a comic actor playing a more serious part than he usually does, took cues from the dramatic parts of Robin Williams, who took a similar career trajectory. According to Variety, Williams played a lot of teachers and mentors who, as Sudeikis put it, "see more in you than you can see in yourself" and bring a whole lot of "that optimism."

Brett Goldstein was only supposed to be a writer

Counter to Ted Lasso's arc as an outsider finding his way in English professional soccer, there's the character of Roy Kent, a former superstar now past his prime who probably doesn't have too many seasons left in him. He's a stern guy who's not fond of showing his emotions, and actor Brett Goldstein plays the character with nuance and subtlety. 

Goldstein is a filmmaker, but he's also a performer with an extensive list of British TV and film credits. However, he wasn't on producers' radar to play Roy. Instead, he was initially hired as a member of the writing staff, having worked with co-creator Bill Lawrence years earlier on a TV pilot. But Goldstein helped Lawrence, Sudeikis, and the other writers in season 1 when he realized he wanted to do something more on the series. As Goldstein told Vulture, "I just started to think I could play Roy. I really get it. I really get this part. But I also knew it was not the sort of part I would usually play."

He was also afraid to ask if he could read for it because he didn't want to embarrass himself or anyone else, so on the eve of the final day of writing sessions, he taped himself doing five scenes as Roy, then emailed them to Lawrence, who said the audition was "good."

Roy Kent exists thanks to Roy Keane and Coach Beard

Ted Lasso writer Brett Goldstein landed the part of Roy Kent, but the role was sort of originated by another Ted Lasso writer, co-creator Brendan Hunt (who also acts on the show as Coach Beard). Hunt developed his comedy chops in the early 2000s as part of the comedy troupe Boom Chicago, which staged lots of shows in Europe. In that collective, he started working closely with Joe Kelly and Jason Sudekis, and all three are credited with bringing Ted Lasso to television. 

In 2003, Boom Chicago's touring show explored some elements that would form the foundation of the 2020s Apple TV+ series. One sketch concerned an American trying to understand the unique culture surrounding Amsterdam's Ajax soccer squad. Another piece was a spotlight moment for Hunt, who impersonated and lampooned the acid-tongued Irish soccer star Roy Keane, who at the time played for England's dominant Manchester United squad. A bitter, real-life soccer star named Roy Keane is just a short jump to a bitter, fictional soccer star named Roy Kent.

The American cast was game to learn about European soccer

The premise of Ted Lasso is simple but compelling. An American football coach is hired to run an English football team, meaning soccer. He initially knows very little about the game because for him, like most Americans, soccer isn't a major sport. Amusingly, the American actor who plays Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis, found himself in a similar situation when the show began production. Sudeikis told Entertainment Weekly that at the start, he knew "very little" about soccer, and that he hadn't played the game since he was 10.

Most of his knowledge came from his more advanced co-creator and co-star, Brendan Hunt (Coach Beard). It also helped that he and Hunt have been playing EA Sports' FIFA soccer video games together for 20 years. When Ted Lasso ramped up, Sudeikis, Hunt, and some of the show's other writers and cast members started playing a few nights a week with a customized team. In the game (as on the show), Sudeikis and his group plays as AFC Richmond, adding that, "We designed the players to look like our guys as much as possible."

Behind the music of Ted Lasso

Ted Lasso is a show about an American, set in Great Britain. Similarly, behind the scenes, it's an American production with a theme song and score by a British musician — Marcus Mumford, frontman of the very popular band Mumford and Sons. Landing Mumford was relatively easy, as he's good friends with Ted Lasso star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis. They met when Mumford and Sons played Saturday Night Live during Sudeikis' tenure, and then the comedian appeared in the band's video for "Hopeless Wanderer."

Sudeikis asked Mumford to make music for Ted Lasso via a long voicemail message, but Mumford didn't receive it right away. "It had been in my phone for a couple of months, and he thought I was just ghosting him," Mumford told USA Today. Once he heard it, Mumford quickly signed on because he's a big fan of Premier League soccer team AFC Wimbledon. "Ted Lasso's team is AFC Richmond, and Richmond and Wimbledon are in the same part of London. So it felt like serendipity to me," Mumford explained.

