Some people are good at writing, while others are good at acting. Then there are the select talented individuals that can do both. Brett Goldstein, star and writer of Ted Lasso, is one such person. Playing Roy on Ted Lasso, Goldstein dives into a character with a tough exterior that has so much to offer beyond that, allowing a vulnerability to be shown by season’s end. He plays it masterfully, blending the humor of such a person with the show’s relentlessly positive lead, Ted (played by Jason Sudeikis).
Goldstein is also writer on the show, having written the fifth episode of the first season, “Tan Lines.” Fans of the show will recognize this as the episode where Ted’s wife and marital strife are both introduced in the same episode, packing a powerful punch to viewers who weren’t aware of the complications of Ted’s marriage beforehand. Goldstein manages to wrap humor around the emotional scenes, allowing for impactful first viewing that holds up on subsequent watches. It’s this skill that also allowed Goldstein to co-create his own series Soulmates, which aired on AMC last fall and was renewed for a second season.
Goldstein sat down for a Zoom call with AwardsWatch to discuss his performance on the show, how he transitioned from writer’s room to acting on the show and breaking during scenes because of Jason Sudeikis.
Tyler Doster: Thanks for talking to me. I’m such a fan of the show. I’m so excited to talk to you about it. Let me go ahead and just start by asking what, what happened? Were you just in the writer’s room and you just decided you wanted to play Roy?
Brett Goldstein: At some point in the writing of it I really felt like a massive pull. Like I was like, “I really get Roy, I really could play this,” but I also knew no one was thinking of me for it, which is totally understandable. So there was no way I was in the mix and I just kept thinking and thinking it. And then when I finished, I don’t know if you know this story, but when I finished in the writer’s room, the night before I left, I made a self tape. I made a recording of like five scenes, I think. You know it’s embarrassing if it’s shit, and I was like, “if this is bad, you don’t have to ever mention it. I will not ask. You can pretend you never got this email, but I really think I could play Roy. And I’ve made the scenes for you and thank you for our time together.”
Tyler: And they responded pretty well to that?
BG: Yeah. I mean, I remember I got like an email at three in the morning saying “This is fucking brilliant.” It’s a weird thing. I’ve not felt that way before where I was like, “I have to do this. It feels so right.”
TD: What parts of Roy did you identify with that made you want it that made you want to play him so badly?
BG: Well, I think there’s a tragedy to him, I grew up around football and professional football in my family. And I have a few friends who are professional footballers that I grew up with. And I see the sort of tragedy of doing this thing that you’ve done since you’re a child. And it’s an amazing life, exciting life, but it’s also limited. There’s a time limit on that life and it’s just to do with your body. And there’s nothing you can do about that. And when that end comes, it’s like, “What next?” What is that? You’ve not really been taught. You’ve lived quite a weird life. With Roy, this is sort of looming, he knows he’s got one or two seasons left in him and there’s a real kind of sadness like, this is it. And at the beginning of the season, I think he’s fully depressed. He’s on this shit team that isn’t very good and they’re going nowhere and this is how he’s going to finish this amazing career. But also I relate to the rage. I think I have that in me that I suppress a lot, but Roy doesn’t. So that’s always a pleasure to be able to express.
TD: I was about to say, is that fun to be able to express on screen since you keep it to yourself.
BG: Yeah. I have that anger in me, but I’ve learned to push it all down.
TD: I think Roy has a lot of this stuff that a lot of people are thinking that people are feeling, people feel represented by Roy, just because he will vocalize the things that everyone around him is thinking.
BG: Yeah. I think the one big difference between me and Roy is currently I’m too worried what people think about me. If you took away the gene in me that wants to be liked, then I’m Roy Kent. Do you know what I mean? That’s what I admire about him , he just doesn’t give a fuck. So it’s all this stuff that’s in there that I suppressed because I’m worried about how people will perceive me.
TD: He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care at all. If I were called the first day, he calls Ted is Ronald McDonald almost immediately. How was that portraying that relationship with Jason?
