Jason Sudeikis on how 'Ted Lasso' Season 2 is like 'The Empire Strikes Back'
We must remind you that Jason Sudeikis is not Ted Lasso.
Although his genial nature and chatty style make him seem very much like the chipper protagonist of Apple TV+'s "Ted Lasso," they are not one and the same, although that notion is something Sudeikis occasionally encounters when interacting with fans.
"I correct them; tell them my name is Jason, in the kindest way possible," Sudeikis jokes in a recent video interview with USA TODAY. "There are no classes in how to be famous. I just always felt a strong pull to return the energy that you’re given. If someone’s a little bullish, you maybe meet them there. But if people are enjoying ‘Ted Lasso,’ they’re usually coming up and speaking through a place of kindness and appreciation. I just try to reciprocate that."
Sudeikis, the co-creator and star of "Lasso," which returns this week for a highly anticipated second season (new episodes streaming Fridays), is no stranger to the love of his series, which premiered last year on the streaming service to loud acclaim. This month, it earned 20 Emmy nominations, including seven for its actors (Sudeikis included). The comedy, about an overly enthusiastic American football coach (Sudeikis) who takes a job leading a British Premier League soccer team, offered a uniquely sunny point of view. For many, its positive, joyful tone was just the injection of happiness they needed as the COVID-19 pandemic raged.
"It’s remarkable," Sudeikis, 45, says of the feedback writers and cast members have received. "And it’s nothing we could have anticipated. It’s hard to even speak (about), because it feels so authentic and real."
All that praise hasn't yet gone to his head, or at least, it didn't affect how he and the writers approached the second season.
He feels "a great deal of responsibility to let folks know that we wrote this second season prior to the release of the first one, so just know that it’s being told with the same care and craft and intention."
But writing a third season after all those Emmy nominations and heaps of compliments? Well, he jokes, that might be a problem: "It could be a mess, because we’ll all be high on our own supply."
Season 2 begins with Lasso's AFC Richmond team relegated (or demoted) from the Premier League to the Champions League, yet still struggling to win games. Veteran player Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) has retired, Nate (Nick Mohammed) has been promoted to assistant coach, and owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is finally putting her heart and soul into improving the team.
And Ted, at last, cares far more about winning.
"While Ted may not have been focused on wins and losses in the first season, now he’s got a little bit of that bug of wanting to get back into the Premier League," Sudeikis says. "But some of the bigger shifts in the storytelling that we’re doing are prompted by the addition of a couple new cast members," including Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), a sports psychologist who "comes in and kind of shakes things up, and some of those things that she shakes up might be inside Ted himself."
Sudeikis talks about "Lasso" only as far as a third season, as he and his co-creators – Brendan Hunt (who plays Coach Beard), Joe Kelly and Bill Lawrence – imagined the series in three parts.
"We sort of modeled (the structure) after the British 'Office,'" he says, referring to the Ricky Gervais sitcom's two short seasons and Christmas specials. "That was this three-act structure that I always had in my head," although "anything is possible, and really the story, and more specifically the characters, let you know if there’s more there. So I imagine that will be a conversation as we head into the writers’ room for Season 3."
In the plan he envisions, Season 2 is akin to "The Empire Strikes Back" installment from the original "Star Wars" trilogy, and the 1980 film even comes up in the season premiere.
As strong as his opinion is about the future of "Lasso," Sudeikis has even stronger feelings on "Star Wars."
"It’s three acts," he says emphatically of the "Star Wars" story. "I guess they’ve made other movies besides those first three? But..."
And here, Sudeikis lays out another key difference between himself and Ted, as the perennially positive coach could hardly say something bad about any movie, even the bad "Star Wars" films.