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Interview: ‘Ted Lasso’ Editors Melissa McCoy & A.J. Catoline On Collaborating to Score Goals

It takes teamwork to win on a football (soccer) field. The same goes for creating a beloved football series. Ted Lasso has scored with audiences, the perfect mix of humanity, comedy, heart, sports intensity and much more. The AppleTV+ series impressively balances multiple characters with real human emotion that transcends beyond the arena – this is not your typical sports story.

To accomplish this, editors Melissa McCoy and A.J. Catoline relied on teamwork of their own, between their editing team and even with show creator Jason Sudeikis. After the pandemic forced them to abandon editing room for the isolation of their own homes, they continued to work together on delivering a rich and layered final product that has connected with audiences.

The duo credit Sudeikis for having the clear vision and the patience during the editing process, allowing them to mine the most impact out the characters and moments that have made the series the award-winning, audience-pleasing phenomenon it has become.

Steven Prusakowski: With names like Bill Lawrence and Jason Sudeikis attached to it, which makes it seem obvious, what attracted you to this series?

A.J. Catoline: Jason Sudeikis.

Melissa McCoy: Yep. Jason Sudeikis. And, oh yeah, Bill. I’ll go with Bill anywhere. I love working with Bill Lawrence. And this is my fifth show with him. Just such a lovely man. Such a funny man. Creative, brilliant. Just a nice person to work with. I heard he was developing the show with Jason and I just kept hounding him that I wanted to do it. We really didn’t get a script until late in the game, so I was signing up based on Jason. I watched the skits, but it didn’t turn out anything like the skits. It’s been just a unexpected journey to get on. A lovely surprise.

A.J. Catoline: Yeah, I had the pleasure to edit a Jason Sudeikis short film a few years before it could last so when I heard that the show was coming out and I really am a fan of Jason Sudeikis, and I’ve always loved his comedy on SNL and his movies. He just has a lot of thought behind his his comedy. I met Kip Kroeger, our supervising producer, years before and I was thrilled that they were looking for editors. It worked out and here I am. I didn’t know if Mel knew whether anyone working on the show knew what the show was going to be. All we had to go on was the short sketches that were done years ago on YouTube for the Olympics. So, at first I thought it might just be a sketch show. I had no idea it was going to grow into this. When we got the scripts I was like okay, this isn’t reading exactly like a comedy. It’s not immediately funny, per se, like it like a comedy would be. I remember talking to Mel and thinking this is a little different than a comedy. There’s more story here. There’s more drama. You know, here Ted is not just the barbecue sauce loving country bumpkin. He’s got a message to him. We would get notes back about the script saying things, ‘Oh my god, I watched this and I cried.’ Like, is that a good note for comedy? I guess it is. It’s a comedy that has messaged to be the best that you can be both – on and off the field. Wins, losses – don’t matter. Be a goldfish, which is Lasso code to just be here, now – live in the moment. And, I love that those messages. So Jason really brings it. He’s a good writer and thinker, but also he brings the improv that surprises you. And that’s fun as an editor to put that together.

Steven Prusakowski: So what was your relationship like when collaborating on the series? How did that help to shape the show?

Melissa McCoy: The relationship between AJ and I – I was cutting odds and he was cutting the evens. This was our first time working together. I think we just kind of fell into the Ted Lasso world of positivity and being a good human. It inspired us. We were sharing a lot to figure out what the show was. When we first started working on it, it was just really AJ and I and our post team and everybody else was off in London. Bill was off in London and Jason obviously was shooting the show. So we were just getting all the footage back and talking about music and and tone and figuring out. We used a temp score to figure it all out. So there was a lot of bonding that happened over that. And then, we just got into the trenches of finishing a TV show, which ultimately always bonds you as co-workers and friends. It’s just been a lot of collaboration about figuring it out. It’s been such a joy to be on this ride with him with all the accolades. The love for the show has been so surprising. We left last season thinking, ‘maybe we’ll see ya again.’ Then it started gaining traction. It’s just been amazing. We were as surprised as anybody because we really didn’t know. We just put it out in the world, this thing we’ve been toiling over for a year. Now that we’re getting some attaboys, it has been kind of amazing, because it was a hard year of work of figuring it all out. A labor of love for both of us.

Steven Prusakowski: Yeah, it’s really great. I watched it, I loved it. Early on, I told people about it and many of them hadn’t heard. Then suddenly, out of the blue, everybody’s talking Ted Lasso. That’s got to feel incredible. Can you speak a little bit about the collaboration, as well.

