Interview: ‘Ted Lasso’ editors Melissa McCoy and AJ Catoline on making every shot count
Television editors piece together what we see using footage from the shows they work on. They screen through dailies every day, finding the right clips to use for their scenes. They collaborate with directors and other people in the post-production team to make sure everything is cut together perfectly and sounds clear. Comedy editors have an extra task to make sure what they’re editing together is not only cohesive, but funny and well-paced so jokes stay in tact.
I sat down recently and spoke toMellisa McCoy and AJ Catoline, the editors of Ted Lasso, an Apple+ comedy that you’ve probably already heard about. We talked about their favorite scenes, working with Jason Sudeikis, the different cuts that are sent out and the challenges of editing a comedy.
Tyler Doster: Hi! How are you guys today?
AJ Catoline: I’m good, how are you?
TD: Doing pretty well. What about you, Melissa?
Melissa McCoy: Doing good, yeah, no complaints. It’s Friday, we’re not working, we have the day off.
AC: Yeah, a day off, thank goodness.
MM: We’ve been buried in season two dailies so it’s nice to take a breather, take a step back away from it and see some sunshine and the world outside.
TD: I bet that is nice. Tired of looking at the same old faces every day?
AC: I don’t think I’m tired. I love it. I just listened to their Paley Center interview, I don’t know if you listened to it, Mel, they just did it the other day, the whole cast of Ted Lasso and I think to myself, “I’m cutting these guys all week long and now I’m listening to their panel,” but I can’t get enough of the Lasso cast. I could watch them forever. I’m not BS-ing you there.
MM: That is true. I guess last night, we sent down one of our episodes and I was like “Let me see how it’s playing on my phone, but let me put my headphones in and see if it’s playing” when I get bored or any of that stuff. I did do that last night.
AC: That’s so weird, I did that too! I was watching your episode, Mel, I think it’s episode 5. There’s one thing that’s weird about being in the pandemic, we were on the Warner Bros lot in these really, they were nice offices, but most important they had these big TVs. They gave us a giant TV so we could see what the show looks like big, which is important as an editor cause you want to see those facial reactions. And because of the way the technology works, Mel and I are now at home with the internet so playback can be choppy and we don’t have the big screen. So I do that, too, I go to my Apple TV which is connected to the TV in my living room. I sit down and relax on the couch with a glass of wine and watch the cut that way as someone would at their house, in theory, and it does put you in a different perspective. I see it a different way, I’m like “okay, I need to work on that section which needs to be clearer or funnier or slower or faster” and you get ideas. So I agree with you, Mel, it’s important to, even on your time off when it’s time to relax, no, we’re still watching Ted Lasso on the couch. We’re so into it. (laughs)
TD: How did you both get involved with the show?
AC: Mel should start that one.
MM: Yeah, so I’ve been working a lot with Bill Lawrence. I was on his show Whiskey Cavalier, which was on ABC, and I was working with Kip [Kroeger] who’s our producer in post and he was saying “Oh, Bill’s working on a show with Jason Sudeikis” and when he said it, I was like “In! My germs, like I want in on that show” and he was like “Okay, it’s a long way off” and I just kept checking in and I was just like “I want to be on that show, I want to be on that show” and they let me be on the show. (Laughs) I begged enough.
AC: This is my first Bill Lawrence production. I had met Kip Kroeger about a year before the show through my agent at APA and he didn’t hire me when we met, but that goes to show to stay in touch with people cause I did have a connection with Kip in the room at the time. We stayed in touch for a year or so before and then, when I heard about the show in the press, I love Jason Sudeikis. I had edited a short film he did with Dan Harmon, a friend of his, the Rick and Morty creator. I got to edit that years before and I just loved working with him, like I’d love to do this. I saw that Kip was producing and I reached out and he’s like “we’ll keep you in the loop” and I understand that now with Ted Lasso, things and decisions change. When eventually when he called me to interview, I was over the moon. I met Mel and the team and it’s been great working with Bill Lawrence. He is a master of comedy, being a writer, he really knows how to edit and how to get to a joke and pacing, slow down when we need to slow down.
TD: Does that make your job easier?
