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Interview: ‘Ted Lasso’ Editors Melissa McCoy and A.J. Catoline on Finding the Balance of Drama and Comedy

Ted Lasso, which recently completed its third and potentially final season, has followed the unbridled optimism of its titular American college football coach turned English Premier League headline through thick and thin. Editors Melissa McCoy and A.J. Catoline have had a key hand in finding the right balance between the show’s comedic and dramatic elements as they describe the process similar to “dialing the knobs” for the best result.

The pair speak to how Ted’s philosophy of everyone having a voice in the room and the team atmosphere of AFC Richmond’s locker room comes through behind the scenes as well in the way Jason Sudeikis embraces collaboration in the vision for the show.

Read my full conversation with the Emmy Award-winning editors below.  

Hi, this is Danny Jarabek here with Awards Radar, and I’m very excited to be speaking with Melissa McCoy and AJ Catoline. Melissa and AJ are editors for the Emmy Award-winning Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso. How are you both doing today?

Melissa: I’m great.

AJ: I’m doing well, nice to talk to people about the show.

Yes, absolutely. I’m so excited to be talking about Ted Lasso with you today. I’ve been a huge fan of the show, and I’ve been excited to see it grow through this season. But, just to start it off, what is it about this show, about the Ted Lasso story, that drew you into it from the beginning? We’ll start with Melissa here.

Melissa: I think AJ and I talk a lot about how we didn’t really know what it was going to be when we first started. It was a surprise to us when we started thinking there was more to this than just a silly comedy. Before I even cut the pilot, I hadn’t read the script, and I signed on because I watched the skits and wanted to work with Jason. Then you get to go into this much deeper story, and I related to it on a deep level. When we got to the end of the season and people were reaching out that it meant something to them, I think that’s been the most wonderful surprise is that from all walks of life, the episodes touch on different topics in such a human way. You hear from so many different people that it meant something to them. To be able to be a part of that has been amazing.

AJ, for you?

AJ: Yeah, likewise. I was always a fan of Jason Sudeikis, and when I heard about the show I connected with our great producer, Kip Kroeger, and said I really want to cut this. When he offered me the job, I was just over the moon. I’d just seen the short skits as well and I’d always known Jason Sudeikis as this incredibly energetic, bubbly character, which we see a little bit in Ted in season one, he’s doing his silly dances, high fives, and so on. Then when Jason came into the edit for the first day, and I love when the talent (actors, and of course, he’s the creator and writer and producer as well) come to the edit. I remember that first day he was a very sweet, gentle soul, a lot more quiet than what I had seen from the character. So, it was great to get to know him and to see how interested he was in editing. He’s an encyclopedia of film knowledge and a real genius, but someone who also supports your input and your collaboration. He’s sometimes very strict in his vision, and he wants it that way, but at other times, he’s funny because he’ll say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. You tell me,’ even though he knows what he is doing because he is creating Ted Lasso. It was just a joy to collaborate with him and he’s empowering creatively. He makes you feel very comfortable to give your ideas and your music ideas, how you think the scene should go, and what you find funny or moving. Yeah, it’s been great.

One thing you alluded to there was the fact that Jason came into the edit, and that’s something I’m curious to hear about from your perspective. Something that’s so intrinsic to Ted Lasso in his locker room and the show as a whole is that everybody has a voice. Everybody is part of the team. No matter if you’re Nate the laundry guy in episode one, you can become an assistant coach. So, is that part of the environment for working on this show, especially on your end in post-production?

Melissa: Absolutely. I think for him, it’s not just a character. He really does embody that, and it’s something that I’ve really gravitated to. We all try to make our teams more of a family from our wonderful PAs to our assistants, it’s always an idea of, ‘come in and let’s talk about what we could do, no idea is a bad idea.’ Listening to people, to everyone, I think that stems from the top and from Jason. No answer is a wrong answer for him, not even an idea. We lived Ted Lasso on the screen, but we also, I think, lived it behind the scenes a little bit, which has been amazing.

AJ: Jason often says Ted Lasso is a vibe. It’s not a show. He said that in the office many times. He loves when people ask questions and get involved, and he completely supports that. Just this season, for example, Melissa and I promoted our assistant editors, Francesca Castro and Alex Szabo, to become editors, and they’re going to share the credit with us on a couple of episodes they already have. It is a real family. We’re all on the team, too. We very much match the Richmond team and the Richmond family, and everyone giving their best to the show, and Jason loves that sense of collaboration. We’re constantly having conversations with the rest of our crew, our sound team, what does something sound like? We can just call them up in the middle of the day and all of a sudden be on a 45-minute conversation with our sound editor and Jason, or a music editor and talking about how we should put something together. Ted Lasso is absolutely a vibe in the post-production team as well.