BG: I mean, he’s like, he’s a proper movie star and he has proper movie star charisma. I don’t know how to describe it. Part of you just can’t believe you’re there. This is happening. I remember I asked him once after a take, I was like, “How are you doing that? How are you so charismatic?” It’s just very exciting to have scenes with him, but he is naughty in that he’ll try and make me laugh. And he does. And playing Roy is hard because, I rarely smile as Roy, and Jason makes me smile. I can’t even like do a quiet little half smile. So we’d need to start again.
TD: So how many takes have been ruined by Jason making you break?
BG: I hate to say because Apple had probably spent an extra million just on the takes.
TD: At the beginning of the season, Roy has a progression over the season where he starts coming out of his shell. He becomes, I guess not more likable because to me, he was already likable almost when you first see him, is that something that you guys discussed in the writer’s room?
BG: I’m really touched, I’m pleased you think that, but I certainly wasn’t trying… One of the things we did with all the characters in the writer’s room and I hope we’ve achieved is that they all end up surprising you. They all end up in a different space than they started. And that is purely a sort of act of empathy. Like Roy is the tough, horrible, angry captain and go, ‘Well, what’s underneath that? Why is he like that?’ And the same with Jamie; Jamie’s this kind of dickhead and you kind of hate him, but hopefully by the end of the season, you totally get where he’s come from and your heart aches for him and Rebecca, she’s this mean boss but why is she like this? It was always making everyone three dimensional and giving them a thing. So with Roy, it’s a thing of…
I don’t want to sound pretentious, but it’s like he’s an iceberg and he’s slowly melting and you have to kind of calibrate that because in the beginning you may even notice this, but like there’s a bit, I think it’s in episode one or episode two, where Jamie says something rude to Roy and he doesn’t even answer back. He just gives him a look and he’s so given up that he’s not even engaging in this and then slowly these pieces of rock fall off. Then once he’s with Keeley, Keeley makes him smile. Something Jason and I talked about was when Roy smiles it’s a big deal, cause he doesn’t. So it’s not nothing. Do you know what I mean? So there’s moments, like with Keeley where she surprises Roy and he she’ll get a smile out of him, stuff like that, I guess.
TD: Yeah, definitely. Did you approach playing him differently from the beginning of the season to the end of the season?
BG: Yeah. I think there’s like a physicality. Is it right to talk about this so seriously? Yeah. There’s a physicality to Roy, which is, he’s like a fist, he’s a walking fist, he’s ready for a fight. He’s expecting a fight. He’s chest first and he’s sort of the world is a fight and he’s ready for it. And that eases off a little bit as the season progresses. And it’s sort of about how much you can relax around characters in the show when his default is tense. But depending on, you know, Ted, Keeley, Sam, there are moments, and you see that, you know, where he did that. There’s a moment when Sam scores in episode five and Sam and him hug, like it’s in him, all this love is in him, but it’s just been battered down over the last seven years. So it’s kind of letting that out.
TD: I actually wanted to talk a little bit about your episode that you wrote, “Tan Lines.” It’s a beautiful episode. It’s one of my favorites of the season. I really wanted to ask you, this is the episode where we find out more about Ted’s marriage. How did you balance writing in the emotion with the comedy of the episode and make it tonally balanced?
BG: I can’t remember if this is something that Jason has actively said, but I think we did have this conversation. And this sounds like the comedy bits are easy enough for comedians, making it funny is the easy bit. It’s about the… You’re right. It’s a balance. And it’s about the tone of it. So in a way, the main first job is get the drama right. Get the emotional right. Get the characters right. I tend to write a script, like almost like I’ll write the drama and then I’ll go back over it and I’ll make it into comedy. Do you know what I mean? Because as long as the feeling’s in the character, as long as everything emotionally works, it’s quite easy. You can make it broad, you can make it subtle. And then that’s a choice. I can pitch you five ways of this scene being funny, but it depends on exactly that. You don’t want it to be kind of too broad that you suddenly don’t care anymore or too subtle that isn’t funny. And you know, that’s the dials you’re constantly turning.
