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Interview: Brett Goldstein on the hero's journey of Roy Kent in 'Ted Lasso'.

Interview: Brett Goldstein on the hero's journey of Roy Kent in 'Ted Lasso'.

"Thank you for giving me a genuinely profound thing to think about," says Brett Goldstein in a heartfelt tone of voice that seems alien coming from someone best known for his breakout role as TV's most beloved grouch (sorry Oscar) on Apple TV+'s endearing comedy series, 'Ted Lasso'. "I appreciate you," continues Goldstein with extremely expressive eye contact not unlike that of the show's titular character, and it all starts to make sense why his fellow castmates cherish him so much. Co-creator, writer, executive producer, and Lasso himself, Jason Sudeikis reminisces of casting Goldstein as the thorny Roy Kent: "We saw Brett’s take on Roy and we didn’t audition anybody else. He nailed it and we get to look like geniuses because of his talent and fearlessness."

The first season of 'Ted Lasso' bore witness to the slow unravelling of Roy's bravado as he came to terms with the end of his career as a professional footballer ("Roy Kent has been the best player on every team he's been on since he was a kid. I like being Roy Kent. I don't know if I can handle just being some loser has-been called Roy," he confided to girlfriend Keeley Jones; played by Juno Temple), and reluctantly contemplated a future without soccer ("It's not just a game to me, it's all I've ever known. It's who I am. It's all I am").

Season 2 finds Roy channeling a little less Miss Piggy ("Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye," she once infamously said), and instead on the path to a more Kermit style of effusion and calm. Formerly a master of blunt aggression, Roy now seems to have left his days of fisticuffs far behind him as he further commits to opening up honest lines of communication with those in his inner circle, even going so far as to passionately proclaim in the new season's opening episode: "Tell the truth: He's fine. That's it. Nothing wrong with that, most people are fine. It's not about him, it's about why the fuck you think he deserves you. You deserve someone that makes you feel like you've been struck by fucking lightning. Don't you dare settle for fine."

The ongoing exploration of Roy Kent's vulnerability is but one keystone in the wholesome world of AFC Richmond, honoured last month with a Peabody Award for excellence in storytelling, and the industry jury praising the series for "offering the perfect counter to the enduring prevalence of toxic masculinity, both on-screen and off, in a moment when the nation truly needs inspiring models of kindness." Believing in more than just the rejection of toxic masculinity, 'Ted Lasso' advocates for an empathetic understanding of the social conditioning in patriarchal societies that normalise 'boys will be boys' attitudes and emotional repression, all the while never neglecting to also prioritise screen-time and in-depth storylines for the show's core female characters. Co-creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence (whom Goldstein previously acted for in one of his pilots) says, "I would be remiss if I didn’t say that one of the strongest parts of this writing staff is a wall of strongly voiced, immensely talented women who would never let me or anyone involved in the show write the female characters as ciphers who serve to do exposition for the male characters and have no journeys of their own."

And much like Roy finds himself being rewarded for his candour on-screen, Goldstein also finds himself off-screen recently Emmy-nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (one of 20 Emmy nominations for the show; the highest ever for a freshman comedy series). In true Roy Kent form, Goldstein reportedly emailed the following reaction statement: "Holy f***ing s***. What an incredible honor. Proper dream come true s***. Every part of this show has felt like magic to me. To have the privilege to work on it, to get to make something with this incredible team and now for us to be nominated as a team is just too lovely. Extra special thanks to Jason and Bill for inviting me to be part of this. What a thing... As a cynical English guy I’m struggling to deal with all this wonderfulness. I’m not crying, you’re crying. F*** off! You’re crying. You ****."

Ahead of the second season of 'Ted Lasso' kicking off this Friday (which Sudeikis describes as "our 'Empire Strikes Back' or the middle of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. It’s a moodier second album when maybe people are dealing with the repercussions of the success of the first album. It’s the Marshall Mathers LP"), followed by new episodes weekly, Coup De Main spoke to Brett Goldstein about playing against type, our favourite TV couple, and the importance of diversity in writers' rooms...

CDM: It's funny that you've said you used to be typecast as "nice, bumbling fools" because you're totally Roy-incarnate in my mind. How did you go from helping to write Roy, to being cast as Roy?
BRETT GOLDSTEIN:
I was writing on the show and I think about the time when we were writing Episode Five, I started to think secretly... but I didn't tell anyone. I was thinking: I really get Roy; I think I have Roy inside me, but I also know that no one's thinking of me for Roy because I've been playing all these nice bumbling guys. Originally, I think there'd been talk of me being Higgins before we saw Jeremy Swift, like that sort of part. And so when we finished the writers' room, I also knew it'd be really awkward to tell anyone in the room because I love these people, and if I'd been shit, I knew it'd be really awkward if I said in the room, "I think I could play this..." Everyone would be like, 'Oh god, please don't say that, now we have to pretend to think that's a good idea.' The night before the last day when I finished in the writers' room, I filmed a self tape of five scenes as Roy, and then the day I left I emailed and I said: "Thanks very much. I've secretly been thinking I could play Roy, but I know no one's been thinking of this, so I made a tape. If this tape is in any way bad and you feel at all embarrassed and awkward that I've asked you to watch this, pretend you never got this email. I will never ask about it. We never need to discuss it again. Otherwise, here's the tape, here's what I can do." And then very luckily, they couldn't be bothered to keep looking, so I got the part and here we are.