I think that just might have to be my pull quote for the story. Ted Lasso is a vibe, not a show.

AJ: Credit Jason for that.

One thing that you mentioned there pulling in collaboration with the music department, with the sound department. I’d love to hear about that process on your end, and how that works for you when you’re operating with pulling in other items, other material from other departments, say music or Sound or VFX too, because I know that’s part of the show as well, maybe more surprisingly so than people might imagine. But how do you navigate that process of bringing in your dailies and your footage, but also all these other elements as well?

Melissa: Yeah, I think this season has been the toughest for that. It’s bigger than ever. It is surprising how many visual effects we have, and we have a visual effects artist working with us. It’s helped us in so many ways with ‘temping’ things so we can see how it’s going to feel. Sometimes there are things that just help us tell the story better or in a more succinct way. We might need the split screen, and we can do simple things like that. But then it can also be, I’m thinking of a whole mixed media thing like AJ’s Total Football. That whole presentation is an edit within an edit. We have something in the finale that’s similar to the idea that it’s something you’re editing within the edit and the layers to that and the amount of help you need from what the temp sound is going to be. Sometimes we reach out to our sound team and say, ‘Hey, we need something that feels like this. Is that possible? Or do we want the scene to feel like it did in this scene from season one? Can we get the temp to just lay it in so we can all know what we’re supposed to be feeling when we feel it?’ And then for the music, it is such a huge part, and that comes from everybody on the team. We have our wonderful music supervisor, but then also Jason and each other. We have a Slack channel with our team and we ended up creating a music channel and people were pitching like, ‘Hey, you still looking for music for this scene?’ We pull it all in and send huge emails to our music supervisor and then he throws in more and you have a bin of 150 things to pick from and it can feel overwhelming. But also, it’s really fun to try. I think I delivered a scene with 12 options. I think we had 20 and I said let’s send the top twelve and see what wins. So, it’s a huge machine.

AJ: Music is a character as well. Jason always says he knows it when he hears it. Sometimes we nail a song from the beginning. I think Mel did that in season one with a great Celeste song, and it stayed in from the beginning of the first cut. You mentioned Total Football and that was the same situation. For that scene, I used the music of Escape to Victory behind it because that was a film that Jason and Brendan insisted that I watch back in season one to get a vibe of how to cut a soccer match. So that stayed in the cut, and sometimes when Jason hears it and loves it, it’ll be the correct choice from the beginning. Other times, as Mel says, we’ll audition 20 to 50 songs for a moment and continually put them to picture and watch it and watch it and say, ‘No, still not ready.’ But then when he hears it, it really works. As for sound, I can give you an example. In episode three, we have a joke in the office about the crystal bowls when Rebecca goes to see the psychic and the psychic tells her that she’s going to see a green matchbook and she’s going to become a mother and you hear a background sound of these crystal bowls playing. I jumped on the phone with our sound editor, Brent Findley, and I said, ‘Where can we get some? Can you send over some crystal bowl files so I can lay these in?’ Jason joined the call, and then we had an hour-long conversation about what each crystal bowl represents and what Rebecca would be feeling, and which chakra they represent. So, we laid those in specifically, and then they get called back later at the end of the episode when she’s in the restaurant and she sees the green matchbook. There are those little details that he loves to dive into and be a part of the discussion. Other times he’ll ask to be surprised and he hears it, and he loves it. Being an editor is very much about directing creative traffic if you will. There are so many departments, visual effects, sound, music, that we are just channeling all these ideas and bringing them into the cut and showing Jason—it’s a wonderful job to have.

That’s a huge testament to what you do, being able to bring everything together in such a coherent way, in a way that comes across as blending drama and comedy and all of these different elements. That’s something I want to ask about, too, is, of course, I’m sure from an editor’s perspective, editing comedy and editing drama might have a different approach and might have a different beat structure. But Ted Lasso is a very comedic show. It’s very funny, but it also has a very deep level of dramatic depth to it as well. So how do you begin to visualize how you might start to blend that and how have you done it throughout the few seasons?

