Why this Ted Lasso fan favourite is still ‘absolutely terrified of the quiet’

By Louise Rugendyke

Brett Goldstein after winning the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series in September.Credit:AP

Brett Goldstein will tell you it’s mad. It’s crazy. But here he is. The breakout star of Ted Lasso, one of the most talked about TV shows of the last few years.

At 20, he was managing his dad’s strip club in Spain. Now, at 42, the British comedian is an in-demand actor and writer, helping craft not only Ted Lasso into an award-winning hit, but also creating the Harrison Ford comedy-drama series Shrinking. He’s won two Emmy Awards for best supporting actor in Ted Lasso, he’s been turned into Hercules for the film Thor: Love and Thunder and had his chest hair fetishised in the animated Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special. And – AND! – he’s been on Sesame Street, teaching the letter “F”.

As they say in Ted Lasso, he’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere.

“Oh, it’s a mad life,” he says, laughing. “It’s crazy. And look, all I can say is, I don’t know, I feel incredibly lucky. And all these things have happened in my life and I just always did everything for the story. I think I’m probably scared of everything, but in my head I always go, ‘Well, would you rather not do it?’ I mean, ‘Would you ever not take this opportunity?’ Or ‘What’s your option?’

Ted Lasso’s Brett Goldstein puts his success down to “you either do the thing you’re scared of or don’t”.Credit:Steve Schofield/Contour by Getty Images

“You either do the thing you’re scared of or don’t. Like, that’s a shit option. You just do the f—ing thing. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had a very interesting series of chapters.”

But the best?

“Doing Sesame Street was truly the best day of my life,” he says. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe this has happened.’ Of all the things, that was pretty f—ing special.” (In case you were wondering, the F word Goldstein was teaching was “fairness”.)

Today Goldstein is sitting in a lush-looking beige room for a day of interviews. He’s wearing black, and the red-and-blue stadium that Ted Lasso’s London football team AFC Richmond calls home is visible through a fake window.

Goldstein with Brendan Hunt (middle), who plays Coach Beard, and Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso.

He smiles so broadly and warmly that I blurt out, “What a beautiful big smile you have” before I have a chance to register what I’ve said. He laughs and I awkwardly carry on.

In Ted Lasso, Goldstein plays Roy Kent, a scowling, growling former footballer who struggles with life after retirement, but eventually finds his place as part of the coaching staff of AFC Richmond. He manages to turn the f-word into a verb, noun and an adjective, while being the romantic heart of the show. He is the storm cloud to Jason Sudeikis’ eponymous blue-sky coach, the rain that will fall on your parade.

Doing Sesame Street was truly the best day of my life. I was like, ‘I can’t believe this has happened.’

But Goldstein is not Roy Kent, however much people would like to believe that was true. Goldstein is a much sunnier personality, his south London accent lighter than his Roy Kent grunt. He’s engaging and curious on his podcast Films to Be Buried With, playful on every TV appearance and unfailingly polite. Today, he even checks that he has my name right and brushes away my apology for asking him a question he’s probably been asked a million times.

“I’m much friendlier in real life,” he agrees. “But I think the rage that [Roy] has, I have repressed inside me. It’s definitely there, but I don’t express it a tenth as much as Roy does. And I also have the struggle with vulnerability that he has. Like, I objectively know it is better to be vulnerable and open. But I struggle to do it a lot. I do do it, it happens, but it’s tricky.”

Season three of the comedy begins on March 13, after a delayed production that has kept fans waiting more than a year for what’s supposed to be the final season. Sudeikis, who developed the show after he created the fish-out-of-water story about a US college football coach hired by a professional soccer team in Britain for an American ad, originally signed a three-season deal with Apple. But since the series became a global sensation, there has been fevered speculation it will continue.

Goldstein will only stay on message – the story has always been a three-season arc, he says – but he admits there is pressure to stick the landing.

Goldstein with co-star Hannah Waddingham with their 2021 Emmy awards for outstanding supporting actress and actor in a comedy series. Credit:Dan Steinberg/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

“It’s a lot, isn’t it?” he says, smiling. “It is interesting because you have to drown out the noise. When we made season two, season one wasn’t out, we had no idea how people felt about it.

“And it is different with season three because we do know how people feel about it. But you have to stick to the plan. And Jason had a very clear vision of where it was headed and how it would end and you have to trust that.