AC: I don’t know if it makes it easier. It’s just that he knows. Bill knows the footage. When you start showing him the tapes, he remembers them. But, yeah, it’s knowing that you’re working with a good comedy writer I think helps. And now I know what he’s looking for, so I try to cut the scene that way initially. They’re very specific. And with Jason, I had no idea Jason would be this involved with the editing. You know, usually, the talent is sometimes at a distance and they give notes by email and I thought that Bill would be the one that we mostly did the editing with and we did, but during the pandemic Mel and I were on Zoom every day with Jason Sudeikis going through these cuts and mining the footage. So that was a real pleasure to work with him and to craft it with him and to keep an open mind and explore, like, I know we cut it this way but how else could we cut it? What other shot could we start on? So, yeah, easier but also more exciting.
MM: Yeah, he was such a lover of the art of it, which was so rewarding. He’d be like “What’s the rule here? What’s the editing rule here? And sometimes you’d give him a little, why you cut what you did or why you saved the close-up for this moment or why I cut on this line and we had a real conversation about the art of it all sometimes, which was really interesting. I mean, he’s so intelligent and funny and humble and open. Just like his Ted Lasso character, I think he likes to elevate the people he’s working with. And that was a real joy, working with him. And Bill’s the same way. Very supportive of what you bring to the table and a teammate in that way. He’ll give you a lot of suggestions but listen to what you say too, so it’s a nice relationship in that way with both of them.
TD: What was the collaborative process like with the rest of the post-production team? You said Jason was a big part of it, did you also meet with the rest of the post-production team as well a lot?
AC: Yeah, so the directors we work with initially, they do a director’s cut. You know, we’re not there on set, they’re shooting in London and so we’re not part of a lot of the decisions. But,honestly, the directors say that they aren’t either. A lot of this show is in the vision and in the head of Jason Sudeikis and it’s about everyone trying to get his vision onto the screen. So they share what insights they have and they’re like, “When Jason was shooting this, he wanted it to be like this, he wanted it to start on this shot and focus on this here, but don’t focus on that” and that’s the thing: it’s a comedy show but we’re not always focusing on a joke and it’s a football show but we’re certainly not always focusing on football and sports. So it’s about finding what is the story arc. They download that initially, then Mel and I make a cut, it starts going to producers, Bill Lawrence weighs in, then the studio weighs in, then the network weighs in. Interestingly, Jason’s at the end, it was last season, I imagine it’ll be like that this season. We do a final pass with Jason and we interact with the music team, the sound team, it’s a real collaborative effort and to see it all come together from our rough cut, which to Mel and I’s credit looks and sounds pretty darn good, right Mel?
MM: I think so!
AC: We do a lot of work with temp sound and to listen to them bring it to life, it’s like oh my god, it increases your expectations.
MM: Yeah, but we kind of formed a real tight unit. Our Post team is really tight, me and AJ, our assistants, Francesca and Alex, and our post-coordinator Robbie, post-supervisor Katelyn [Hollenbeck] and Kip. It’s like we, we have a Slack channel now cause we’re all at home. We’ve gotten down the art of, we know how each other works and how to communicate with one another and we’re all friends and have a good time. Like, our Slack channel’s pretty funny.
MM: We have the sound team, we have these personal relationships now that is the special thing when you get to work on a show that gets to go another season. A lot of times you work on first seasons and you form a bond and you move on to the next one, or you’re figuring each other out and I think we, last season of how much we explored what the show was gonna be and how much we talked to each other, finding out what the music was gonna be like was a lot of back and forth with our composers and figuring out what the sound would be and so this season, a few times I’ve said to brent, our supervisor, can you get me some backgrounds for temp? Or can you clean up this scene, it’s such a pivotal scene and we really want people to fall in love with what it could be and we’re hearing some noise in here and he’s like “sure, thing!” You know? He’s done those things for us and I think that’s the product of us having formed such a tight bond and having a personal relationship with one another. We’re teammates and friends, and it just doesn’t happen a lot.
AC: What a ride it’s been.
TD: I have to ask since you mentioned that the Slack channel is pretty good. Who’s the funniest on your Slack channel?
AC: Oh no, they’re asking us to divulge to Slack channel.
MM: It might be Robbie!
