On Ted Lasso, actor Brendan Hunt portrays Coach Beard, the subdued, even-tempered right-hand man who’s always there to bring Ted back down to reality. Hunt is also a co-creator on the show, as well as one of the few Americans working on this very international production.
Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Hunt about his relationship with Jason Sudeikis in real life, the perils of being the only one on set who’s actually obsessed with sports, and unexpected differences between American and English sensibilities.
Q: You play Coach Beard, a very entertaining and memorable character. How much of the character is just you playing yourself? Where does Brendan end and Beard begin?
A: Well, for one thing, I’m nowhere near as taciturn as Beard. In fact, I’m an insufferable blabbermouth who tells long stories that go nowhere. I wish I was Beard. Having said that, I do enjoy singing Lady Gaga at karaoke, so yeah, he’s not too far from me.
Q: How in the sports are you as a person?
A: Far more than an intelligent person should be. Especially for someone who was never particularly good at sports. I’m from Chicago which is a big pro sports town, so I was a huge Bulls fan, Blackhawk fan, Bears fan, Cubs and White Sox fan, which is not a popular choice, but it’s how I was raised, so there’s no turning back now. I did little league, and I was terrible at little league, but I just had this sense that I was obligated as an American child to go to little league. But I was terrible. I wasn’t into soccer at all. No one ever brought it up. It just wasn’t really a thing. And then when I moved to Amsterdam, before streaming days, still being a big sports fan, I couldn’t watch any of my teams anymore because you just couldn’t. So I slowly gravitated towards soccer and discovered that I had missed out on something just fantastic. It’s one thing to not like sports at all. That’ s fine. But if you like sports but say you don’t like soccer, then you’re just being difficult. It’s got everything that’s sports has. It’s slightly different, it’s not perfect, no sport is. But when it gets cooking, it’s fantastic.
Q: I spoke to Phil Dunster and he said he was shocked by how into Robbie Armstrong you are.
A: Do you mean Robbie Williams?
Q: Yes. I think I’ve revealed which kind of sports fan I am (or music, apparently). No sports.
A: Got it. When I was in Amsterdam, the other thing I was robbed of was all of Chicago’s wonderful alternative rock stations. I was now bathing in Europop, and, at that time, in the early 2000s, Robbie Williams, who had been in a boyband called Take That, was just hitting the stride of his solo career, and he was having his golden age. When you already know someone has been in a boyband, you come with a pre-loaded disdain for any artistic ambitions they may have, but I didn’t know Robbie Williams as being in a boy band. He’s just Robbie Williams to me. This video comes on one time, and I’m like, who’s this guy? This guy’s great. Little did I know that I was becoming a fan of someone who is frowned upon in snobbier circles. But I regret nothing. Robbie Williams is fantastic. I saw him in Las Vegas in 2019, one of the last concerts I’ve seen, and he just killed. Him not being big in America, but in every other country in the world, is America’s loss. He’s doing nothing wrong at all, he’s the best.
Q: I appreciate the answer. It’s obviously a different question than the one I asked. I guess I was thinking in this British mentality, I for some reason wrote down Robbie Armstrong when he said it, and I googled it, and the first thing that comes up is Robbie Armstrong, football. But that’s our football, not their football. I got all confused, but at least when I said it, you just looked me at me and were like, Robbie Armstrong? No, Robbie Williams, that’s who were talking about. But it’s relevant because we’re talking about cultural differences. You have such an international cast. Are there any entertaining cultural differences that come up on set?
A: We’ve all been around each other so much that we’re all pretty open now. I think the main cultural difference is that the English actors are much better about being off-book. They come in no matter how long their scenes are all day and they are just absolutely on point with every syllable of every word, whereas us, who wrote these words, we’re just looking at them and going, ah, what do I say? What? Chicken? When did that get put in there? Guys, I’m going to need a minute. It’s not quite as bad as that, but they’re way more professional about it than we are. That’s just another reason among many why we’re lucky to have them.
