During our conversation, Brett Goldstein described himself a couple times as “the luckiest guy in the world.” Sorry Brett, I just don’t see it. There is a difference between luck and creating opportunities. And that is just what this self-proclaimed workaholic did – he created opportunities, time and time again.
Even his role as the gruff but big-hearted Roy Kent on Ted Lasso did not happen by chance. As you will learn the role was only offered to him after a move so gutsy that it would have given most people a heart attack just attempting it. Luckily for us, it paid off. As a result we have been graced with one my favorite performance of the year – on one of the, objectively, best shows of the year.
Speaking of favorites, below you will find one of my favorite conversations I have ever had the opportunity to partake in. It was fascinating, enlightening and at times inspiring. A person who chases down dream. And, there is much more to his story than his superb work as and actor. He’s a producer, podcast, stand-up comic, and also one of the Ted Lasso writers. He wrote episode five – one of the most revealing and emotionally taxing episodes of the series. If you are wondering how a show about football can do all that and more – you haven’t watch Ted Lasso yet.
We covered a great deal in our conversation which extended well beyond the time allotted and still did not even cover all the topics we could have – a shared love for The Muppets Christmas Carol, an appreciation of Steve Martin’s stand-up, the on-screen chemistry with his co-stars (especially the delightful Juno Temple) and his role on Doctor Who (another all-time favorite of mine). Still, there is a lot we do cover which I know you will enjoy.
After a good read, please pick up a pen and write to Marvel about bringing Brett (SuperBob) into the MCU, follow the links I provided to see more of his work, and definitely, definitely watch Ted Lasso. The series defies expectations and delivers on so many levels. There is only so much time in the day and Brett was incredibly generous with his. If you enjoy this, maybe I will inquire about a follow-up conversation for season two.
Enjoy my conversation with the multi-talented Mr. Brett Goldstein.
Steven Prusakowski: Thank you for doing this. I absolutely love the show. I watched it the first time on my own. I told my wife,’you should have watched that with me, you would have loved it.’ When she heard it was about sports she was not interested. I asked her to stick it out. By the end of the first episode she was like, ‘let’s watch that soccer (football) show again.’ By the end of the second episode she was hooked. We knocked out the entire series in three sittings. She loved it.
Brett Goldstein: That’s great, man.
Steven Prusakowski: When I saw an interview in my inbox, I was gonna pass on it at first. I was simply too busy to take on more work. But when I saw your name, I was like, ‘Roy Kent!’ That is my favorite character. I have to do this!’ So here I am.
Brett Goldstein: Steven, let me say, so far this has been wonderful! (laughs)
Steven Prusakowski: So let me stop talking and ask some questions. How did you get into the business?
Brett Goldstein: Oh, man. Fast. I mean, I genuinely, was always writing and trying to make stuff and putting on plays and making short films, since I was very young. And then, when I arrived at university, I was lucky. There was a guy who was there who was starting his own theatre company. I auditioned for him and he cast me and I ended up doing about six Mamet plays with him. I was the lead in his plays, and did them in Edinburgh, and then around London. That was great, and good experience. And then, I was doing small parts, then I started doing stand up. Once I started doing stand up, I think that made a big difference, actually, because I people saw more of me. And saw what I sounded like, rather than just being an actor. You’re just literally in the hands of the gods the entire time. You’re just waiting for a magical phone call, and also for people to intuit the sort of thing that you’re good at. You have to have some semblance of, even if it’s only minor, but some control over your destiny is better than none. And then I made a short film of SuperBob which became a feature film later, with my friend John Drever. And, Ricky Gervais saw that. And that is why I got brought in to audition for Derek. And then, once I did, Derek, it was a bit easier.
Steven Prusakowski: Well, that’s awesome. I’m a big fan of Ricky. Just to get a phone call that he’s seen your work and come on board had to be a great feeling.
Brett Goldstein: Oh, yeah, getting a phone call – it felt out of the blue. ‘Hey, could you come to Ricky Gervais’s office tomorrow?’ And you’re like, yeah I gotta do that
Steven Prusakowski: Was a stand up something that you did as an exercise? Or was it something you had a real interest in?