“You have to ignore what it is people think they want. And I do know, from being a fan of other things, when you get exactly what it is you think you want, there’s something dissatisfying about that. So, part of the joy of Ted Lasso was surprising people and I think you’ve got to stick to that as well.”

Will Roy get the happy ending he deserves?

“I don’t know,” he says. “I think part of the issue with your question is does Roy think he deserves a happy ending? I don’t know if Roy thinks that.”

Do you think Roy deserves a happy ending?

“I do. I love Roy. I care very deeply for Roy, but I don’t think Roy feels the same about himself.”

Goldstein with Elodie Blomfield middle) and Juno Temple, who play his niece and girlfriend in Ted Lasso.

And that, in a nutshell, sums up Ted Lasso – a show that presents as a sports comedy while dealing with divorce, depression, loss, family dysfunction, grief, mental illness and modern masculinity.

It’s a classic bait and switch, just as M*A*S*H sweetened its anti-war agenda with martinis and medical hijinks, a large part of Ted Lasso is broken people trying to put their lives back together. And that’s what fascinates Goldstein about Roy – and the show – subverting people’s expectations.

“That’s the part of it that I think is interesting,” says Goldstein. “[Roy] has not been educated in that way [sharing his emotions]. He doesn’t have the vocabulary for it, he doesn’t understand. He couldn’t label his emotions, it’s just ‘F— it, I’m f—ed.’ He doesn’t have the words for it, necessarily.

If you’re miserable all the time, look around and actually look at what you have, what your life is, the people that you’re around.

“But what is interesting is, however he was raised, whatever happened, he is good, but he doesn’t know that. But I think his instincts are good, he’s quite moral, really. He immediately stepped in to help raise [his niece] Phoebe and he loves her. But that was not part of his plan. It’s just the right thing to do and it turned out wonderful for him because he absolutely loves it.”

If you want to get a snippet of the real Goldstein, it pays to listen to Films to be Buried With. It’s an absolute delight, as Goldstein asks his guests to discuss which movies made them laugh and cry, their sexiest film and the ones they identify most with.

It’s here you will discover his passion for musicals (something he does have in common with Roy Kent) and love of Pixar’s Inside Out. He prefers to watch films on his own, so no one can see how he reacts, and thinks Everything Everywhere All At Once will win best film at the Oscars. But most of all he is an inquisitive host, genuinely open to what others have to say. Where does he get this glorious streak of sunshine from?

“It’s taken a lot of work, to be honest,” says Goldstein. “I think my default was pretty f—ing miserable and dark. But it [the positive attitude] comes from – and I hate to say this without sounding cheesy – gratitude. I really think that is important, as in it’s a skill. It’s a thing you train yourself to be like – ‘Hang on a second, if you’re miserable all the time, look around and actually look at what you have, what your life is, the people that you’re around’, and you realise, ‘Oh, I love this person. I love that person. The sun’s out, there’s the sea, it still exists.’ You know what I mean? And you start to see maybe the world isn’t that shit.

“That’s one thing. And the other thing is – if you’re going off the podcast – is being interested in people and stories. And again, I hate to sound cheesy, but being curious. If you’re interested in people, in anything, then it makes life much more exciting. Rather than being, ‘Oh, everything’s shit’ and not looking any further.”

Goldstein is a worker. Bill Lawrence, who co-created Ted Lasso with Sudeikis and Shrinking with Goldstein, has called him a “workaholic”. And it’s a tag Goldstein happily wears. What pushes him so much?

“I think it’s fear of the silence,” he says. “I mean, I can argue it both ways. Either I’m very, very lucky. I’m doing the thing I always wanted to do. And I feel engaged and alive and excited and happy when I’m doing all this work. Because I genuinely care about it, it’s very exciting.

“The other angle is I’m absolutely terrified of the quiet. I feel every second. Otherwise, I will discover what’s really underneath, which is a mess.”

He’s the kind of person who lies awake at 3am, thinking about work?

“It’s always, ‘What about this scene? What about that scene?’ Never, ever look inside – that’s the secret.”

At the beginning of each episode of his podcast, Goldstein asks his guests how they’d like to die. So, how would he like to die?

“I’ve got two options,” he says. “Jump out of a plane without a parachute. That’s if I know I’m going to die because I’ve always wanted to jump out of a plane – I figure, nice view and instant death. Or shot in the back of the head in the shower in Vegas.”

Or, as Roy Kent would say, “Go out there and have some f—ing fun.”

Season three of Ted Lasso premieres on Apple TV+ on March 15.

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