AC: Robbie, our post-coordinator, is hilarious. He jokes around a lot and sends us all kinds of silly movies to keep us laughing. I played an April fool’s joke on the assistant editors. They were like, “oh we’re so excited for the three day weekend”, it’s a union holiday and I was like “No! Didn’t get you get the memo? This year cause of covid, it’s not a holiday. We gotta work.” I tried. I tried.
MM: And then there’s a funny thing going around, every night he asks what cuts are going out, ‘cause we have editors cuts we’re working on, director cuts, producer cuts, so some nights we have like five or six cuts going out it seems like.
AC: Yeah, oh my god, yesterday was insane.
MM: Yeah, just getting it out to the various people for the weekend. So they’ve divulged this thing like Robbie’s the captain of our plane, there’s a lot of airplane puns.
AC: Yeah, a lot of airplane jokes, yeah.
MM: I guess you’d have to be there, but it was a whole thing with cuts going out on the internet of the runway.
AC: Yeah, what are we, wheels up on the cut? Cause that’s the thing as the editor, you have to get the cut out at the end of the day. You want to keep tinkering with it. It’s always gonna get better with more editing, but at some point you have to say, hey, pencils down, we can’t keep working all night. We are a union show, we respect our rules on overtime. We gotta deliver and get it out there. And then also part of the process. I’m not scared as an editor to try something on the show and worry [they’ll say], “What are you doing? Why are you cutting it that way?” They know that I can hit the undo button. I think they encourage experimentation on this show. And Bill will do it, too. Bill will give me notes like “Do me a favor, try it this way but if I’ve fucked it up, then undo” and he wants to try it. And sometimes in trying things it’s like whoa, I’ve never thought of starting the scene that way and that’s the level of experimentation that we do. It’s like improv in the editing room and Jason’s an improv actor. We try that.
TD: What would you say are the particular challenges of editing a comedy versus editing a drama or editing reality?
MM: I would say the challenge is getting the pacing right. I guess with drama – I guess it’s kind of the same – you want to get the right reaction at the right time and figure out where the funny needs to be and what angle is the best for this fall or joke. But a lot of times – I’m just thinking about a bit of improv that wasn’t scripted that made me laugh but I never knew if it’d land in the show was when, in episode 3 Roy’s talking about Stepbrothers and he’s saying that’s “the funniest thing I ever saw but now that I think I saw that,” and he’s mocking Jamie, he’s Iike“that’s the funniest thing I think I’ve ever seen now, so now I’m gonna have to list in order what I think the funniest thing I’ve ever seen is” but there’s a reaction to that joke that I think is hilarious is then Ted goes, “yeah, that’s when sports and art combine!” and he kind of fumbles over the line a little bit but it was just so funny with those two things that he’s agreeing with them and it’s going back and forth and I remember cutting that and being like “this is hilarious” it’s not scripted and maybe it goes on for too long and we’re still discovering what the show was. So I was like, “that’s probably gonna be cut” and it stayed and now Stepbrothers has become part of our show, that movie, just Roy’s love of it. But, yeah, it’s things like that that are interesting when you’re cutting comedy of trying to find the right reactions to land the jokes, I think.
AC: Yeah, absolutely. Reactions are a lot on this show. You know in the early episodes of the season, people were very annoyed with Ted, as Higgins said “he’s intolerable.” So it’s funny watching Rebecca’s face as she gets so frustrated listening to him, when he’s saying alt-lines like “Did y’all get the OJ trial over here?” and her face is just like “Ted, stop.” But then as the season went on, Rebecca’s reactions and other characters reactions to him became less like “who is this rodeo clown?” to a coach, it’s like the arc of Roy Kent. They really see this magic in this Coach Lasso. And he is trying to get them to be the best that they can be. Wins and losses don’t matter, so yeah, the looks on the faces are great. But it’s so fun to see the improv and silly things they do and lines that they just write on the spot and we try to work those in as much as possible. And in post, Jason’s adding in funny little, we call it ADR, dialogue replacement, he’s adding little – we do this gag where the neighbors always banging and he’s always like “Sorry, Mrs. Shipley!” That wasn’t scripted, that was completely created in post. And what’s interesting is Mrs. Shipley is Jason Sudeikis’ elementary school teacher, so it’s a little homage to her, the show is all about mentorship. And I remember Mel calling me like, “I heard you recorded some Mrs. Shipley dialogue the other day, I need to work it into my episode.” So that’s a small example but he’s always adding, when he can, little ADR lines and our list grows as the season goes on. And then Brent Findley, our sound editor, goes and records all those and works them into the cut as we’ve placed them. So that’s always fun to hear, even being improved through the Post process.
