In the game of football (soccer for you ‘mericans) when kicking a penalty it is vital to select the right player. The same goes for casting a show, there’s the right person for the part and finding that person is not easy task. This is where casting director Theo Park comes in. She has cast many of your favorite characters on the Emmy-winning Apple TV+ series, Ted Lasso. Awards Radar spoke with Park about here work across three seasons of the beloved show. Read our conversation below:
Steven Prusakowski: Can you give me a little bit of insight into how you got on board with Ted Lasso?
Theo Park: I’m really lucky. I’m friendly with this fabulous casting director in the US called Alison Jones. She’s just got an amazing body of work. And Jason Sudeikis reached out to her and said, ‘I’m doing this show in London, who would you suggest to cast my show?,’ and she suggested me. I’m forever grateful. That’s how I got the gig, because he listened to Allison, which he should have done.
Steven Prusakowski: How does it all go from there? What direction are you given? Do you work with Bill Lawrence and Jason day to day?
Theo Park: Yeah, I work very closely with Jason – it really is Jason’s show. At the beginning, back back back, thinking back to season one, they sent me the pilot. That was all I read, just the first episode of season one, the script. Then I would have conversations with Jason about what exactly they were looking for and also the character arcs. So, Nate, you know, becomes coach by the end of season one. However, I didn’t know Nate what was going to happen to Nate in season two. I don’t think they even knew. Maybe they just figured it out at the end of season one. But yeah, it always starts with a script. You read the script, you come up with some ideas, then you have to talk to the creatives to find out where those characters are going and how they’re fleshed out, so you can really specify which actors might be right for them.
Steven Prusakowski: There are millions of actors. How does it go from there?
Theo Park: Well, you have to look at it as a whole. So at the beginning, when we were casting season one, we were casting unknown, eight regulars. I think apart from Jason and Brendan, who were already on board, we knew that we’d have to cast eight other regulars.Then you’ve got to make sure that within those you’ve got a lot of variety, diversity, but they also have to feel like they’re in the same show. So they’re all going to be good at comedy, but have a good range. Then you do it sort of one by one. It’s like a mosaic, you’re putting it all together, but it has to look right.
Steven Prusakowski: Together in a room, to play off each other and see their chemistry.
Theo Park: You know what’s quite interesting about this one is we didn’t do any chemistry reads at all. So we’re really lucky. How fabulous that Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham hit it off so well, and they look fabulous together as friends. And how wonderful that Brett Goldstein and Temple work so well together and so heartbreaking. It does help that they’re all really amazing actors, and also really decent people. They really are. There are no assholes on this set. They’re all really good, warm, lovely people, talented people. I think that helps with the whole merging of it.
Steven Prusakowski: To assemble a cast like you did on Ted Lasso, it’s rare. And that you didn’t have chemistry readings – that is even more incredible. It is like you hit the lottery.
Theo Park: I know, isn’t it? It works out, thank God.
Steven Prusakowski: Is that something that some seeds that were planted with you early on, as you’re doing that casting or how does that evolve?
Theo Park: I think it’s really important to have the best actors even in, especially in, the small roles, because in the small roles, they might be coming in for a day – they’re called day players. They have no time to prepare, they’ve got no rehearsal, they’ve got their wardrobe in the morning, and then they’re on set, and they have to do it and boom. No proper help with direction, they’ve just got to be really good and do it. The people who were putting forward for these small roles, we sort of pride ourselves in that they are going to be really good people. Jason does have a habit of bringing people back, which is just lovely. We feel confident that they can do it, because we’ve already established that.
Steven Prusakowski: I spoke with Nick Mohammed about his audition – he auditioned for Higgins. Did you instantly say, ‘There’s our Nate?’