But that's not the only fascinating tidbit about the soundtrack. Probably the most memorable musical moment on Ted Lasso occurs in "For the Children." When a high-profile celebrity musician (like Robbie Williams) can't be secured to perform at the 10th Annual Benefit for Underprivileged Children, inventive and welcoming Ted brings in a street musician who dazzles the crowd with his singing and guitar work. That busker is Cam Cole, a real street musician who can be found performing on the streets of London.

The show was shot in order

Unlike other situation comedies, where the writing staff assembles each week to come up with plots to "break story" for future episodes, Ted Lasso's braintrust wrote the entire first season of ten episodes all at once, before filming even began. (Creators and developers Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, and Joe Kelly had the pilot episode nailed down before acquiring more writers to finish out the rest of the first batch of episodes.) Ted Lasso producers also opted to shoot the series in order, from episode one to episode ten.

The series received plaudits for its strong and genuine emotions, achieved in part by its method of filming in narrative chronological order. It all paid off in the powerful season 1 finale that depicted the highs and heartbreaks of AFC Richmond going up against a formidable opponent. "We filmed everything in order, but we'd been together for four months or so," cast member Nick Mohammed (assistant coach "Nate the Great") told Decider. "It felt real, genuinely quite celebratory, because I guess we were approaching the end of filming as well."

The truth about Ted Lasso's supposedly amazing shortbread cookies

Ted Lasso is a charming and generous guy, and that manifests in his interactions with his boss, Rebecca. How exactly? Well, in the daily deliveries of a pink box full of the most exquisite and delicious shortbread cookies that ever existed. They're so good that they help endear the initially cruel Rebecca to Ted, who lovingly bakes the treats himself. 

While ambitious home bakers have painstakingly studied the very brief scenes of Ted in the kitchen to figure out as many ingredients and techniques possible, the ones used in shooting aren't anything to obsess over. Hannah Waddingham, who plays Rebecca, is the one person in the Ted Lasso cast who gets to eat those biscuits, and she isn't a fan. "They were chunky shortbreads that sucked all of the saliva out of my face when I was trying to act and talk at the same time," she told Vulture, explaining that they were too buttery and too sweet for her liking. "They weren't inedible, but they weren't like, 'Yum yum yum, give the biscuits!'" 

In an interview with The Wrap, Waddingham went farther, likening the cookies to "a bit of dried-out sponge that's been left in your bathroom in a tiny pink box."

Where is Richmond Park actually?

Ted Lasso is about a man coaching a storied, if presently not very good, soccer team in the top level of the English Premier League. And in the show, the team faces such legendary real-life opponents as Liverpool and Manchester City. Lasso's squad, however, isn't actually real. AFC Richmond was invented for the series. 

However, there are elements of realness to the team and even the neighborhood of London it supposedly represents. While it doesn't field a Premiere League soccer team in reality, Richmond is a real place. The actual Richmond is Richmond Park, or rather the Crown Estate of Richmond Park, located in the county of Surrey. That puts it about 45 minutes away from London, the capital city of England.

As for the Premier League-level soccer stadium where AFC Richmond plays on Ted Lasso, it isn't in Richmond Park. The show's sporting sequences are produced at Selhurst Park, the home turf of actual team Crystal Palace FC. And as you've probably guessed from the name, the stadium can be found in Selhurst, a suburb of London.

Ted Lasso has revealed how long it will last and how it will end

There's a big difference between American and British comedies. American sitcoms run indefinitely, with "seasons" consisting of around 20 episodes. British sitcoms might run for only a few "series" of a half-dozen installments before the creators call it a day. Ted Lasso is an American show about British culture, and it's following the lead of short-and-sweet predecessors like the UK version of The Office. In fact, it had its length planned from the get-go. 

Ted Lasso is designed to air for exactly three short seasons, in part because that's all star Jason Sudeikis can manage. "Ted Lasso is a three-season show," co-creator Bill Lawrence said on the Fake Doctors, Real Friends podcast (via ComicBook.com) in December 2020. He then added, "The only way I think a fourth season of Ted Lasso exists would be if TL went and coached a soccer team that played about a block from Jason's house in real life, you know what I mean? He's got young kids."

