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Interview: ‘Ted Lasso’ Production Designer Paul Cripps Talks Building the World of AFC Richmond

The world of Ted Lasso is draped in a signature blue and red that has become an iconic palette representing its titular coach and AFC Richmond squad in the Apple TV+ series. Much of this signature world from the Richmond neighborhoods to the football locker room exists due to the efforts of production designer Paul Cripps who from the onset of the show set out to make the team believable. 

Since then, the show has continued to grow in scope and scale alongside its fan base who often sport AFC Richmond gear as if they were following a true Premier League team. In my conversation with Paul he discusses how the production of the show has adapted and evolved from Season 1 to Season 3 and how he adjusts his process for different sets and shooting locations. 

Read my full conversation with Ted Lasso production designer Paul Cripps below.

Hello, this is Danny Jarabek here with Awards Radar, and I am very excited to be speaking with Paul Cripps. He is the production designer for the Emmy award-winning show Ted Lasso. Paul, how are you doing today?

Paul: I’m good, thanks! How are you?

Wonderful. And I am super excited to be talking with you today. I am a big fan of just watching shows that have a high production value in terms of their production design, and I think Ted Lasso is a great example of that. I’m very excited to sort of unpack that a little bit today, but before we get started, I would love to ask, I know you grew up in the UK. Are you a football fan yourself?

Paul: I am indeed, yes. I’m a fan of a few different British sports – football, cricket, and rugby. But yes, I’ve been a football fan all my life, and I support my local team. I come from a city called Oxford, which you’ll know from the university, but we have quite a lazy football team at the moment called Oxford United. They were in the equivalent of the Premier League a long time ago for a short while, but they haven’t been back since. But we always live in hope.

Well, they just need their Jason Sudeikis to come in.

Paul: They do indeed. They do.

I’d love to ask before we dive fully into Ted Lasso, of course you grew up in the UK, is production design something that you became interested in early in your career? How did you become involved in production design with TV?

Paul: It’s something I’ve always been aware of because I lived in a very small town near Oxford which gets used for filming a lot because there’s a big stately home near it called Blenheim Palace which was the birthplace of Winston Churchill. So, we’d get quite a lot of filming there. And I’ve probably told this story a lot, but one of the first memories I have of production design is a year after Star Wars came out and I was a bit obsessed with Star WarsHarrison Ford came to make a World War II film in our town and the whole town was kind of dressed to look like an occupied French town during World War II. So, that kind of amazed me. So, I suppose that was the beginning of the thoughts of maybe working in film and TV. And I’ve done it for the whole of my career, so I’ve been very lucky. I started very early doing it. I went to college and studied production design, so it’s been a part of my life for a long time now, really. So, I guess I’ve been lucky in that way.

For sure. And I can see the Star Wars poster in your background too.

Paul: Indeed. It’s actually got his signature on that I got signed when I was 12.

Oh wow! Wow!

Paul: It’s on my poster so I kept my poster. Yeah.

That’s wonderful. Well, getting into Ted Lasso, I’d love to hear from you, from the beginning, what were some of the early visions, some of the early conversations you had with the team involved with starting to build a visual identity with the production design for this show. And what were some things that you had in mind from the start?

Paul: I think early conversations I had with Jason and with Bill Lawrence was really about the fact that the scripts are very funny and there’s a lot of comedy there, but I think my job was to try and make it believable that we made a believable team, that we could feel that the world was a place that we kind of recognized from English football and from Premier League football and that we could make that work. And I think I worked from that basis where I was coming in and providing kind of the outer shell of the story, and then the characters and the script and the relationships were providing the humor, really. We didn’t really want to make it a parody. We wanted to make it fairly believable as a world that the characters inhabit. So, I think that was my job, really trying to give us a feel that this is a proper Premier League team, they were struggling, and although the premise is could be a little bit unbelievable, you get carried away by the story.