Brett Goldstein: Yes, stand up was more like a secret passion of mine. When I was younger, it was like, this is too scary a thing. I could not understand that it was something you could actually do. But I loved watching it. I had the Richard Pryor box set and all this Steven Martin stuff. I was kind of obsessive with that. And then, like most of the things that I’ve done, there’s a moment where I suddenly go, ‘I’m not getting any younger. What have I got to lose? I’ll be dead one day.’ Then I just did it. And once I did it, I was like, ‘I fucking love this.’
Steven Prusakowski: That’s a good message for fans about not passing up on your dreams. Stand up was something I always wanted to do, but that time has passed.
Brett Goldstein: It’s not too late! Here’s my genuine advice to you, Steven about stand-up and about everything. Everything takes a while to get good at… everything. So as long as you go in knowing it’s probably gonna be shit for a bit, you’ll get better.
Steven Prusakowski: The issue is always time, which kind of brings me to the next question. There’s only so much time in the day. And I see all your resume of producer, writer, actor, comic and podcaster and more. What drives you to take on all these challenges?
Brett Goldstein: I’m a workaholic, because I truly love this stuff. I love making the stuff. I love doing the stuff. I love all of it. And, I find it deeply fulfilling. I feel very lucky also, I think partly because I was making stuff for years and years that probably 10 people saw, you know? When you finally get an opportunity where you get to do it, it’s all the same, it’s just bigger. And, I wonder if there’s a part of you that’s like, it’s fucking taken so long to get here. Let’s make the most of this.
Steven Prusakowski: I have started my own podcast lately and so I can relate to this. You’re an artist. Taking on all those projects is a great thing especially when you start getting all those gold stars coming your way (hand signals getting stickers) success, success, success, produced a series, writer, stand-up, all this great stuff. And, I also saw your podcast, which I subscribed to and am loving, has thousands of likes and approaching 200 wonderful guests. That’s pretty darn good. It must be reassuring that you’re doing something right?
Brett Goldstein: Thank you man. At no point do I ever think of it like this, but I’m just thinking about talking to you, that I didn’t immediately have success in terms of financially, in terms of audience, in terms of all that stuff. But I knew that I loved doing all of it, that the creative thing itself made me happy. And, so, all the other stuff is a wonderful bonus when it happens. But so often, it doesn’t happen. But as long as you’re enjoying, the making of it, you’re the luckiest guy in the world.
Steven Prusakowski: The great thing is, once you do get that audience now they start to revisit some of your older work. Suddenly, all that work that was ignored for years is appreciated, which must feel great. I’ll touch upon that more a little bit later on. So with Ted Lasso, did you join first as a writer first or as an actor or both?
Brett Goldstein: I came on first as a writer. I had acted for Bill Lawrence before in a pilot, and he knew some of my writing. We’d stayed in touch and then he literally called me up out of the blue. That was a real, in hindsight, kind of miracle call. Literally out of the blue, Bill Lawrence calls me up and says, ‘Hey, I’m working on this football show. I think you’d be good for.’ And he then set me up on FaceTime with Jason (Sudeikis), who I’d never met. And we did an hour and a half at like one in the morning. And we kind of just sort of fell in love with each other. And then I went to LA for the writers room. And while we were writing it, I can’t remember the exact moment, but at some point in the writing of it, I felt really passionately like I can play Roy, like I really get Roy. But, I also knew not a single person was thinking of me for Roy. And that is totally understandable. So on the last day of the writers room, when I left, I filmed myself in like five scenes as Roy. And, I emailed it. I said, ‘Look, I don’t make anyone uncomfortable and if this is shit, pretend you never got it and I will never ask again. So you can ignore this email if you want. But, I’m really feeling I can play Roy and here is a tape. Let’s see what you think.’ And then I left back to London. And very, very, very luckily they liked it. And here we are. But yeah, I started as a writer.
Steven Prusakowski: So your episode you wrote ‘Tan Lines,’ also known as ‘New Underwear‘ is really just wonderful writing. And it contains some pivotal moments in the show when you really start to explore these characters. There are moments that are heart wrenching like the scenes between Ted and his wife. But then you have the wonderful football game scene where you unselfishly pass instead of taking the shot – it gives me the chills even talking about it. Then there’s an out of nowhere Doc Brown imitation – as a huge Back to the Future fan, thank you! Congrats on your writing here, Brett – it is just brilliant. What was it like writing you’re not just for your character but having say in this world that you lived in? What was that experience like for you?