TD: Yeah you kind of have to hit that universality, universality where it’s almost too very, it’s so universal that it becomes specific to specific people.
BG: Yeah. And it’s always looking at who are these people and why, you know… we’re writing about Ted’s marriage. He’s he’s away from his wife. Why? It’s just looking at these sort of questions that you’ve asked and we never wanted either of them to be bad people or to have done something wrong. There was never going to be one of them had an affair, nothing like that. It was two people who were trying. And then you look at Ted, who is this relentless, positive coach. And maybe if that’s your partner and they’re like that all the time, that might be exhausting. And sometimes we’re like, “Well, what about you? Why are you constantly…” So you sort of just look at these people as if they’re people and try and work out the three dimensions of it.
TD: It’s very, it’s the whole season walks a wire just with all the surprises that you guys give out, finding out about the marriage and stuff. Was that something, when you were writing the episodes, since you were bringing her in, did you feel any extra responsibility?
BG: Hugely. Yeah. Hugely. Because we have one episode where we meet the wife and we know in that episode, they’re going to break up. So you’ve got one episode to bring her in, make the audience like her and end their marriage without – and that was the real challenge – how do we do this so the audience doesn’t hate her? Because we love Ted. We as an audience spent about four episodes with Ted, we love Ted. If this person’s going to come in and break his heart, how do we do that in a way that is loving to her as well and keeps it balanced. So, yeah, it was a terrible responsibility.
TD: It sounds like something you don’t want to be a part of.
BG: Yeah. No, it was great. I, you know, I’m very, I loved it. I liked writing about relationships, so that was like a dream episode for me.
TD: Awesome. season two, you now you’re now a co-producer how much more responsibility has that put on you?
BG: I don’t know how to quantify it. I’m very grateful to be part of the process as much as I can be. It’s hard to quantify, but I’m obsessed. I obsessively care about what happens in this show. That’s all I can say. Is that a co-producer?
TD: That sounds like a co-producer. My last question, I know you guys are in the middle of filming season two right now, how is that going? And what can you tell me about that?
BG: It’s going very well. I can’t tell you anything. I can tell you that it is almost boring. I’m sure it is almost boring to hear how much we all love it. I wish I could tell you, the truth is all the cast, all the crew love this show and we are all so grateful to be part of it. And I think season two has probably been even more special because we’ve been making it during COVID, it’s amazing. We’re allowed out the house. I think we’re also grateful that we can go to work. And also because there’s a difference now, when we made season one I didn’t know if anyone would watch it, let alone like it.
So there is a different feeling in we’re pretty sure people are going to watch it this time. So the only downside to that is if you ever get in your head, like, ‘Oh, I hope people are going to like this as much as they like the first one,’ you have to push that all out of your head because we’re still making the show we were going to make, we haven’t changed anything because of fans reacting.
TD: Yeah definitely. Definitely.
BG: But it’s great. I mean, it’s going very well. And I can’t tell you anything. I can’t! I’m not allowed to. I mean, I’m literally not allowed to. I’m sorry.
TD: That’s okay. I think that’s great. I think that that’s not boring at all. I think that’s so exciting that everyone that works on the show has such a love for the show and I think it translates onto screen because it’s an incredible show. I’ve seen it a few times. Everyone I know has watched it a couple of times. It’s just an incredible show, honestly. And it’s great to see that all of you have so much fun being a part of it.
BG: Yeah. It really feels like winning the lottery. It’s like you couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be making a show that I profoundly love with, do you know what I mean?
TD: Yeah. I’m sure. I’m sure it just, it totally translates onto the screen. So you guys are doing a good job with that.
BG: Thank you, Tyler, that’s very nice.
TD: But thank you so much for, for this interview, Brett, thank you for your time. Congrats on the show’s success. It’s such a hit. I’m thrilled for season two and I can’t wait for it.
BG: Tyler, I really appreciate you, and I appreciate your time and for having me on.
The first season of Ted Lasso is currently available to stream on Apple TV+. Brett Goldstein is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.