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Interview: Casting Director Theo Park on Building a Fantastic ‘Ted Lasso’ Ensemble

Jason Sudeikis is the primary reason that Ted Lasso is what it is, bringing an unflappable and eternally positive attitude to the role of the transplanted coach in over his head with the AFC Richmond football team. But the show is charming in large part due to the talented cast that surrounds him, led by Hannah Waddingham as the team’s owner, Rebecca, Brett Goldstein as the irritable team captain, Roy, and Juno Temple as influencer and general team cheerleader Keeley. And there’s also Jeremy Swift as the bumbling Higgins, Phil Dunster as arrogant star player Jamie Tartt, and Brendan Hunt as Ted’s loyal right-hand man Coach Beard – check out our interviews with Swift and Dunster, and look for Hunt next week!

To understand more of how this show’s cast was assembled, Awards Radar had the chance to speak with casting director Theo Park, who also worked this season on We Are Who We Are and the return of Master of None. Park had nothing but great things to say about the process of creating this show’s ensemble and the joy of seeing it all come together.

Q: This must be such a fun show to work on.

A: It really is. It’s very rewarding.

Q: At what point were you brought in, and what was already set in terms of casting before that?

A: So, I came on board when they were greenlit and ready to go, looking for studios in London. They got me on board, and Jason was obviously going to play Ted, and Brendan was going to play Coach Beard, and that was it. I had to cast everybody else.

Q: Where did you start?

A: Rebecca, because she’s the female lead. I actually started a few weeks earlier than planned and really focused on her.

Q: Were there any characters who evolved over the process of casting and changed into something different than you were looking for?

A: Yeah, that’s an interesting question, and there were definitely was. Jamie Tartt that was played by Phil Dunster (our interview here), he was originally called Dani Rojas. And so Dani was the arrogant star player from South America, and we were looking far and wide for him. We looked in America, we looked all over the UK, we looked in Europe, and we couldn’t quite get it. During that search, we found this guy Cristo Fernández who did a tape. He wasn’t quite right because he’s so smiley and happy and gorgeous, and he didn’t quite have that arrogant streak, but he did the most amazing tape. He’s actually an ex-pro footballer from Guadalajara in Mexico who happens to have a London agent that I know. He did this amazing tape and everyone said, oh my god, well he’s not Dani Rojas, but he’s got to be something else. So what happened was, we flipped the role slightly and cast Phil Dunster, who is absolutely fantastic, as the Brit star player, Jamie Tartt, new name, and then Dani Rojas became the new player who comes in and is bouncing exuberant fantastic fun. Just from meeting those two actors, the writers and producers decided to rewrite those two roles to suit these perfect actors, which is really exciting.

Q: The entire ensemble is fantastic, but I want to ask specifically about Keeley and Roy since they’re such fun characters. They’re also two of the performers that American audiences might be most familiar with aside from Jason before this show.

A: Oh really, is Brett Goldstein known in America?

Q: Maybe I just know him. He was in Adult Life Skills and Wild Honey Pie, which were small film festival movies. But I knew him and was excited to see him. He’s also working on Soulmates.

A: He won an award for Adult Life Skills, didn’t he?

Q: Yes, a British Independent Film Award.

A: That’s right. So you’re a bit of a British film fan?

Q: I guess my tastes don’t necessarily represent general American audiences. But Juno Temple is definitely more known! I thought she was American when I first saw her.

A: God, how amazing is she? I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Juno Temple might have been out of reach for us. We were just a TV show starting off, not quite sure how it was going to turn out, approaching Juno Temple, who’s basically a film star, but something spoke to her and Jason sold it to her. Jason’s so amazing, who wouldn’t want to work with Jason? We were so fortunate that she said yes. She’s so perfect. Brett was actually writing on the show, and the producers wanted Brett to play that role, Roy Kent, but he had to audition properly, it wasn’t a slam dunk. He had to do the do, and he when he did his tape, he was perfection, and he got the part.

Q: I can’t believe I almost forgot to ask about Nick Mohammed. He is definitely someone who is not known in America, but he has a few shows that have made it here, like Intelligence on Peacock, and a select few have probably seen that. He’s just so sweet and I’m curious if that’s another role that may have evolved as he came into it.

A: No. He was the only person that I personally wanted to play that part. We saw a whole load of other people, and they were all great, but they weren’t Nick. He had previously passed on it because he was too busy, but I begged him. I begged his agent and said, please will he reconsider because he’s just so perfect for this. He looked at his diary again and said, okay, maybe I can fit it in. He did a tape and everyone, as soon as we saw it, he is Nate. Nate the Great. That’s him.

Q: I know you mentioned before that you had a real player who ended up playing Dani Rojas. Is that something you wanted or felt was important for the rest of the team ensemble?

A: Yeah, it was vital. Everyone had to show us their skills, so they did auditions showing us how they were on pitch. Lots of keepie uppies and back-guarding. They all had to properly be good at football.

Q: Are we going to see any new faces you can talk about in season two?

A: I think I can tell you that our new regular for season two – I know that it’s been in the press – is this fantastic actress called Sarah Niles, who I’ve been a massive fan of for years and years and years. She comes in to season two as the new regular. We’ve got some really amazing guest roles as well. And lots of people that we’re bringing back from season one into season two, which is great. Just before I started on season two, I was texting Jason about how excited I was, and he said, yeah, just a heads-up, I want to get back as many people as possible from season one. I was like, yeah! Because you know, that’s what fans want to see, it’s what I want to see. Even the small day-player roles we’re bringing back.

Q: Is there anything else you think that fans might be excited to learn about this show and the casting process?

A: Excited to learn? Well, it’s a really nice process. Everyone gets involved, and everyone gives us their ideas. I don’t know what else to say, really. Everyone’s lovely, and we have a lovely time.

Q: It looks like it. What I remember watching this show from the beginning is that it’s just fun, and it goes beyond its already fun premise. It never gets old, and just keeps getting better and better.

A: Yeah, it’s really great.

Season one of Ted Lasso is available to watch anytime on Apple TV Plus. Season two premieres July 23rd.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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