'Ted Lasso' Season 3 took forever, but Jason Sudeikis promises fans 'it's all on the screen'

As “Ted Lasso” Season 2 wrapped up in the fall of 2021, the show was a cultural phenomenon, but its characters were ... a mess.

Ted’s panic attacks were public. Roy and Keeley were on the rocks. Coach Beard’s relationship was volatile. Assistant coach Nate defected to West Ham United. Journalist Trent Crimm was fired. And team owner Rebecca was still out for revenge. It seemed harder than ever to buy into that Lasso "Believe" magic. 

Now, 17 months, eight Emmys, three Screen Actors Guild awards and two Golden Globes later, we return with Season 3 of Apple TV+'s "Ted Lasso" (first episode Tuesday at 9 EDT/6 PDT, then streaming weekly on Wednesdays), the affecting tale of an embattled English football squad and its sunny American college football coach.

But this season, look for some growth and redemption from the AFC Richmond family, says Hannah Waddingham (Rebecca).

Our critic says:Review: Don't worry, 'Ted Lasso' Season 3 will bring a bright light to your dark world

Jason Sudeikis stars as "Ted Lasso" in the Apple TV+ series. Sudeikis was at the helm for season 3, which promises some redemption for many characters. It remains unclear if this will be the last season for the show.

Series star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis "would say that Season 2 was about people whose soufflés were falling inwards, and they were going to their caves to regroup, sitting with their sadness and vulnerabilities and frustrations in life," she says. "But this season, we will see many coming out of that." 

More:What to know about 'Ted Lasso' Season 3: Where are Rebecca, Nate and Roy?

Sudeikis: 'Lasso' Season 3 delay resulted from 'so much story'

Early episodes suggest the wait is worth it. And if you're wondering about the long gap, chalk it up to sorting through the wonderfully interwoven dysfunction of those "Lasso" characters.

“There was just so much story to go through,” Sudeikis says. “So many stories and characters and connections that need to be tied up.”

Tied up? Is this third season indeed the final one for "Lasso,” as its creators have long teased?

When asked about a possible fourth, Sudeikis offers a delicate “I mean, could there be? Sure." Then he quickly emphasizes that this 12-episode run, which he oversaw, wraps up the three-season arc he and fellow creators Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly initially pitched off a short "Lasso" promo created for NBC Sports.

Review: 'Ted Lasso' Season 3:Don't worry, the show will continue to bring a bright light to your dark world

Last week, Sudeikis caused a stir when reports suggested that if "Lasso" returns, it could be in spinoff form. But in conversation he waves off that speculation.

Brendan Hunt (left) and Jason Sudeikis in their roles as Coach Beard and Ted Lasso in the Apple TV+ series "Ted Lasso," which returns for its third season after a 17-month gap.

"The more-seasons thing was not a factor for us, and it still isn't. We light some fuses this season that need to explode, and it’s up to other people just how bright and how loud those explosions are,” he says cryptically, referring perhaps either to fans or to Warner Bros. Television and Apple, who produce and distribute the show, respectively. “It’s for them to make their assessments and judgments, if you will.”

Sudeikis on 'Ted Lasso' Season 3: 'The bar was set'

If Sudeikis felt pressure making season 3, it came from within. “The bar that was set was the same bar we had from the get-go; it didn’t vacillate,” he says.

The global affection for the series – from politicians praising Lasso’s inclusive philosophy to coaches echoing his positivity – had an impact on the cast and crew, says Sudeikis.

But he likens it to background noise that everyone had to tune out in order to focus.

“If anything, it provided a kind of hum we all knew was out there, like living near an airport,” he says. “People come over, and at first they say ‘What’s that noise?’ You say, ‘Oh, that’s an airport.’ And then everyone moves on.”

Hunt, who plays Coach Beard, seconds that. “This stuff about, did we feel pressure because people love the show and can we stick the landing – none of that is helpful to have in our minds,” he says. “It was always about getting the story right.”

Nick Mohammed, who plays West Ham United coach Nate Shelley in "Ted Lasso," has to contend with feelings of guilt and regret as he prepares to lead a team against his beloved AFC Richmond, which gave him his start.

Many of the episodes this season run close to an hour in length, or nearly double some initial episodes, and Sudeikis was keen to have a hand in every aspect of each episode, the actors say.

That included overseeing scenes between Nate (Nick Mohammed) and his West Ham boss Rupert (Anthony Head), Rebecca's ex-husband, who this season rarely interacts with the main AFC Richmond squad.

“It was really important for me that he was there for my scenes, there in my ear and supportive," says Mohammed. “Jason’s presence was definitely elevated and we felt the benefit of that in the way he’d approach the scripts and interpret them."

Waddingham craved a reaction from Sudeikis

That hands-on approach to creating the new season led to reports of scripts being rewritten and impromptu location additions, all adding up to the long wait for fans. The actors stand by their leader.

“Jason's grip was passionate, intense and beautifully placed,” says Waddingham. “He’d tell us when a scene needed space to breathe and would give us time to get things right.”

Juno Temple (left) as Keeley and Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca reprise their roles in season 3 of "Ted Lasso," which lands a year and a half after a tumultuous season 2 wrapped up.

Waddingham would be thrilled when her work elicited a specific Sudeikis response. “I’d do a scene and Jason would do this thing where he’d just go ‘Uh-huh,’ or he’d go ‘Yeah.’ I’ve never craved a simple reaction like that more from anyone in my life.”

Sudeikis paying close attention to the details simply serves the show, he says. “It’s all on the screen. If we write it, we shoot it, and then it’s usually on television."

While Sudeikis won't dish on the show's future, he's grateful for three seasons that have tackled teamwork, friendship, parenthood, mental health, interracial relationships and more.

“Look, sports has always had a lot of stuff going on inside it besides statistics,” he says. “So our show is as much about soccer, or football as they say, as ‘Rocky’ was about boxing. AFC Richmond is just a lovely prism through which we can see some of those lights flash against a wall.”