Q: You’re a co-creator on this show. What was your role specifically as part of that process?
A: I didn’t have too much of a specific role, the same as Jason and Joe Kelly and Bill Lawrence, trying to make all the characters as good as they can be. Having said that, as I am the resident, you know, soccer nut of the group, I had a bit of responsibility for having to speak up every once in a while and say, guys, that wouldn’t happen. That idea that you have right now, no, they don’t play two days in a row. They never play two days in a row. It’s physically impossible. Shut up, Brendan! Sorry, that’s my job. So, yeah, I had to occasionally rain on people’s imagination parades with the cold wind of soccer reality.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to have a role in the show? Or did you consider just remaining on the creative side?
A: Since I had a role in the commercials, and we were just basically pulling out what we liked from the commercials, it was just like, well, he’s still in is. We thought early on of the character of Ted first but then he needs a foil who can be the middle ground of Ted’s curious ignorance and this whole world of stuff that he just doesn’t know about all, almost like a Ted soccer translator. We were pretty sure that on a full half-hour show, that such a character would, if anything, be even more valuable to have around. We never really thought about not doing it.
Q: Ted and Beard have this dynamic where they essentially know what the other is thinking at all times, even if they’d rather not hear it. Is that how you and Jason are in real life?
A: I don’t know, I feel like Jason always knows what I’m thinking, but I never know what he’s thinking. He’s too smart. I don’t believe Jason has a college degree and yet he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He’s a closet genius, as I like to say. He likes to say this about me, but I’ll say it back about him – you want him on your pub quiz team. You just want him there. He’s going to get you some answers that you didn’t have. You just might win some money that night. I’m crying just thinking about it. Remember pub quizzes? Oh, those were the days. We took it for granted.
Q: The sense I’m getting is that some people like Phil and Brett aren’t like their characters, Jamie and Roy, but it seems like Jason and Ted aren’t that far apart from each other. It’s a great performance and he’s doing a lot with it, but it’s nice to learn that the environment seems to be very positive, like the one Ted creates for the team. Would you agree with that assessment?
A: Oh yeah, absolutely. In the case of Phil and Brett, they are finding characters that were in some degree imposed upon them. They came pre-formed. So they’re trying to find our way in that, but Ted comes from Jason. He is an explosion of some fraction of Jason’s id or something. He’s not just a fantasy of niceness, he’s based on coaches that Jason actually had, Westerners that Jason’s always known who care and who listen and who tell folksy stories. Yes. Absolutely. There’s a great deal of overlap in the Venn diagram of Jason and Ted.
Q: When you were conceiving the commercials, did you ever think that they would turn into this big, insanely popular, award-winning show?
A: Am I allowed to curse on your program?
Q: Absolutely fucking not! Yeesh. Hey, here’s this thing, we get to go to England for a few days. And oh, they’ll fly us out later to go to a Premier League game. A Premier League game? Yes, I’m in. That was enough. And then to even be asked to come back to do another round of commercials the next year was just 100% unexpected. The fact that I’m now still in England, not just for three days, but for several months, and when they’re allowed to have fans, going to games every weekend, this is nuts! This is absolutely insane. That’s only happening because people’s responses have been so great. I have tremendous gratitude for all the people who have really taken to our bits.
Q: You have no problem living abroad, obviously. Are there any challenges to shooting in England?
A: Well, it’s a weird moment now, because of all the COVID stuff. But one thing that’s been true for both seasons that’s different from how we do things in America is basically, they don’t do overtime here. In America, if a shoot day gets out of hand, well everyone knows, we’re staying late, we’re getting everything done, we go an hour over, now you’re in super overtime, whatever they call it, and everyone stays late, and gets paid extra, and it’s all fine and good. But here, that’s not always going to happen because there’s a rule where, if you want to go to overtime, you have to go to every single department head, head of sound, head of costume, head of camera, everybody, and ask them – ask them, you can’t just tell them – if we can go over time. And if even one of them says no, then we’re done. It’s over. We go home. There’s no fighting about it. There’s no arguing. It just is the way it is. Maybe that’s a bit of that socialism I’ve been hearing so much about, but if it is, I have tremendous respect for it. That one technician can say no, my family’s waiting for me, so we’re all shutting down. It was pretty cool. And it forces us to be judicious and responsible with the way we spend our time on a given shoot day.
