There may not be a better comedy ensemble on the planet right now than the one featured in Ted Lasso. The AppleTV+ series has only gained momentum since it first premiered last August, and people still can't get enough of the endlessly uplifting soccer show nearly a year later. The hype heading into Season 2 is legitimately palpable. There are tons of different reasons for the success of this series, but perhaps the biggest — and most difficult to ignore — is its cast.
Ted Lasso began with stars Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt already in place, carrying over from the original NBC Sports sketches the series is based on, but every single other member of this cast is the absolute perfect person for their part, and each of them fits seamlessly with one another. From top to bottom, there isn't a weak spot in this ensemble. Even the minor characters and guest stars are home runs, people that you just want to spend endless hours laughing with and learning from.
This cast is one of the best we've seen on TV in ages, and that wouldn't have been possible without Ted Lasso's casting director, Theo Park. ComicBook.com recently sat down with Park to talk about how this wonderful cast came together. With Sudeikis already cast as the titular coach, Park's first (and most important) task was finding someone to play Rebecca, the owner of the team who initially hires Ted out of spite.
"So, they bought me on early to do a few weeks' work on Rebecca, just making a list and seeing lots of people for Rebecca and then Jason [Sudeikis] and Brendan [Hunt] came over from America for a day, and met a whole load of Rebeccas," Park said. "So that was it. That was the first thing. And then, I just sort of slowly started getting us some ideas together for the rest of the team and the club, like Higgins and Nate. But yeah, we started with Rebecca."
The role eventually went to stage superstar and Game of Thrones alum Hannah Waddingham, who used the 10-episode first season to turn Rebecca into one of the most layered and inspiring characters on television.
Just about every character on Ted Lasso can be described as a "fan favorite," and Rebecca certainly fits that bill. However, if there can only be one true fan-favorite from this show, the award likely goes to equipment manager-turned-assistant coach Nate the Great.
Nate wasn't just a hit with audiences, though. According to Park, everyone in the casting department loved Nick Mohammed for the role from the jump — but the actor initially passed on the job.
"I think everyone definitely felt that about Nick Mohammed, because it took me a while to persuade Nick Mohammed to tape for it because he didn't want it," Park explained. "He was really busy editing his other show. And so, he initially passed. He said, 'Oh, look, I love the sound of it. I love Jason. But I'm so busy because I've just finished my show, Intelligence, and I'll be editing while I'm filming Ted Lasso and I don't think I can do it. My poor family won't see me.' And then we saw a whole load of other people for Nate and everyone was like, 'Yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe.' And then finally Nick Mohammed decided to tape and it was like, 'That's him!' Everyone, unanimous, 'That's him. That's him.' Thank God he changed his mind."
Characters like Nate and Rebecca were obviously a challenge to cast, but figuring out the players on the team was a unique task in its own right. Not only did the actors need to be funny and talented in front of the camera, but they also had to be athletic enough to pass as professional footballers.
Cristo Fernandez is a bonafide scene-stealer as singing striker Dani Rojas. He's also the only cast member to have played the sport professionally. Believe it or not, the original role of Dani Rojas was actually supposed to be the "villain" of the team, and that was the role Fernandez initially auditioned for.
"He's actually an ex-pro footballer from Guadalajara in Mexico who happens to have trained in the UK as an actor for one year and managed getting a London agent," Park said of Fernandez. "And so this small London agency, they're totally great, had him on their books. He was taping for another role, actually. Phil Dunster's role, Jamie Tartt, was originally supposed to be from South America, and he was called Dani Rojas, but he was like the arrogant star player. And so we were looking for a Latino actor to play that role.
"And we searched far and wide. We looked at America, we looked all over Europe. And through this London agency that I knew, Cristo Fernandez did a self-tape for Dani Rojas that was now Jamie Tartt. And it didn't work because he's too nice, he's so nice and happy and smiley. But everyone remembered this tape because, oh my God, it was exceptional, the energy, and also he did a whole thing with his football skills, like showing us up down, doing some training in the gym and everything, and showing us his goals and stuff. He was so amazing. We were like, 'Oh my God, this guy's amazing.' And so off the back of that tape, they rewrote a role to suit Cristo Fernandez and then they swapped the names."
For those who love Dani Rojas, get ready to see a whole lot more of him in Season 2. Park went on to say that the character has "brilliant stuff" this season, and that the highly-anticipated Season 2 premiere will be "all about him."
Speaking of Season 2, the next installment of Ted Lasso will be adding another major character to the already stellar roster. Sarah Niles (I May Destroy You and Catastrophe) joins the team as a sports psychologist named Sharon.
"She's so perfect," Park said of Niles. "I've been a massive fan of hers for many years, so I'm so excited that she's on board."
Per Jason Sudeikis' request, all of the popular Season 1 guest stars will also be returning for Season 2, a task that Park and the casting department were happy to oblige. That includes characters like Ellie Taylor's Sassy, Rebecca's best friend and Ted's love interest, and James Lance's inquisitive reporter, Trent Crimm.0comments
"Jason was really cool when we were texting, just before I got on board to cast Season 2, he said, 'Heads up, I want to get back as many people from season one as possible,'" Park said. "And that's what we've been doing. So all the fans will be really pleased because all those, even the really funny little day players are coming back."
Ted Lasso returns for its second season on July 23rd, exclusively on AppleTV+.