That three-season arc is hinted at in the show itself. In the season 1 finale — spoilers — Ted tells owner Rebecca after the team is relegated to a lower division that he'll spend the next year getting them back to the Premier League, and then the year after that, they'll win the championship. That reflects the AFC Richmond team motto posted around its facilities: "Gradarius Firmus Victoria." Translated from the Latin, that means "taking little steps toward victory."

Ted Lasso was a product of a soccer video game

One other crucial element in the creation of Ted Lasso, both the advertising character and the eventual TV series that would bear his name, was a passion for soccer. Traditionally, that sport has been much more popular in Europe than in the U.S. "Ted Lasso" co-creator and cast member Brendan Hunt — who plays Coach Beard — once performed with Boom Chicago, an improvisational comedy troupe stationed in Amsterdam in the Netherlands (per Los Angeles Times). He got caught up in the local obsession with soccer, and to help foster that appreciation, his Boom Chicago collaborator Sudeikis bought a PlayStation console and a copy of the "FIFA" soccer video game series. 

They'd play a match before and after all of their Boom Chicago shows, with both Hunt and Sudeikis considering themselves the coaches of their fictional teams. Eventually, the duo put together their enjoyment of soccer and passion for comedy and theorized about what it might feel like if an American football coach was thrust into a job as the head of a European soccer team. This informed the Ted Lasso ads they'd make for NBC sports as well as the series.

Ted Lasso made Apple TV+ a streaming player

Apple TV+ launched in November 2019, joining a crowded streaming marketplace dominated by the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Some early shows on the service earned some buzz, like "The Morning Show" and "Dickinson," but "Ted Lasso," which debuted in August 2020, represents the first undeniable smash for Apple TV+. As of 2021, according to Newsweek and Reelgood, "Ted Lasso" is the streamer's most-watched series, with Season 2 of the comedy sitting first on the list and Season 1 coming in at number five. It's also Apple TV+'s most acclaimed series in terms of awards, with Season 2 earning a record 20 Emmy Award nominations in 2022.

The success and popularity of "Ted Lasso" are directly responsible for much of the viability of Apple TV+ in the streaming sector. The service most famous for a show about a fictional soccer team even successfully negotiated a deal to bring real soccer to its subscribers. According to Sports Business Journal, Major League Soccer, the top professional tier of the sport in the U.S., signed a 10-year deal with Apple TV+ in 2022 to distribute game broadcasts at a cost of $250 million per season.

The biscuits used to be terrible but now they're good

As "Ted Lasso" Season 1 unfolded, the shortbread biscuits handmade and delivered by Ted to his boss in a pink box became a cultural touchstone — a physical manifestation of the show's message of unabashed kindness. As the primary actor to eat those cookies on-screen, Hannah Waddingham often had to address the treat and describe what they tasted like to media outlets and the general public. ("I did not enjoy every mouthful," Waddingham told Vulture). Waddingham's outspokenly negative assessment of the biscuits led the "Ted Lasso" pro-masters responsible for the cookies to rethink their recipe. "They are significantly better this season," the actor said on Today (via People) of the Season 2 biscuits.

But whatever the preferred recipe, "Ted Lasso" may have subtly and inadvertently given viewers instructions on how to make Ted's supposedly terrific cookies. After a "Ted Lasso" clip played at an Apple event, reporter David Smith was able to grab what appeared of the recipe in the fraction of a second it appeared onscreen, according to The National News. The biscuits evidently require "340 grams cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 pieces plus more for greasing pan."

Some cast members nearly played different roles

After getting on the producers' radar as a performer as well as a writer, "Ted Lasso" star Brett Goldstein wasn't initially considered for the role that would win him a couple of Emmy Awards, that of cranky soccer veteran Roy Kent. "I've played sweet, nice people a lot so, if anything, they had me in mind for Higgins," Goldstein told The Independent. He submitted an audition tape and won over producers who quickly cast Goldstein. The search for their Higgins, loyal office underling of team owner Rebecca, took a bit more time and effort. "Loads of people went up for Higgins," said Jeremy Swift, who eventually landed the role. 

Among those that Swift beat out was Phil Dunster, who would be cast in "Ted Lasso" as Jamie Tartt. However, at that early point in the show's development, the character was named Dani Rojas. That name would later be used for a Mexican soccer star and new AFC Richmond player, a part that went to Cristo Fernandez after producers didn't think he was quite right for the character of Jamie.