Brett Goldstein: I mean, I absolutely loved it and it’s incredible. I worry that it is boring for people to hear how great everyone is on this show, but they really are. And that writers room – the writers are amazing and I’ve never worked in that way. I’ve never worked in the American writers room way before. Basically, there’s a lot of talking before you write. I like writing about relationships. I made a show called Soulmates and that was just pure assorelationships. That’s my sweet spot or whatever. But we knew the challenge of Ted Lasso was that they were going to break up. But we also knew there was no bad guy in their marriage. It wasn’t like one of them cheated or anything. And, we also had just one episode in which to meet the wife. And we’ve had four episodes in which we’ve fallen in love with Ted. So we have to bring in this woman and sell this marriage and the end of this marriage in a way that doesn’t make her look bad, that doesn’t make us hate her. What we did with all the Ted Lasso, which we’re very passionate about is everyone is three dimensional, so that you have to give everyone their chance. And so that was the challenge of it. But, it’s also that the answer is always with the characters. There are questions we’ve had this like, So he has left his wife to come here? Why is that? You just start exploring and if no one’s done anything wrong, but Ted is this relentlessly positive person then that might be draining on a partner. It’s just sort of looking at those things. And then, being honest about your own relationships and sharing all that stuff.
Steven Prusakowski: So does the script evolve throughout the writing process? If so, how much does it evolve? You were assigned episode five, and then you sit down to work it out? What’s the process like?
Brett Goldstein: I’m trying to give you a short answer. We plot out this season. And it starts big and then it gets more specific, episode by episode and scene by scene until you sort of have a board with those moments. So we knew in episode five, Ted’s wife is coming, and they’re gonna break up. That’s what we need for episode five. And then, you’re bringing in stuff to help figure it out. There’s a video of Lucas Moura a Tottenham player that I saw. I was like, ‘That’s it!’ and I took it to the writers room. I was like, ‘Watch this video!’ It was Lucas Moura who is not from the UK. He’d come over here and I think he’d struggled a bit at the beginning of his time at Tottenham, and then he scored a hat trick – scored three goals in this game. So he’s the hero. And at the end of the match, he stood at the sidelines, facing the audience with his hands on his hip, and it looked like he was posing, and the commentators were going, ‘Oh, look at him sort of posing in the crowd,’ we’re kind of cheering for him, and then the crowd parted and his wife, holding his baby, came to the front and handed him his baby. He brought the baby onto the field and the fans cheered. He puts the baby, who is like two-year-old – he puts the ball in front of the baby and the audience is watching. The baby kicks the ball, everyone cheers. It was such a nice thing. I’ve no idea if this was true but the story I’d put into that video was that this is the first time he’s home. He’s accepted by the team, by the fans. And he’s bringing his family into this. I imagine it’s a big move to come to the UK. So there was an element of that in Ted. Episode Five is the first time Richmond wins and they win by Ted making a very big, scary move of benching Jamie. So there was this idea of bringing his family on. But in the case of this, his wife doesn’t come, it is just his son.
Steven Prusakowski: It’s quite the episode. You bring up the benching of Jamie as well. There’s so many big, big moments in there. Impressive. So, your first line of this series, I believe is, ‘If I don’t hear silence, I’m going to start punching dicks!’ Which is a really, really Roy Kent thing to say and sets a tone of who this character is, like, right off the bat. So, you see, that leads into a lot.
Brett Goldstein: Well, a great opener to say.
Steven Prusakowski: I laughed, I laughed out loud. Going back and rewatching the series – watching it again once you really know the characters and you can see some of the character layers seed were planted way back in the earlier episodes work. It is so very re-watchable – it may even work better the second time around because these characters are like you said, very three dimensional. You really know who these people are. It’s quite impressive, really. There are not many shows I’ve seen like it, especially as a comedy, because it is comedy but it’s so so much more. I worried Roy Kent would be one dimensional. But once you get an idea of who he is, there’s so much more behind him – behind that wall that he has up. From the eyes of the actor who plays him, who is Roy Kent?