Melissa: People are always amazed by how we’re able to do it, and I think AJ and I are a little amazed that we are, too. We joke, ‘How do we do it?’ But I think I had this conversation with Jason when we were cutting 306, and it was a speech with Colin and Trent outside the Homomonument in Amsterdam. It’s somebody’s intense truth that they’re going through and it’s a powerful speech. How I approached cutting it is I come from it first from a technical standpoint. At one moment, he was saying he feels an ache in his heart and so, I knew I wanted to be in the two-shot to see his physicality of going for his heart which you would have lost in the close-up. There are those technical things that you try to do and then it’s really, for me, dialing knobs of their performance, of the actor’s performances. That is a lovely place to be coming from because I can tell you this cast, every one of them delivers when you watch their dailies. It’s a matter of, ‘Oh, I love that moment, and oh my gosh, that feels so honest, and oh Trent’s reaction to that, okay, I need to remember that.’ It’s a matter of dialing when something feels right dramatically or makes you laugh. Jason and I talked about dialing the knobs and I think AJ talked about this too. We may say we’re here now for this, but if we take twelve frames off and then we go to the joke that timing is just going to hit. For us, it’s technical and performance and then what makes you laugh. I think it’s a matter of rolling the dial and we have a roller tool in our avid that we work with so it’s easy to take frames off and see how that lands and add frames. Sometimes the quick up cut makes me laugh and then sometimes staying somewhere for an extra beat until it becomes uncomfortable and then cutting in with the joke helps as well because it’s unexpected. It’s really a matter of turning the dials and then believing in the story you’re telling.

AJ: Definitely. I’ve learned to cut comedy differently on this show. Most comedies are very fast-paced, trying to get to the next joke, get to the next joke. But what I’ve learned with Jason is that each moment must have a beat and needs to be paid off. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing the moment, you might as well just cut it completely. So, if you have a character give a line to one of our other characters, you have to see that character receive the line and then say their piece back, and then we can move on to the next beat of the show. We’re a half-hour comedy that’s an hour long for a reason because Jason wants to let these moments breathe so the audience feels it and I think it completely works. I can tell it works as I’ve watched these shows a thousand times, I still get the tingles sometimes on certain scenes just knowing that that’s just a genius piece of performance. Jason loves to dig in and dial the knobs, as Mel says, and I think we have our dramatic moments, but then we’ll punch it with a crazy joke which lets everyone relax and takes the tension out, and have some fun. Then we’ll go back to the intensity and we see that so much with Rebecca’s performance when she’s chewing out Roy about not doing the press conference. You have those intense moments like with Nate being so dark, but then he reveals his true self in his own bumbling way. He’s not a fool, he just wants love so much, but he’s a bit dorky, or he’s our dork, as we say. It’s just about finding that balance and not being afraid to let the episodes breathe and letting looks go by. Sometimes we’ll let pauses happen with no dialogue at all and let the story tell on the faces of the characters. It’s a great balance and that’s what I’ll forever learn on this show. I hope more comedies do it to not be afraid of showing the drama and the vulnerability and the more serious side of what the characters are doing so that then when the laughs come, they’re powerful and you feel them.

One last question for each of you. Is there one moment in particular that you edited or maybe the other person edited that is something that you’re really proud of and how it came together? Maybe it’s even something that was adapted in post-production that wasn’t necessarily the exact same vision from the script, but any moment that stood out to you as something that you really take away as something you’re proud of?

Melissa: I have so many. I felt that in season three there was something in every episode across the board that I’m so proud of as a show. AJ mentioned that Celeste song. I think that was one instance where I’d heard that song one day, laid it to picture, and it just fell. It was the one instance where sometimes the music just fits. I didn’t have to do anything. I just did this, and it landed and it’s like a gift from the editing gods.

And you look brilliant for it, too, just the way you planned.

Melissa: That was an instance where we were still figuring out the show so it felt really exciting. Then I think this season all of Amsterdam, to me, felt like an accumulation that so many of those moments with seasons one and two built up towards. What a beautiful thing that these writers have created to be able to pay off this season. They’ve created such rich backstories for everybody that everybody can shine in that episode. There are so many callbacks and it’s one of my favorite things I learned in film school. Plant and payoff. You plant the thing and then you pay it off. I love that we do that within a season, but we also have done it over the three seasons.

AJ: Trent Crimm says exactly that, episode seven. He says, ‘You haven’t changed tactics in a week. You’ve been doing this over all three seasons.’ Little, tiny, imperceptible moments, all leading to Total Football. That’s that character in there, but it’s also, to me, James Lance and the show commenting on itself through three seasons, we’ve had all these moments that now are just paying off. But, yes, to Mel’s point, there are definitely editing gods, and they do exist and when they work magic for you, you are thankful to them. A simple example, and this always blows our minds, is that we use Jesus Christ Superstar in episode three. And when that song is used, we cut to a shot of Rupert being mad that the team is winning, and it’s Rupert’s brother, Murray Head singing the song. That is an example of the editing gods coming in, and you could not have planned that or put that in the script. That’s something that you discover in the room, and when you do, it’s beautiful.

Well, thank you so much for your time. Congratulations as well on all of the recognition that you have received, and your entire team has received for this wonderful show. Congratulations on this season, and I can’t wait to continue to watch through the end. Thank you so much.

AJ: Believe! Go Greyhounds!

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.


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Written by Danny Jarabek

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