Yeah. And I think something that’s really strong about this show and something that kind of sticks in my head when I think about the production design is I feel like for someone who hasn’t even seen the show, when you think about it, you get that immediate red and blue visual identity behind it all because it just has that sort of strong palette and strong tone to building what the show looks like. How did you kind of build such a strong identity for what this show looks like visually, what the landscape of it is.

Paul: Well, I think we were helped there with some happy accidents. We had a connection with Crystal Palace Football Club, and we were hoping to film quite a lot in their stadium. Their colors are red and blue, so we felt that if we were going to use the stadium and not have to change too much, they have red and blue seats in the stadium, so we thought if we made our team colors red and blue, we would have less to do in terms of changing stuff at the stadium. And it’s just quite a strong aesthetic feel, that choice of colors, and once we’d established that we were going to do the pub and other areas in Richmond, we could take Richmond’s identity and create this club around it. I used some of the real history of Richmond to create the image of the greyhound, which Jason liked. So, a number of elements that came together from real things we were using helped to create the club and gave it a more realistic background, in a way. We were able to use elements that we were using in the real world around us to create that. And I think it’s worked really well. It’s quite incredible, in a way, that you’ve created a brand and it’s gone out into the world and suddenly it’s on t-shirts and it’s on football kits sold on the Nikes. It’s quite weird how it’s got so big. I’m kind of proud of the fact that it feels like quite a strong brand, in a way.

It almost feels like it’s an actual part of the Premier League, too.

Paul: Yeah.

It’s as if it’s watching a team just exist out there. So, something I do want to ask that you alluded to a little bit, what I would assume you do, is navigate between location shoots and stage shoots. I would love to hear a little bit about maybe your different approach between how you’re going to go into designing the production around those different types of settings.

Paul: Yeah. Obviously, when you’re designing stuff within a location, you’re bound by the physical elements of where you’re shooting. You can change it to a certain degree, but you have to work within a framework. While in the studio, you have a freedom to design a bit more in terms of exactly what you’d like to see, but you still have to think about the same things. Where is the light coming from in terms of lighting the scene, whether it be artificial light or daylight. You think about what is happening within the scene in terms of blocking. That is the movement of actors within the scene. What do they need to do? How do they get in? How do they get out? So, obviously, on location, you have the exits and entrances fixed and it’s how you do that and how you change a location to fit whatever the location is in the script, whether it’s the same or whether you’re using something completely different and changing its use. For a set, you’re more specifically building to that scene, I suppose, rather than adjusting or changing something. So, it’s more to do with your imagination and what you want to see in addition to how you think the scene is going to be blocked or how you think the scene is going to be shot. I mean, sometimes the directors or Jason will say, “This is how I see the scene happening,” but other times they don’t at all and you try and create something visually interesting or has a way that you can move around with the camera that might be interesting. So, they’re slightly different approaches, but I think you’re always thinking about how the camera is going to see it and how the characters are going to move and how the camera is going to move within the space. It’s quite a lot to think about in many different aspects. Obviously, with experience you get to know things naturally, how things will work and how they wont work. And it changes if you might be doing a period production, or you might be doing a contemporary show. That can change how much you have to alter a location or cover things up which have modernity which don’t fit into your period. That kind of thing. It’s a very interesting process and there’s a lot of stuff that you think about within an experience that comes quite easily, which surprises some people.

One major distinction in terms of that realm of on location versus stage, a major component of the show as well is, of course, the stadium. I’d love to hear from you a little bit more about how you operate. What types of shots you would get in a real stadium versus when you’re creating, crafting your own with multiple locations and sets that are sort of uniting into one stadium vision.