The origins of Keeley

The character of Keeley Jones — model, AFC Richmond PR consultant, and Roy Kent's love interest — was encouraged in part by a woman in Sudeikis' life and evolved after the casting of Juno Temple. According to People, Sudeikis met English model and actor Keeley Hazell on the set of "Horrible Bosses 2" in 2014. They briefly dated in 2021 after Season 1 of "Ted Lasso" aired, in which Hazell appeared in three episodes as Bex, the partner of old AFC Richmond owner, Rupert Mannion. "She is a friend of Jason that inspired some of Keeley's character," Temple told Entertainment Tonight. "She was an inspiration for the part."

Sudeikis asked Temple, with whom he shares an agent, to play Keeley, according to The Independent. As originally conceived, the Keeley character wasn't as outwardly comical as other "Ted Lasso" characters. That changed after the read-through of the pilot script. "Not only was she f***ing funny, but us — the writers — were like, 'Oh she's funnier than we've written,'" Goldstein said. "The character that changed the most in the writing was Keeley because of Juno."

Jason Sudeikis seriously hurt himself on set

In the Season 1 finale, Ted excitedly exits Rebecca's office, energized about how he can solve a problem. As he runs out, he jumps up and clicks his heels together, knocking his head on the top of the door frame. He comically grunts in pain and crumbles to the floor, then quickly rises to his feet and quips, "I'm fine!" That brief and chaotic sequence was one part improv comedy, one part injurious accident. "I really hit my head there. That was a complete accident," Sudeikis explained on "The Drew Barrymore Show" in 2021. "I jumped up and then I, boom, cracked my head. I roll like I do. I stand up, I think I'm fine."

Sudeikis then exited the scene as scripted and noticed first a trickle of blood coming from his head, and then a rapid flow of the stuff. On-set medics reacted quickly, using a liquid adhesive to seal the sizable wound Sudeikis had just given himself so he could keep working. "Then they'd turn the cameras around. So I could be there for my scene partner Hannah," he added.

The show is loaded with Cheers references

"Ted Lasso" is one of a handful of television series to win multiple Emmy Awards for outstanding comedy series. While "Cheers" took home the prize four times, there's another "Ted Lasso" connection – George Wendt was part of that show's ensemble cast for 11 years, playing barfly Norm Peterson, and the actor is the maternal uncle of "Ted Lasso" lead, Sudeikis.

As such, the "Ted Lasso" universe is laced with shoutouts to both its creator and star's uncle and his popular sitcom. In one scene, Roy Kent patronizes a kebab shop, and his photo graces the wall, flanked by autographed images of Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons (who wrote and performs the "Ted Lasso" theme song) and Wendt. Elsewhere, in Season 2, a workplace romance develops between Richmond AFC head Rebecca and player Sam (Toheeb Jmoh), mirroring the Rebecca and Sam relationship in "Cheers." And in one episode, someone says "cheers," to Ted who replies with "Night Court." Why? In the late 1980s, "Night Court" followed "Cheers" on NBC's Thursday night schedule.

Edwin Akufo and Ted Lasso go way back

Sam Richardson almost always places a nice and goofy guy on TV, notably in "Veep" and "Detroiters." Richardson played against type when he showed up near the end of Season 2 of "Ted Lasso" as Edwin Akufo, a billionaire from Ghana who will stop at nothing to lure away AFC Richmond star Sam Obisanya for his own soccer team. Richardson has a lot of connections to the "Ted Lasso" creative team — he co-created "Detroiters" with Joe Kelly, one of the developers of "Ted Lasso," while Sudeikis also served as a producer and guest-starred in a couple of episodes of the Comedy Central series in 2017. Richardson's work on "Ted Lasso" brings the cameo-favor full circle.

Richardson's appearance as a villain was so crucial to the plot of "Ted Lasso" Season 2 that it was all kept under wraps, the actor revealed in an interview with Brad Galli. "It was a huge secret. I didn't want to give any of that away," Richardson said. When he went to London to film, he couldn't tell his relatives who lived there exactly why he was in town, or even that he was playing opposite a character named Sam, who he claims is his "namesake."