Brett Goldstein: Roy Kent is… well, he changes through the season. Roy is a very angry man who is, at the beginning of the season, truly depressed and fully retreated into his shell, because he’s a footballer who, since three years old, has been a footballer. And his plan was always play football, and when he can’t play football anymore, he’d die. He is aware that because of his knee and his aging body, that time is coming. And it may be the end of this year, maybe the end of next year. He has been a champion and here he is on this very middling team, now suddenly coached by a clown. And there’s a feeling like, ‘This is how it ends, it ends with this shit.’ With Jamie Tartt and these idiots around him. I always think there’s a physicality to Roy, which is that he’s a walking fist. He’s so pent up and frustrated, and he’s not stupid, but he’s emotionally inarticulate. He is actually quite smart but he just doesn’t have the vocabulary or… he has not been in an environment that has allowed him to explore that, perhaps. So, it’s like he’s a fucking iceberg, but occasionally, there are leaks. You know, stuff gets out – emotional stuff. I think once Ted comes in, then once Keeley comes into his life, that starts thawing, and he starts listen a little bit, but he’s still ready for a fight at any time.
Steven Prusakowski: Flowers start springing out of those leaks. And you’re like, ‘what the hell? Where are these flowers coming from,’ ‘That’s that Roy Kent!’ But, it is now. So how much of Roy is there in Brett and how much Brett is there in Roy?
Brett Goldstein: I think there’s more in me than people might think. But, what I realized is, Roy is me if you took away the gene I have that wanted to be liked. If you could remove that gene from me, then I’m Roy Kent… and he may be a bit less emotionally articulate. But, I think I certainly have that anger in me, but I repress it because of that annoying gene I talked about. He’s a better footballer. I’ll give him that. And he’s much tougher than I am, I suppose. But, I think in the beginning, it was a real challenge in terms of how to present him. Because he’s the captain and he’s intimidating and all these things that I hadn’t really played before. So in the beginning, it was such a gamble, when you do screen acting. Whatever you do at the beginning, it’s in. Do you know what I mean? So you can’t at episode four go ‘I think he would talk like this or dance. I think he’s a dancer.’ (laughs) Whatever that choice you make Day One is pretty much set. There are grades of it. So it is quite a gamble. And I’m not even sure people knew what I was doing initially. Because I had this voice and this physicality and…
Steven Prusakowski: And you start with that opening line.
Brett Goldstein: It’s a gamble, but I really felt instinctively, this is the way to do it.
Steven Prusakowski: And it really pays off because you don’t expect it. And then, when it happens, even just the protection of Nate, and little things like that, glimpses of him as a big brother, an he’s an uncle – all these different parts of him and going on. Any concern that Roy is going to be fairly one dimensional had been completely stripped away. By the time you’re sitting on the bench with with Kelsey (Juno Temple) we know this character so well, it’s heart melting. So moving. It’s so well developed that if it wasn’t, it would never have worked.
Brett Goldstein: I think that’s true. That’s the risk, you kind of go for these big, big moves, and they have to work otherwise it’s really going to be a mess.
Steven Prusakowski: It’s like doing a trick on a skateboard. Either you’re gonna land it and be the hero or you’re gonna fail big time. So what was it like working with Jason, Bill (Lawrence) and Brendan (Hunt, series co-creator) and collaborating with them both behind and in front of the cameras?
Brett Goldstein: Love them all. Everyone is amazingly open and have the best ideas. Really just kind of magical. And then, in terms of acting, with Jason, he’s a charismatic movie star. So sometimes it’s quite dazzling. Sometimes you’re like, Bloody hell. Yeah. But he’s also very funny. And, I think he enjoys making me laugh. Which is fun, but terrible, because Roy can’t smile. So if he makes me laugh, well we’re fucked. We have to start again. And the amount of money that’s probably wasted by Apple where Jason made me laugh is an issue. I’m sure they’re pissed.
Steven Prusakowski: That one scene in the park where you’re playing with a ball? Yeah. I think I you may have seen a crack of a smile starting on your face.