Theo Park: Yes, pretty much. Yeah. So Nick came in for Higgins and he wasn’t quite right. Obviously, Jeremy (Swift) was totally perfect for what they had in their mind? He’s what they wanted. So brilliant. And then we were still going on and I said, ‘Oh, look, we should be trying, Nick Mohammed.’ We called up Nick and said, ‘Look, it’s not going to go your way on Higgins, but would you consider Nate. We pitched the idea of the character and he said no, because Nate was too similar to the character he, in his mind. He was too similar to the character he had just been playing in his own show Intelligence And then we begged him. We said, ’Please, please – really try because we think you’re really right for Nate. And we can tell you that there is a bit of an arc, you know, he doesn’t he’s not just this meek, mild kit boy. At the end of season one, he becomes a coach. Please, please, will you reconsider?’ And he said, ‘Okay, all right. All right.’ And then he did a 30 second audition from his green room and it was so perfect that we just said, ‘Yeah, that’s him. Yeah, that’s him. Let’s do the deal. Let’s get him.’ So we had to really twist his arm.
Steven Prusakowski: Thankfully you did. Were there any other swaps like that?
Theo Park: Well, originally when we were casting the star player, the arrogant star player who is now Jamie Tart. When that was originally written, the character was called Danny Rojas and he was this arrogant star player from South America, kind of a renowned Christian Ronaldo type. So we were searching high and low for this hilarious South American arrogant asshole. Couldn’t quite find him. In that search we found Christo Fernandez. He did this tape, and of course, he’s not quite right for that because he’s just so lovely and charming and cute. And they said, ‘okay, all right. Well, he’s great, but he’s not Danny Rojas.’ So let’s make him what was currently written as an Icelandic football player to come in sort of mid season as the kind of bouncy, cute, new player. Let’s see that British guy again, Phil Dunster, he was good, wasn’t he? Why don’t we make him the arrogant star player, not South American, but British. That was quite exciting. They just kind of created rolls around those two actors who were totally amazing, aren’t they?
Steven Prusakowski: Incredible. It didn’t happen by magic. It happened by proper casting decision making up front. Otherwise, you live you live or die by the cast – the wrong casting and the hit could be a cancellation. Instead, you have this massive, global hit.
Theo Park: This show was weird, it’s really collaborative experience. The creatives are really open to that kind of change, to when they meet the actors. They want to work around their strengths. They want to write roles around these actors, which is really exciting. It doesn’t happen a lot – I have to say. It’s really great.
Steven Prusakowski: Can you tell me some of the thinking behind a few of the big characters? I’m sure people would love to hear about casting Roy Kent. Is there a story there?
Theo Park: Well, he was originally based on the Irish footballer. Roy Keane, the grumpy Irish football team. So originally, we were taping fabulous Irish actors, or the comedy actors trying it with an Irish accent. Then, I think I got a note from Bill Lawrence’s office. ‘Oh, by the way, we want Brett Goldstein to take this role.’ I was like, ‘Well, I’m not sure he’s right.’ Because, have you met Brett, Steve?
Steven Prusakowski: Oh yes, I have. He was one of my first interviews. I loved his work on season one and was glad to get 45 minutes to speak with him. Very nice guy.
Theo Park: I mean, as you know, he is very sweet, mild mannered, lovely. Soft spoken South London. I mean, he’s obviously a brilliant actor. But I thought, ‘I don’t know if he is Roy Kent. I’m not sure about that.’ Of course, he did the take and that was it and everyone was really happy. The rest is history.
Steven Prusakowski: He’s brilliant. How about Rebecca?
Theo Park: That was a hard part to cast, because I think there were some studio aspirations certainly for her to be more of a name perhaps. We did sort of talk about way more established star actresses. We had a few people pass – we sent scripts and no, not interested, not interested, not interested.
Steven Prusakowski: Big mistake.
Theo Park: Yeah, because Hannah’s so perfect, but it wasn’t until much later down the line that she came in.
Steven Prusakowski 15:07 And close with just kind of a broad question, but is there one casting that you’re most proud of on the series? One that you just watch and think, ‘Man, I nailed that one.’
Theo Park 15:19
I don’t know because I’m so happy with all of them. I think that because it really is a collaborative thing. On this one, we present these tapes to these wonderful creatives who have such good taste. They always choose the best of the bunch that we share. They always make the right decision. So I’m actually really proud of it all.
Take in all of Theo’s magical casting decisions on three season of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, currently streaming exclusively on their streaming channel.
Ted Lasso’s complete three seasons are now streaming exclusively on Apple TV+.