Paul: Yeah. The stadium is quite a tricky thing to do, actually, because what we were trying to create was the idea of – because football clubs have two stages, really. You have training which happens usually at a training center, which is often quite different to the stadium, and then you’ve got the stadium for the match days. The original idea was it was written as if it was one locker room, but teams normally have a different locker room for training because it’s sited in a different space. So, we were trying to get around that problem of how do we maintain having the same training room for both the stadium and the game days. We kind of came up with this idea that the training pitch was right next to the stadium and that the training center was built into the stadium underneath and that Rebecca’s office was built into the back of the stadium but overlooked the training pitch. It was quite a difficult thing to project into people’s minds, in a way, in a mental map, because you were taking so many bits of different locations and studio. So, it was quite difficult. I used to draw out mental maps or plans of the stadium so that people knew which way they were looking and which way they were exiting and stuff. But it was quite a difficult thing to do just because it doesn’t quite follow how a real football team would work. We didn’t want to build two completely different locker rooms for training and one for match days. I think it works quite well, and I think people buy into it. I think if you think about it too much, you can pull out all the slight holes in the design. But I think because we set up a few journeys in the first few episodes, I think you get the idea that this is how it works even though it’s made-up of so many disparate elements.

Is there anything that’s changed for you over the course of the show as it’s grown from Season 1 now into Season 3 where it’s currently airing? Maybe specific decisions about that spatial dimension of the stadium or just what you’re deciding to shoot on location versus on set. Anything that’s changed over the course of the show for you?

Paul: Yeah. There are quite a few things. So, we originally shot Rebecca’s office for real in a space which did overlook the training pitch, but the vagaries of the English weather over here, we sometimes have full seasons in one day, so it can be snowing in the morning and bright sunshine by the afternoon. It was very difficult for the camera team to control the light and the lighting team to control the light coming in when you’re trying to shoot a scene that might take all day but is over the space of five minutes. It’s very difficult. So, we ended up moving Rebecca’s office from a real view over the training pitch to a studio, and that was a blue screen, which the wonderful post people put in. Instead it’s lit by our great lighting team and photographed in the studio. So, that was a slight worry that we were changing. Jason often has a thing that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but they felt it was quite difficult for them to light, so we moved it, but it worked really well. They were right. They could handle it. And I don’t think many people noticed that we changed. So, there are things like that that changed. You start things in Series 1 but then you realize, okay, maybe that’s too difficult to do every time we shoot there, or one set becomes much more important than another because the stories change. So, sometimes you feel you have to move things, or you have to build things, such as the restaurant. We originally shot Sam’s restaurant, which has now appeared in Series 3, we shot that as a location in Series 2, but because it was taking on a bigger role in Series 3, we actually built a reproduction of it in the studio. And we partially shot on location for the exterior and then we shot in the studio for the actual inside of the restaurant. The same with Higgins’ house. In the original series, we shot in a real location in Richmond, but for Series 2 because it was Covid and we had to do a Christmas dinner for a lot of players, we built a set so we could make the house slightly bigger for Covid spacing. So, there are decisions like that, really, when a set takes on more importance and you need a bit more control, then you might build it in the studio.

One final question for you before we let you go. Is there a level of collaboration that you have talking with other departments – say, costume design – where you’re starting to blend tones and color palettes together and making sure that everything comes into harmony.

Paul: Yeah. I mean, sometimes we do. To be honest, it’s so busy sometimes that we don’t have time sometimes. But what was wonderful about our costume and makeup teams is that they seem to have a slight – there’s some kind of connection because Jacky [Levy] (costume designer) often texts me like, “Where are we shooting this? What is this place like?” and I’ll send her some photos. We don’t have great, huge discussions about it, but whatever she does, she always seems to pick – and Nicky [Austin] in makeup as well – they always seem to pick stuff which is great and seems to flow so nicely with the sets I do. I always try, in a way, not to overwhelm what they’re doing. Sometimes you want the set to kind of undercut things and allow the characters to stand out a bit more. And sometimes set can be a bit overpowering, maybe. But I think the balance between us, we got into a groove where it seemed to work really well. It felt quite natural.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate getting a chance to talk to you about this wonderful show that is, as we said, currently airing on Apple TV+ every Wednesday for Season 3. So, thank you, Paul. I really appreciate you shedding some light on the production design and hope to talk to you later.

Paul: Thank you very much.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.


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Written by Danny Jarabek

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