Brett Goldstein: It’s possible. I can never deny or confirm. (laughs)
Steven Prusakowski: So when it came to soccer, you played as a kid – to what degree. In high school and…
Brett Goldstein: I played as a six year old. When I took the part, I didn’t think there was going to be that much actual football and then the more it went on, there was loads of football. And I was like, Shit, okay.
Steven Prusakowski: It must have been a requirement to have some kind of football skills.
Brett Goldstein: Most guys on that team are incredible. There are some really top players. Phil Dunster is very, very good. Sam’s (Obisanya) very good. A lot of them are actually very, very good footballers.
Steven Prusakowski: It does show up on the screen. Is there a moment you’re most proud of to date? In season one? It can be part of your work or the series as a whole.
Brett Goldstein: There’s loads and loads of bits I love. One of my favorite sequences is in the karaoke bar because I love Hannah Waddingham singing. So that was really great. I love the panic attack – if we’re doing spoilers – that Ted has. I think it is really well done and really well acted and surprising and meaningful. That’s a great sequence and I love that Roy is mouthing along to, ‘Let It Go.’ He knows all the words.
Steven Prusakowski: That’s great. You think you know everything about the series and then a little bit more is revealed. Why do you think that the series connects with audiences? What’s the magic?
Brett Goldstein: It’s difficult to say when you work on it. I hope that what it has to do with isn’t just about kind of the niceness of it that people talk about. I think it’s earned. It’s earned through the storytelling. It isn’t like Ted is a fairytale character that is just nice. He’s going through a divorce, and he has panic attacks. It’s that whole thing we talked about, making everyone three dimensional. You start with these kind of archetypes, and then you challenge them, and you put them in difficult situations. And, I think seeing people thaw out is nice. It’s the real world application of empathy, teamwork and supporting each other. And I guess that is a refreshing thing to see. particularly given what’s been going on in the world.
Steven Prusakowski: That really makes it all ring true. Being alone all these months then seeing these characters connect is kind of vicarious living for many of us. So, I haven’t seen your film Super Bob yet. But I have seen the trailer and I laughed out loud. And I’m not a big laugh out loud person either. So when I laughed out loud twice I knew this was something I needed to hunt down. While watching I was thinking, you’d be great in a Marvel MCU type film. Do you have an interest in something like that?
Brett Goldstein: Put it out there. Listen, I would love to see that happen soon, SuperBob would turn up and be very shy. He’s sort of really awkward – he’s been invited but not sure he should be there. And of course, I’d love that. That would be great!
Steven Prusakowski: Do you plan on exploring that character any further?
Brett Goldstein: I think, truthfully, I always had a story for a sequel and I also have a TV version of it. But, more people need to see it for that to be a reality, I think. So if you want to get some eyes on SuperBob, then let’s do it.
Steven Prusakowski: I’ll include it for sure. Yeah, I have tried to hunt it down. I couldn’t find a streaming option that is active right now. Even through Netflix and Apple TV. I’ve tried to rent it. I need to see it! So you’re producing and writing on Soulmates on AMC. What’s it like wearing the producer hat in, especially in a bigger, long form production?
Brett Goldstein: I co-created Soulmates with the great Will Bridges. That’s basically going, Here’s two obsessive perfectionist in charge everything. It is such hard work, and so great to be able to do. I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I finally get to do these things that I always wanted to do on a significant scale. In some ways it is incredibly challenging because Soulmates is an anthology show. So every single episode, you’re starting again with a brand new world brand new story. So writing season two of Ted Lasso was the pleasure because we already know these characters and we know what this world. It’s like you built this sandbox you can play with other characters now. But with Soulmates it’s a fucking new sandbox every single day.
Steven Prusakowski: So with the podcast Films to be Buried with with Brett Goldstein.
It is quite brilliant. You’ve got quite the list of who’s who’s of famous and original, funny and interesting people as guests to discuss their movie watching lives. How did it originate? And do you have any tips for budding podcasters?