CDM: One of my favourite things about 'Ted Lasso' is how it conveys that although love is a joint experience between two people, that doesn't necessarily mean that is the same, or even a similar experience for those two people. You can see it in the dissolution of Ted's relationship with his wife in Season 1, but it's also something that Roy and Keeley are trying to work through in their burgeoning relationship. What do you think Roy values most in his relationship with Keeley?
BRETT:
Shahlin, that is the most profound thing anyone has said on this whole...
CDM: It's 6am for me, so I'm just glad that I'm speaking coherently and making sense to you.
BRETT:
I want to write down what you just said because that has not been articulated like that. That is so profound. Can you say it again? It's so good.
CDM: One of my favourite things about 'Ted Lasso' is how it conveys that although love is a joint experience between two people, that doesn't necessarily mean that is the same, or even a similar experience for those two people.
BRETT:
<blows a chef's kiss>
CDM: You can see it in the dissolution of Ted's relationship with his wife in Season 1, but it's also something that Roy and Keeley are trying to work through in their burgeoning relationship.
BRETT:
You should be a leader. You should be leading us. I want you to lead us. That's so good. Lead us!
CDM: I would love a job on the show, thanks.
BRETT:
Listen, I don't want you to be on the show, I want you to run a cult. And I want to join it. I think you should be Prime Minister / President. I don't know what you have in New Zealand, but give you the job.
CDM: Thank you.
BRETT:
No, thank you. And to answer the question... Well, my understanding of Roy which I think is pretty good, is that up to this time in his life there have been women in his life and he's had girlfriends, but generally, they have stolen his watch and been bad news. I think his whole view on humanity has been pretty cynical and negative. And partly due to Ted coming into his world and being so consistently decent, Roy really doesn't trust... it's like, 'What's the other side of Ted?' Roy's just waiting for the other side [of Ted], and it doesn't come. Eventually he starts to see that maybe these sorts of people exist. But I think the real moment with Keeley, and I think it happens for both of them, is in episode four which is the gala episode, when at the auction he calls her out and says don't use me as a pawn in your game and she apologises. He can see she means it. It's such a shock to him. I don't think anyone's ever been accountable in front of him and it really shocks him. And I think it shocks her as well. As the season progresses, for the first time and what I think is true for both of them, he kind of begins to let down his guard because he hasn't trusted anyone. What he sees in her is someone that is special enough for him to risk finally trusting someone. And in the final scene in the finale in the locker room when he's injured and she comes and sits with him, it's literally like taking the thorn out of the lion's paw. He's the lion going: Go away, go away, do not see me vulnerable, do not see this. She refuses to go and she sits with him and she calms him. It's like 'Beauty and the Beast'. She tames the beast. And the fact that she isn't horrified by that, the fact that she is taking him for who he really is, that's what he sees in Keeley - other than all the other things that he sees in her, that she's pure light, and funny and beautiful and fun and gorgeous, and all of those things, but it's mainly that she's accountable and amazing.

CDM: Roy very memorably says in the first episode of Season 1 about his career that he "never thought it would end being coached by Ronald fucking McDonald." In the opening episode of Season 2, he iconically tells another character: "You deserve someone that makes you feel like you've been struck by fucking lightning. Don't you dare settle for fine." How did we get from emotionally inarticulate Roy, to a Roy who really is trying his best to express himself honestly?
BRETT:
I always think with Roy that deep down his whole experience of... There are things that are tough in his life and have always been tough. I think he had a difficult upbringing. I think he was close to his grandad and his grandad died young in his life. And the father of Phoebe, his niece, is clearly bad news, and so he's kind of taken on this [fatherly] role. He is quite pragmatic, but his sort of worldview is: Things are shit, and you just fucking get on with it, and you have to do the right thing. He knows what the right thing is instinctively, but he doesn't know that he knows that because it's all happening under the surface. And when he says that in Season 2, it's all in him, but it comes out very quickly because he hasn't necessarily formulated it. It just comes out. And it is what you meant, but from a combination of opening up a bit - it still comes out angry because he knows it's fucking right, so he has to get it out - and Keeley as well; it's the influence of Keeley in his life that he's letting these things out. Previously, in the beginning of Season 1 had he been on that date and seen that guy? He wouldn't have said anything. He would have just thought in his head: Fucking hell these people are idiots. And not said any of it.

CDM: A male friend recommended I watch 'Ted Lasso' and I was so sceptical due to my indifference for anything sports-related, but I was instantly convinced by how well the characters of Rebecca and Keeley are written, their beautifully genuine friendship, and how complex their storylines are. Women only made up 36% of writer's rooms for TV shows in the 2019-2020 season, so it's nice to hear that five out of eleven writers for Season 2 of 'Ted Lasso' were women.
BRETT:
If you're having a writing staff, the staff should be diverse because you need everyone's voice. And in terms of the story, the idea for these characters was always what it is - Rebecca and Keeley were always going to be that very, very close dynamic. It was strengthened when the real actors, Juno [Temple] and Hannah [Waddingham] fell in love with each other and became as close as the characters, and that just made it easier. And we've got amazing female writers on the staff. Amazing! I don't know what else to say other than it seems very obvious to me that that's always important. And I don't really understand why you wouldn't have that. You'd be mad. You'd be mad! You'd be stupid!!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

'Ted Lasso' season two premieres on Apple TV+ with one episode on Friday, July 23rd, followed by new episodes weekly.

Watch the trailer below...

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