A.J. Catoline: Sure. This is my first time working with Mel and we took this is step by step. We were initially over at the Warner Brothers lot working together. So we did work together as a team with our assistant editors. Alex Sabo, and Francesca Castro. We could go through the footage together and talk about things during our lunch breaks. Like, you know, ‘how’s your team coming? How’s your episode coming?’ That type of collaboration is important. We edited all the episodes, where normally in TV, you kind of finish one episode and move it, close it and lock it, as we call it. And once that episode is done then you’re now working on another one. For Ted Lasso it was the whole season. We didn’t deliver a single episode until the very end. So, we were able to say, ‘Oh, back in episode 3, does that set up what happens in episode eight?’ So that type of talking with each other occurs. I would go into Mel’s room and listen to what music she might be using and what worked for her. I’d be like, ‘well, maybe that cue might work for me.’ So that type of collaboration was wonderful. But then the pandemic hit and we went to editing back at home over zoom. I haven’t seen Mel in person for over a year. There’s always an upside to things. In this case, Jason Sudeikis came in at the end of the process. Here, after we’d gotten a bunch of notes from networking studio and everyone was loving it. But Jason was like, ‘No, I want to dig in one last time with Mel and AJ into the footage’ and look for options that we could do to enhance the scene and sometimes rethink scenes entirely. We learned that Jason was really good at this process. In some episodes, he did the whole thing all the way through. So we were glad to zoom with Jason Sudeikis every day and see other options. I think that’s important in editing to be open to new ideas and to try something a different way. And new comedy is discovered. Sometimes with Jason, he’s not always going for a joke in a certain place, he’s going for character development. Sometimes we’ll cut a joke in exchange for a bit of story and character arc. And, sometimes we’ll include a joke just so that we can get to see how a character reacts to that joke. There’s some great eye rolls in this episode – especially from Hannah Waddingham, Rebecca, being either annoyed by Ted or learning from him. So those reactions are so powerful – and that comes from working with Jason and crafting how’s the show going to work. We’ve done well as a team in the pandemic working from home. We don’t have as much interaction so it is lonelier this year, but we’re figuring it out. Staying in touch with zoom and Slack. Hopefully we’ll get to get back in the in the cutting room for real.

Steven Prusakowski: Everyone’s hoping for that. It’s so important to capture the spirit of the sport. But there’s just so much more that the series did. And you did that very well. You really made it feel like you’re in the game sometimes and then there’s this huge range of emotions. There are times when you’re cheering, crying, and of course, laughing. How did you fit it all into the episode? How did you find that balance?

A.J. Catoline: Well, by not being worried about time. Right now most comedies are like 25-28 minutes. But initially, we thought we could try and do episodes that we’re shorter, but we realized, the show’s feeling a little too rushed. And so Jason, to his credit, really pushed, for us to rethink this series, and to deliver episodes that are 32 minutes. So, fans on Twitter are writing how much they love that, that we allow the show to sit with the audience. Sometimes we didn’t have to rush it all in. It’s all about trying to figure out how to get the best performance into the cut as much as possible.

Melissa McCoy: Yeah, definitely. If you’re true to the characters, then you just go along for the ride. And that’s all you can hope for. I’m thinking about episode five, when Ted’s wife tells him I don’t feel about you the same way anymore. And they basically decided to part ways. I remember feeling like, ‘oh man, this is really sad.’ And, in the midst of it, you have this football game. I was worried about going from one thing to another. But you’re just with Ted on that journey. The actors are so gifted at listening to one another all the time. And that’s such a luxury as an editor. They are reacting and listening to what the other actor is saying to them – the other character. So, I feel like you’re always in their headspace, because they’re always giving you what their character is feeling. And when you have that, you just go with them. It always feels true. And even the comedy, it just feels so like, they just do it so effortlessly, and so naturally. That you have all the tools to make it come together! With the music and the sound and the beautiful cinematography – they give us really great transition shots. As an editor I’m thinking about – we come out of the game and go to this beautiful scene at end where they basically put her in a cab and that’s the end of their relationship. But you’re coming out of this high high of the football game, where they win, he puts his son up on his shoulders, and the crowd is cheering. And they did a great visual effect of the son on his shoulders on that big scoreboard – which was all the visual effects. And then Hannah realizes her plan is coming to an end and she gives you that moment. Then you get that breath and you get to go into this beautiful scene where he’s holding back tears and she’s crying and and we were able to get this beautiful song from Mumford and Sons for the end. It just kind of all worked in that way. It’s just everybody operating on the highest levels and it’s a joy and a pleasure to work on.

A.J. Catoline: Having Marcus Mumford music was like a character in the show. It brings so much more to life to it. Jason knew he wanted to use Marcus Mumford, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ cue at the end of episode 10 when (spoiler alert for those that are watching) when they lose. And that for me, it really encompasses the pandemic. The name of the episode is ‘The Hope That Kills You,’ which really resonates with having hope in tough times. That’s an instance of knowing that Jason wanted to use that song laying it out. And that’s important – we cut picture to that song. That doesn’t always happen because initially we had picture and try to tell the story and have the music then support it but sometimes, with Jason, he’s very specific about wanting a song and then working the cut editing to the music.

