Ted Lasso was one of the breakout shows of 2020, and its recent Emmy nomination sweep greatly reinforces that. The Apple TV+ show is very much on its way to being one of the most lauded comedy shows of our time, for it received a total of 20 Emmy nominations – the most for any series in their first season ever. A key and undeniably unique aspect of Ted Lasso comes from its heartfelt performances, where an ensemble cast are all given equal time to shine across the first season’s tight 10-episode run. This was shown in their 7 nominations across Outstanding Actor, and Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress.
Within this flurry of awards praise were 2 first time nominations for Jeremy Swift and Nick Mohammed. Their characters, Nate and Higgins, are part of the core group of the show “The Diamond Dogs”, all 5 of whom were nominated. We were lucky enough to sit down with the hilarious duo to talk all things Ted Lasso, their characters’ arcs, and what comes next in season 2!
So before you actually signed on the show, I was wondering if you knew anything about Ted Lasso with it being a sketch that Jason Sudeikis had done prior?
Jeremy Swift: I did once I went up for it. I was told by casting directors that he was based on these sketches. So yeah, I looked at them and thought, this is really funny! But I didn’t know beforehand.
Nick, how about you?
Nick Mohammed: I did actually know them. I had seen them, whenever it was, 2013/14. I remember seeing them at the time online and obviously thinking they were great. I knew of Jason’s work, especially from SNL, and I had met Brendan Hunt in Edinburgh when I was doing a live show, as was he. We didn’t really cross paths, but I remember we both saw each other’s show. I then obviously made that connection in my head when I saw Brendan pop up in my shows as well.
So when you read through the script, what were the first impressions you had of your characters? Because they both go on quite the arc over the course of the first season. How do your first impressions differ from how you see them now?
Nick Mohammed: When we started filming, I think only 3 episodes had been written that I was aware of, although a lot more had been written in reality. I remember having conversations with Jason and the writers just about the fact that the character is going to go on a journey – just to sort of get the pacing right and to roughly know where it was headed. I didn’t know that the exact details, but I specifically remember sitting down with Jason, it must have been when we were filming the gala stuff in episode 4, just because we sat next to each other. So there was a lot of set up where we just sat next to each other, chatting. And he actually, to a degree, told me the kind of arc for Nate, across seasons 1, 2, and 3.
It was very broadly speaking at that point, I don’t think they knew even that they would get series 2 and 3 commissioned yet. But, broadly speaking, I knew about the journey. I had not seen too much in terms of scripted material, but you just knew the quality – particularly the talent involved with Jason, Brennan, Bill Lawrence, and everyone – it was certainly the makings of a hit. You never quite know how long it’s going to take to show but it was terrific to read.
Jeremy Swift: Yeah, I didn’t really know. From from the first step, I couldn’t tell that it was going to develop because a lot of American shows, like comedies, it’s very incremental how things develop. They want to stretch it out, you know, and keep the comedy going, often to 24 episodes or whatever. So I thought that Higgins may sit in the same kind of, you know, being in the same position of outgunned, overpowered, and undermined for quite a few episodes. I didn’t quite foresee that he would end up in a more “freed up” place by the end of the series. I had no idea from the first step.
You’ve both mentioned him and I was wondering, what was it like working with Jason Sudeikis?
Nick Mohammed: Just incredible. I mean, he’s such a gentle, brilliant, supportive, generous guy. How he manages I mean, particularly on season 2 because there’s more episodes. Generally speaking, how he manages to sort of balance that level of performance with his eye on everything. We have some brilliant directors on the show, but Jason is always there on hand to talk through performance, to talk about the the origins of the idea, where that fits into the beat, or where that moment in the script has kind of come from, which is really useful as an actor to have a writer pretty much on tap like that. He’s just a phenomenal person to work with. It’s incredible and so funny. I mean, you almost take that for granted.
Jeremy Swift: He’s great at contextualizing, as Nick says, a line or a beat, or “I’m just giving you the heads up of where something might be going.” He might tease something by going, “Yeah, because in episode 8, you’re going to have this conversation.” I think he’s phenomenally hard working, as well as being so talented. And he’s just such a perfectionist. He works through the night redrafting, and then he does a whole lot more, even if he’s not in scenes, which he’s in most of them. He’s onset or at the studio always doing more work.
But, of course, onset he is just phenomenally funny. He’s got these huge depths that he confined within the character and endless scripts in his head. I’ve said this before in other interviews, but in the last episode of the first series, he did a huge speech to the locker room, and he must have done it about 7 times. And each time, I would say he changed about 60% of it. And each time it was great, and it just made you go, “Oh for God’s sake, you are so talented it’s ridiculous.”