Brett Goldstein: It was an idea I’ve had for years that I was like, well, maybe I try this. Funny we’re mostly talking about TV, but I love film, and I love cinema. It was kind of part a mission to remind people to go to the cinema, you know? Get them to remember that film is special. I don’t know, I just think I thought I’d try it. And, then there’s a thing that I’d realized, and it will make me sound clever, but I realized that one of the things that works about the show is that it’s actually quite revealing of people. Because, I asked them things like, ‘what’s the film that scared you most?,’ ‘What’s the film that made you cry the most?’ But, what that really gets to is what scares you and what makes you sad, and you end up having quite intimate conversations with people. And that is the sort of privileged part of it. That’s the bit this is really special. In terms of advice for anyone else looking to make a podcast, just don’t do it unless it’s something you’re passionate about. And, Have an idea.
Steven Prusakowski: Of course. You should really do a self help book. You have some good advice. It’s really interesting. So, I see The Muppets poster back there. Um, I love The Muppets. Are you just a fan or is there any kind of connection there?
Brett Goldstein: I’m a huge fan. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol might be the greatest film ever made. And no connection other than I’d love work with The Muppets.
Steven Prusakowski: I hope that happens. That’d be fantastic. Yeah, you’d have to punch one, you know that the Gonzo may be in the nose flipped stuck in his mouth.
Brett Goldstein: (laughs) If that’s what it takes. I’d do that.
Steven Prusakowski: So do you have any guilty pleasures – films or shows? I don’t consider the Muppets a guilty pleasure.
Brett Goldstein: You know, we shouldn’t feel guilty about any of this. But the film that is often I talked about a lot on the podcast (and people either get it or they don’t) is Grease 2. Grease 2 is the best Grease.
Steven Prusakowski: I heard you speaking about that. I think it was in the episode with Patton Oswalt? I have seen it, but I’m sorry, I don’t get it. So, I don’t have much to say.
Brett Goldstein: It’s okay, It’s okay. We don’t have to fall out. We’ve had a very nice day.
Steven Prusakowski: I’m not saying it’s bad. I’d just have to watch it again. It’s been a long time. But you know what, it’s always had negative connotations. People bring it up as almost a punchline. But I don’t know anyone who’s actually, other than a few people, who’ve actually gone back and watched it. So yeah, I may. I’m gonna to continue to listen to the podcast. And if you convince me I’ll dive back in.
Brett Goldstein: Cool. Thank you, man.
Steven Prusakowski: So just a few more questions. What can we expect from season two with just the series as a whole and with Roy?
Brett Goldstein: I can’t tell you anything because I don’t want to get shot and Apple are listening.
Steven Prusakowski: That’s the right answer. They told me to ask that and if you didn’t answer it, hit the hit the red button. You pass the test.
Brett Goldstein: Thank you!
Steven Prusakowski: But we spoke a lot about the show and your character. So, what are three words to describe Brett.
Brett Goldstein: (pauses to think) Sorry, this is hard. “He. Loves. Muppets.” How about that?
Steven Prusakowski: I guess we’ll take it. And, that’s about it. I want to thank you for your time. I do have one quick request that may upset some fans. Keep your shirt on next season. Because while my wife’s watching, she looks at you, she looks at me, looks back at you, then looks back at me with this look on her face like ‘you’re not human.’ I need to work out, I guess.
Brett Goldstein: Your wife and I, we need to have a conversation. Because, you seem pretty human to me, unless I’ve been duped this whole time. And I can’t promise I’ll do that (keep my shirt on). But I’ll try.
Steven Prusakowski: Alright, I’ll just cover her eyes. Thank you so much for your time. I’m really looking forward to season two. Hopefully we’ll speak again in the future. And at that point, I will have watched Super Bob.
Brett Goldstein: I’ve really really enjoyed our time together. Thank you so much for having me.
Steven Prusakowski: Thank you so much. Good luck on the on the upcoming season. Take care. Thank you.
Be sure to check out season one of Ted Lasso exclusively on Apple TV+ and the season 2 premiere on July 23. You’ll also find a ton of Ted Lasso content right here on Awards Radar including interviews with the cast and the craft team behind the award-winning series. Plus before the premiere, expect it to be covered in an Awards Radar ‘Previously On…’ feature article that will cover the series in detail – characters, awards, season breakdown, the music and more.