Q: We saw a bit of Beard’s personal life in the way he was trying to start a relationship that got derailed by his eagerness for competition, which it sounds like, based on your love for pub quizzes, may be part of you seeping into the character. I know you probably can’t say too much about season two since Phil was reluctant to, but will we see more of that going forward?
A: A fun game of season one for us in the writers’ room was trying to think of ways that Beard could just show up in things. One thing we never did was like, people would be at the bar and the TV would be on, and it’s a darts tournament, and Beard is just winning it. He never mentioned it, it’s just happening. That hasn’t happened, but we still love talking about Beard’s life and having hints at it, and we will continue having hints going forward.
Q: This won’t be published as a video interview, but I commented on Phil wearing a shirt rather than Jamie going shirtless with the jacket, and I have to note that you’re not wearing a hat. It’s like Beard out of uniform, which we saw once or twice. Is that a conscious thing that we always see him that way, so sports-focused, and the few times we don’t, it’s a stark difference?
A: Yeah, he’s a hat guy, simple as that. Maybe if he had Ted’s fantastic flowing locks, he wouldn’t be so regimented about it. It’s just who he is.
Q: Are there any interesting on-set relationships that audiences might be entertained to learn about that may not come through in the finished product of the show?
A: I think the intense bromance between Brett and Phil would delight people, especially given the way that they play such antagonists for each other. We’re all in love with each other. It’s a really good bunch to hang out with. In particular, yeah, Brett and Phil, they’re always taking care of each other. One of them has neck pain, the other is very quick with a rub. It does the heart great to see.
Q: Sarah Niles – I hope I got her name right, unlike Robbie Williams – is joining the cast for season two. Can you speak at all about her role, whatever you’re allowed to say? You can probably say much more than Phil!
A: Yeah, she plays a sports psychologist who comes to Richmond, and Ted’s a little nervous about a sports psychologist because he feels like he’s all people should need. It remains to be seen, will they be teammates or opponents? Sarah is fantastic. Not only on-camera, but she’s a great hang off-camera. I’ve seen her work before in Catastrophe and I May Destroy You. I feel very fortunate that we got her.
Q: In season one, there were a few moments that touched on some drama, with Ted drinking and missing home. Is that something that will be revisited in season two, not necessarily those plot points, but the more dramatic side of all this?
A: We think it makes our comedy richer that, every once in a while, it goes away. So that will remain our style.
Q: The show has already been renewed for season three, which is awesome. But I have also heard that season three may be the last season. Is that what’s happening, or we still don’t know just yet?
A: We still don’t know. That was definitely the plan, and that is still the plan, but the one part of the plan that that we didn’t prepare for was the fact that people love the show. We could never have imagined the response that we’re getting, and that response, certainly I suspect, will challenge our resolve. But we have a three-season story and we’re going to focus on telling that story first and I don’t think were going to worry about anything else until that gets done.
Q: People do love the show and it’s been winning a lot of awards. I’m sure that not being able to attend a lot of these ceremonies is disappointing. Can you share any feelings about going through every single awards group and just getting showered with love and trophies?
A: It’s nice to get them, because we don’t worry about them at all. We’re just trying to do the show as best as we can. If people want to take a moment and say, hey, we like this about your show, that’s cool and encouraging. In terms of missing any of these awards shows, fortunately, we were filming out here for all these so we probably wouldn’t have been able to go to any of them anyway. But, you know, I love a free steak. So yeah, miss out on a free steak? It always hurts a little bit. You never get over that. Hope we got a few more free steaks coming up in our future. If we’re ever allowed to eat again.
Season one of Ted Lasso is available to watch anytime on Apple TV Plus. Season two premieres July 23rd.