Steven Prusakowski: The power of all these elements coming together is amazing. Right now, I have the chills across my body just remembering that scene. When I watched it again a second time, I enjoyed it even more because I was able to just sit back and take in the characters. It is so impressive to me that you can take a such a large ensemble and allow viewers connect with them – everyone – as a team and even as individuals. Even though some of them have limited screen time, there’s still this camaraderie amongst them that we, as viewers feel. It’s just masterful editing.

A.J. Catoline: Thank you. Well, that’s Jason. The show is called Ted Lasso. So my instinct as an editor, with what’s the on-shots is the main character. We generally try to like to be ‘on’ who’s ever talking. But Jason will specifically say, ‘no, this scene is more about the team, I want to have see the reactions of Sam, and Jamie Tartt or the other smaller characters we just hear little lines from. So he will specifically say be on them, and you’ll notice that they shot a lot with a moving spinning camera and that was done to allow the camera to pay an offset if he’s talking and see how the team is reacting. That became an challenge to edit and keep that continuity of the camera flowing around while still editing was interesting. I am glad it’s resonating and that you’re feeling the other characters because that is by design. Kudos.

Steven Prusakowski: Kudos. So what was it like working with Jason, the actor? And I’m sure there must have been a lot of improv. Because of such improv was there a lot of stuff that you had to leave on the floor in the cutting room floor that you would have liked to have included?

Melissa McCoy: It’s been a while now, since we’ve delivered the first season. And I said to my assistant, ‘What were some of our joke that we cut?’ And we couldn’t for the life of us remember. The more and more we worked on it, the more it became clear what the show needed to be. And boy, did we spend time getting it to be exactly what we wanted it to be. We weren’t rushed, like you do a lot of times with network television, you feel super rushed. So anything that that left, I don’t remember now. So obviously, I don’t miss it.

A.J. Catoline: And there’s not too much, not too many deleted scenes on the show.

Melissa McCoy: I think we pared down a lot of stuff and just got it to the essentials of what we needed to do to tell the story. And sometimes I remember Jason being like ‘I’ll remember this for season two.’

A.J. Catoline: There were some lines that had to be cut. And not so much for time, but perhaps because it didn’t exactly gel with the story or the pacing. And then the writers noticed and they’re worked them back in. The okes at the cutting room floor have lived on and hopefully some of them will stick around.

Melissa McCoy: I remember the jokes that leave and then come back. I remember one time we took out a joke and then like the studio mentioned that they missed it. It was the episode 7 – the 5150 joke. It’s such a small little joke, but it’s at Van Halen joke. And I love Van Halen but maybe that’s not for everybody. So I could see that why that joke would go. But yeah, a lot of people started mentioning like, I do miss that joke. And Jason was like, ‘okay, let’s put it back in.’ That was one joke that was out for a while and then you start hearing from the cacophony of people that are like, ‘That Van Halen joke spoke to me.’ And you’re like, ‘oh, there’s other Van Halen fans out there, besides me.’

A.J. Catoline: Jason is an improv actor. There’s a whole episode, 106, the Allen Iverson speech that Ted gave us a spoof of real speech that Allen Ivenson gave about practice. ‘Practice man, not the game, practice.’ That was a sequence that I cut, but it was not in the script. It was a bit of a left turn. But if people love it, that whole sequence was designed by Jason just days before the shoot, so that was an example of really working with improv. To me one of the most memorable pieces of improv is when he’s running out of Rebecca’s office, then mistimes his leap and smashes his head on the top of the doorframe. And from what I heard, that had to be the last take for him for the day because he had to go see the set medic. Then the directors said that you have got to put this in, and it was hysterical. It was not visual effects, he really hits his head on that door. But he did add some funny little dialogue at the end. That was not after he hit his head. He held it. He kept the look. And then we cut, but then we put in some funny dialogue there. So he’s loving to add little improv jokes, even in post. Yeah.

Steven Prusakowski: That’s great. I didn’t know that actually happened.

A.J. Catoline: He gets so excited, because Rebecca gives him the idea about confusion. The key to winning is to make it so he comes up with trick plays, such as the Lasso Special and the Double Martini and Leaky Faucet, Poutine and all these silly words. And then Lasso Special becomes a critical moment later. But he is so excited that he runs out of the room and he just wanted to do a little kick step and then exit. But he must have missed time it – he kicked stepped and smash. And you know, that you know, when you see a daily like that, you’re like, ‘Yeah, that is going in – we’re using that.’

Steven Prusakowski: So, just one quick question to wrap up. And each of you can answer this. What are the three words you would use to describe Ted Lasso?

A.J. Catoline: Ah, wow. The show about compassion, a show about being vulnerable, being real.

Melissa McCoy: Yeah, I’d say humanity and acceptance and forgiveness.

A.J. Catoline: Fantastic spot on now. Beautiful. Yeah, I like it.

Steven Prusakowski: Yeah, same here. Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to season two.

Melissa McCoy: We hope we did it justice for everybody.

Steven Prusakowski: I’m sure you did. Thank you.

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