Jason Sudeikis looks tired, as if he’s been up all night. His face is bearded, his eyes shadowy beneath a baseball cap. He’s not a morning person, he admits. “We’re out of practice from shooting early in the morning.”
The drained look is a little bit of a shock. It is starkly different to Sudeikis’ TV alter ego, the irrepressible Ted Lasso, moustachioed football coach and master of ebullience and positivity. But to be fair, it is breakfast-time, and as 47-year-old Sudeikis begins chatting about season three of his hit tv show, it turns out that Ted is not too far beneath the surface after all.
“I mean we’re overwhelmed by the response; the way people have been so excited for the show to come out. It’s kind of hard to believe,” Sudeikis says, smiling, his casual mid-Western charm kicking in with coffee.
He speaks humbly, is careful to ask of others, and shows no sign of the pressure he is currently under – all Ted Lasso traits. Even though the first episode is already streaming, he shares that he is still finishing the editing on the final ones. That must be some weight. He is an executive producer now and there are high expectations riding on the show which broke Emmy-award winning history. “I mean the expectations are a little bit la-di-da because it is what it is. We’re doing what we were hoping to do. We just hope people dig it.”
Ted Lasso was the unexpected Apple TV+ hit that arrived during the pandemic years. Its message of kindness and generosity had a feel-good quality that hit the zeitgeist. “Trickle-down economics may stink but trickle-down support smells like pizza, roses and I assume Viola Davis,” is one of Ted’s lines, now called ‘Lassoisms’, which echo around the internet, passed between the show’s fans as a reminder to be kind to one another.
Such saintly messaging could catch an actor out, but everything points to Sudeikis practicing what he preaches. Both he and his co-writer and acting partner Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard, have a solid reputation for taking care of their cast and crew, as well as nurturing talent. The careers of several actors, including Brett Goldstein who plays Roy Kent, Nick Mohammed who plays Nate, and Juno Temple who plays Keeley Jones have turned stellar thanks to their support.
“The biggest thing is learning to trust in people… and to encourage them,” he says. “I mean Brett’s such a great example because he was a writer on the show, and then he was like, I think I understand this character. Can I audition for it? He makes a tape and crushes it. And he had the gumption to do that, and the talent to back it up. You want everyone in every department to do that.”
Sudeikis likes to sing the praises of others. “You know every person on the show has added something to it. Sometimes it’s just what you hear people talking about, or a conversation I’ve had off-camera. An example of that would be Jeremy Swift, who plays Higgins, he and I are talking about music one day and he’s explaining to me his passion for jazz, now he plays stand-up bass, and I’m kinda like, ‘Oh, I think Higgins is gonna get his goatee back, his jazz goatee, and he’s gonna play that bass’. You just stay open to it and just let the universe sort of lead the way.”
The universe has led the show to becoming a global phenomenon, so big that this week President Biden and the First Lady hosted Sudeikis and other members of the cast at The White House for a conversation on mental health because the show has been praised so highly by mental health professionals for its handling of the subject. Sudeikis is also particularly touched by Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond’s players now having avatars on FIFA23, a videogame which he likes to play.
The acclaim he has received has even come from British football coaches. “It’s very flattering because, you know, those coaches could think that I was like making fun of them, or taking the piss, as they say over there,” says Sudeikis who would often go and watch a Premier League match while he was in the UK filming Ted Lasso. “The fact that they’ve embraced the show, and some feel influenced and inspired by it, is really flattering.”
Sudeikis is clearly someone who’s got heart and a conscience. Everything he says suggests that Ted Lasso’s heart-warming philosophies are virtues he aspires to himself. “Create the world where being nice, being uncynical, being egoless, being empathetic and promoting forgiveness is not something that is weak and happens without consequences,” he has said in the past.
So is he just playing himself? “He’s like me after two beers on an empty stomach on a bright sunny day,” he says.
Like Ted, Daniel Jason Sudeikis grew up in Kansas. His mother was a travel agent and his father a business executive, who was one of his inspirations for Ted. “That’s where the moustache comes from and him being real loquacious,” he says. Sport and improv comedy were always important to him, starting out at Comedy Sportz in Kansas City, and later performing in Saturday Night Live. “Full jock with thespian tendancies,” is how he once described himself. Parts in the TV show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and films We’re the Millers and Horrible Bosses followed. But Sudeikis was never quite the break-through star until he and Brendan Hunt created Ted Lasso, first as an NBC promo ad and then later re-created as the more nuanced, kinder, uncynical version that we know Ted Lasso to be today.
“To play someone that was kind-hearted, that didn’t sweat, be like Teflon towards people’s negativity or sarcasm was a hundred percent intentional,” says Sudeikis.
Is he able to be that himself? Shortly after the first season of Ted Lasso aired, Sudeikis and his partner Olivia Wilde, with whom he has two children, Otis, 9, and Daisy, 7, split up. He has tried, like Ted, to put a brave face on it: “I think if you have the opportunity to hit a rock bottom, however you define that, you can become 412 bones, or you can land like an Avenger.”
During the filming of season three, Sudeikis’ children spent the best part of 2022 in the UK. It was long enough to pick up an English twang, not unlike Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, he jokes. The difficulty in raising children on two sides of the Atlantic, shared between divorced parents, is likely to be the most serious consideration when it comes to whether further seasons of the show are made. Sudeikis is giving nothing away. Ted Lasso was always planned as a three-part story, he maintains.
“This is the end of this story that we wanted to tell, that we were hoping to tell, that we loved to tell. The fact that folks will want more and are curious beyond more than what they don’t even know yet—that being Season 3—it’s flattering. Maybe by May 31, once all 12 episodes of the season [have been released], they’re like, ‘Man, you know what, we get it, we’re fine. We don’t need anymore, we got it.’ But until that time comes, I will appreciate the curiosity beyond what we’ve come up with so far.”
A totally Ted Lasso move.
Season 3 of Ted Lasso is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
Lucy Broadbent is author of the book What Would Ted Lasso Do? How Ted’s Positive Approach Can Help You.