That actually leads perfectly into my next question hence the imrov, how much improvisation was there on set and how much input were both of you allowed for your characters?
Nick Mohammed: I didn’t improvise much on this season, or even the first season really, partly because I giggle a lot if anything takes me by surprise. And Jeremy will know this, particularly, with diamond dog scenes when there’s four of us. Obviously, Jeremy is a great improviser but also, Brendan and Jason, they’ve worked together so closely for so long, they can really spar off each other. And they’ll just change one thing and go on a whole riff and all I’ll be trying to do is literally holding my mouth together.
So I don’t laugh, if I dared even speak or try and say something I would break character or burst out as I frequently did and do. So I tried to reign it back this season. But they create an atmosphere where you feel that you could if you wanted to. And I know with a lot of the guys who play the footballers, Jason encourages it, and it creates a real kind of authenticity to a lot of those scenes where everyone’s sort of chipping in, there’s a sense of camaraderie.
Jeremy Swift: Picking up on that, aren’t they great? The guys at just like getting into a mood, you know, just the banter. It just seems so authentic in a locker room, there’s just so much going on. It’s really rich. I have done improv in the past but you’re not really allowed to do it very much on British TV, they just don’t really like it but it’s encouraged still. It’s completely the opposite with American comedy in particular. So I chip in now and again, but with Brandon and Jason, the bar is incredibly high. What they come out with is amazing, but if you do come out with something Jason sort of finesses it as well. So that’s very, very heartening.
So you are two of the British actors on Ted Lasso. It’s an American show, but it perfectly manages to encapsulate British culture. Did you guys have any input towards that and what did you make of just how the show was, being American, in expressing British culture?
Jeremy Swift: I think that’s a lot of the writing as well. Brett [Goldstein] on the writing team is probably one of the strongest voices I would imagine of authenticity, because he’s a big football fan. He knows how the machinations of football management and football teams work. I think a lot of it will come from that. The writers room have really worked hard to not – I mean, obviously, there is a kind of American feel about the show – but at the same time, we’re not all quoting American aphorisms or whatever. It still feels quite Brit.
You mentioned there about Brett being very knowledgeable about football. So before the show, how knowledgeable were you both about football?
Jeremy Swift: You’re looking to the two football dunces of the show! (laughs)
Nick Mohammed: I mean, we are the worst! I don’t know anything, like less than nothing. I have to ask questions. Constantly. I must knock Brendan and Brett’s head in because I just ask them questions all the time. I’ve said this before, but it is true, there were some words in the scripts, because obviously as Nate’s meant to be an absolute genius when it comes to strategy and play, some of those lines, I didn’t know whether the words were nouns or verbs. Because I didn’t know what the wing was and things like that, I just didn’t know! So, I’m really just dreadful, for all sports but I am particularly bad at football.
With Ted Lasso being a show about kindness and sincerity, do you feel that it sort of almost released at the perfect time? It’s been in the works for a while, but do you see it having released in the last year being a time where it was very much needed?
Nick Mohammed: Obviously, no one could have foreseen the pandemic but yeah, it absolutely felt like it was the right show for the right time. Not to take anything away from the show – I think the show would have done well – but it particularly did come at a time when I think everyone was maybe looking for a little bit more optimism and hope. It absolutely came about at the right time in that respect.
Jeremy Swift: I think Brendan and Jason got together with Bill about 3 or 4 years ago. So if it had happened just a bit earlier, it’s just one of those things. But, you know, it’s the fact that it has helped people in any way and people you see on social media have watched it a lot. To the point where it’s their go-to kind of show for feeling relieved or upbeat. It’s just such a great thing. If it can help people in that way, as well as being hopefully and very funny – that’s brilliant.
Moving on to the new season, both characters, as you mentioned Jeremy, have gone over quite the arc. With them both now being in this very different place with newfound confidence, how does that play out in Season 2?
Nick Mohammed: All I can say is that it’s just interesting because Nate, obviously, did go on quite a significant journey in season 1, and he absolutely goes on another journey in season 2. I think that people could latch on to that Nate storyline in season 1, it’s almost a sort of quite typical Underdog Story. And we can absolutely resonate with that as an audience. What’s actually really interesting is that where season 2 picks up, you’ve taken Nate who still has all the qualities he had when he was starting up, but where’s he going to go now? He’s been given this confidence, almost like the world has sort of opened up to him a little bit. It’s just a really interesting starting point, to see where a character like Nate can then go, having that newfound confidence. Very political answer, because I haven’t really given anything away!
Jeremy Swift: I can tell you that Higgins has a very nice… overcoat.
We’ve got a real scoop right there! Will we see a return of the facial hair from the end of season 1? Can you give us any hints?
Jeremy Swift: Who knows…