TD: Melissa, you mentioned a favorite edit of yours that you’ve gotten to cut. Do you guys have any more scenes or episodes that you particularly enjoyed being able to cut and edit? That were just fun or funny or really made you laugh.
MM: My favorite episode of the season – I mean, I love all of my Ted Lasso babies, I really do, they’re my children, my work children – But my favorite episode I think is episode 7 where they go on the road trip and Rebecca sings karaoke and Ted has his panic attack and the team gets a win on the road and Nate does his roast. There’s just such great performances in that episode, I mean like every episode. I mean, the actors are so phenomenal. Talk about a luxury. Spoiled. We’re really spoiled with the gifts that these actors are bringing to the table. And that was one where so many characters got to shine, I mean Nate roasting the whole team and the team really gelling together and Rebecca singing and the team responding to how she’s singing. I mean what a beautiful voice. And then Jason’s performance. I mean talk about, what a talent Jason Sudeikis. So he wrote that episode. That was one episode that Bill said, “you take this, Jason” so that was another special thing. It was just him and I kinda crafting it to be where we wanted it to be. But yeah, comedy writer, just a cinephile, just smart, smart, smart guy. And then the acting. I mean, he’s just a phenomenal actor. The panic attack? And finally signing his divorce papers? When I watch his performance, he makes me laugh and he makes me cry. I will cry watching his dailies sometimes. I’m just like geez and he gives it his all. There’s a scene in this season where he’s – I was like so stressed out by the time I finished watching dailies on this scene because he was just giving it all that he could give. He’s just screaming and performance and by the end of it his voice was hoarse, and I was just like, “Wow, this man is giving 150 million percent to Ted Lasso” and I’m so happy it’s getting the success and he’s getting the accolades too because he’s just the nicest guy, super dedicated, and just an amazing actor. It’s a luxury and privilege to be able to watch their dailies and see what they’re doing and creating on set and help to bring that out to everybody, I just feel so honored.
AC: Yeah, me too. I think episode 10 is my favorite, “The Hope that Kills You.” And what a great title, “The Hope that Kills You”, if there’s ever a title for these times and COVID and what we’ve been going through as a country with losing our community and being locked in but having hope that one day things will get better. So that whole episode, Jason wanted to edit that from the beginning. So to Mel’s point, there were a couple episodes where Jason said to Bill, “let me try this from the top” and I got to craft that with him so that’s really memorable. I also really loved cutting the dart scene, the scene in 108, where he plays the dart competition. It’s amazing to see on Twitter that people say that’s one of the best scenes they’ve seen on TV and how they cry every time they watch it. And you know that scene has the line in there, “Be curious, not judgmental and they attribute that to Walt Whitman. That’s been going around. The governor of Massachusetts commented on that scene. I’m from Massachusetts, and he said, “Americans need to be like Ted Lasso and be more curious and less judgmental.” So that was a beautiful scene to put together. An improv scene that I loved was in 106 where Ted is stuck in that term that [Coach] Beard calls “semantic satiation,” where you say the same word that gets stuck in your head. And so he’s saying “I got a plan. Plan. Plan. Plan?” And that was such a funny improv and Rebecca did all these things on her side of the coverage and she’s not “Not plan!” making fun of his accent and it’s so funny. I was like I have to use this bit and snuck it in and that made the trailer and that’s a good example of their back and forth. These two characters, they annoy each other but they’re healing each other cause they’re both going through divorces. Rebecca learning to be vulnerable and Ted encouraging her to be vulnerable and Hannah Waddingham is an amazing actress and she just gives it in the dailies – there’s never a time we don’t have choices with her. I love cutting scenes with Ted and Rebecca. I hope that answers, I forgot the question but I’m thrilled to be doing it.
TD: Well that’s great. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today!
AC: Thank you!
MM: Thank you.
The entire first season of Ted Lasso is available to stream on Apple TV+