‘Ted Lasso’ Interview: The Pre-Production Team Breaks Down How They Tackled Designing And Casting The Hit Show

Even if you watch Ted Lasso for five minutes, you can see the effort and love the crew put into the production. Following affable American Football coach Ted Lasso, (Jason Sudeikis, co-creator and star) who takes the mean Premiere British soccer world by storm, the show is one of the most visually realistic and cohesive comedies on television today. Everything you see, from the football stadium to the uniform, feels grounded and makes the characters and heart of the show more emotionally effective.

At a recent press event, casting director Theo Park, production designer Paul Cripps, costume designer Jacky Levy, and makeup and hair designer Nicky Austin revealed the time and effort they put in creating this show. From the American political drama that inspired Cripps’s set, to the character switcheroo made to better suit the show, to how Austin and Levy designed looks for both a soccer team and two powerful women, this press conference revealed major secrets that became integral parts of the show.

This is one of two interviews done with the Ted Lasso crewRead our interview with the post-production team here

This cast is incredible. I can’t imagine anyone else in these roles. Can you tell me a little bit about the casting process?

Theo Park (Casting Director): We started with Rebecca because she was the female lead and they brought me on a little bit early just to really concentrate on finding her. After that we went onto the “Diamond Dogs” as they are now known as, the core Richmond football club and team. Obviously we had to find actors who could play football as well. So that was interesting. We saw some amazing auditions from actors doing some “keepy-uppies” in their garden with a mate videoing them. It’s also a testament to the writing cause I do think the writing is really, really clever. I think everyone has their moments where they can really shine. We did make sure that we were casting actors who could do comedy rather than just comedians, because we really needed to see heart and soul from every single member of the cast. They had to be really, really strong actors as well as clever comics.

Paul, talk to me about transforming Selhurst Park Stadium into the home of the AFC Richmond Greyhounds?

Paul Cripps (Production Designer): It was interesting because we had to create a whole world of the football club. We originally were going to use Crystal Palace. We were going to use their stadium to film the football matches, which is Selhurst Park. So that kind of led on to the color scheme for the team because Crystal Palace play in red and blue, they have a lot of red and blue seats in their stadium. So we felt it was best to link to their colors with the Richmond team in order to have less work to do in terms of using the stadium so we could fit in. I basically started with the dressing room and Ted’s office, as a kind of core bit of the set and then moved out from there. The whole of the training center is kind of one set with interlocking rooms so that you can move between rooms without cutting.

When I read the original script, it felt very West Wing in a lot of the conversations were happening walking down corridors and between rooms. I wanted to give the camera the opportunity to move between different rooms in the set without having to cut. So all those training center rooms are interlinked to give kind of a smooth passage. Because we didn’t really have cameramen or DAPs until later, I kind of made a little bit of a bold decision to make all the lighting work from the ceiling lights rather than have windows. The whole training center is supposed to be built within the stand of the stadium. Then we could really use the space in the studio because we didn’t have to have windows and backings, but it meant all the lighting had to come from the intrinsic lighting of the spaces themselves. We made a feature of the ceiling and the ceiling lights, which luckily the DAPs, the cameramen took on board and really went for and they’ve done a brilliant job in it. It was creating a space where the camera and the actors could all work in 360 degrees and use the link between the locker room and Ted’s office and see views through and see people in different spaces and then move through to them.

Obviously there has to be some design overlap when creating uniforms and an entire stadium. Talk to me bit about collaborating on that. What was your biggest challenge in doing so?

Jacky Levy (Costume Designer): As Paul said because we were going to use the Crystal Palace stadium, we used the same colors for the uniform. We designed our own logos and badges. We have those embroidered on and obviously the names and the numbers are on the back. We have a home kit, an away kit and a training kit. So there’s kind of three different uniforms. We call them kits rather than uniforms. (laughs).

P.C.: I think probably the most difficult thing was trying to make it feel real. I think generally we don’t see what happens backstage at a football team. Obviously we all know the world. Well, we particularly in the UK and I think worldwide people know the look of football and people go every week. I think what I was probably most nervous about was making it feel real, like it was a real team. I think that’s kind of part of the job with all of us is to kind of set a real reality so that the comedy can work on top of that. I don’t think show was ever meant to be kind of a parody of the teams. It was more the fact that the comedy was character led through the script.

It’s not really about the football, but I think we all wanted to try and make it feel like it was a real world. When you’re investigating the characters, you kind of feel immersed because you believe the world of the football club. So I think most of my nervousness was about getting it right and people believing that it was a proper club, which I hope we’ve done and I think from the reaction feels like we did. Wouldn’t you say Jacky, that it’s kind of making it feel real rather than a parody?

J.L.: The costumes I tried to keep real – not comic, you know? They looked like real people, so the comedy comes from the script rather than rather than the costumes.

P.C.: I think it’s quite a brash world the way football is dressed. You know, they dress quite manically, you know, compared to the rest of us. They’ve got a lot of money to spend. They drive ridiculous cars. But you want it to feel you want it to not be over the top so it destroys the idea of the comedy and the comedy comes through and that they are real people and investigating their real feelings, I suppose.

Obviously for a good portion of the show, you guys are designing pretty formulaic uniforms and guys haircuts, and that sort of saying. However, you have wonderful opportunities to let loose in Rebecca and Keeley’s costumes, makeup and hair. Jason Sudeikis, has talked about how the show has this feminine energy running through the whole show. Talk to me about your process for building these female characters visually and how you visually balance the very masculine world of football with a more feminine energy in the show.

J.L.: It definitely starts from talking to the actors themselves. I’ll discuss with Hannah [Waddingham, plays Rebecca Welton] and Juno [Temple, plays Keeley Jones] the scenes and what they do in the scenes and how are they feel in the scenes and the emotions that they go through in the scenes. We kind of go collaboratively from there. Rebecca is a very successful and strong person in the show, but she does have this vulnerable side. We try and make her costumes sort of fit that sort of powerful position that she holds. Also as Paul said before we try to keep it real and we try and make her look like she fits in the football world, but she keeps she keeps her femininity as well. I think the two can go hand in hand. So hopefully we achieve that. Also Juno, her character Keely has gone on a very steady maturing journey. So her costumes have just become, and also through the second series that we’re filming at the moment, they’re just becoming sort of slightly more mature. Still fun, and very high fashion, but kind of maturing at the same time to match what’s happening in her life. It’s very much a collaborative thing and Nikki and I will collaborate as well, obviously on their looks.

Nikki Austin (Makeup/Hair Design): Yeah, we have a lot of fun. Juno, in particular, I mean, Keeley’s just a great character, but then at the start of season one, the way that it’s written, every character has their own journey as Jacky was saying. We have to take that into account because when we first see Keeley in the locker room, you see kind of the old Page Three girl images in Jamie’s locker. That’s the start of her journey. We’re trying to then build her into this professional set, which is very much done through the costume and the makeup – the fact that she wants to be taken more seriously. With Juno, she’s so passionate about everything, every aspect of her character. Obviously Hannah is too, but I’m personal on set. Juno has a lot of looks. I think we’re on look 20 so far this season. Some of them are a bit wacky depending on the scenario and then sometimes she’s just at home and we want to keep it real.

Jacky and I were literally on set with her yesterday in her house, changing things at the last minute. Is she going to throw on a pair of sweats? Is she going to chuck her hair up in a bun? We did what? Four changes yesterday, Jacky?

J.L.: Yes, we were doing all the scenes in Keeley’s apartment with her and Roy. As they rehearse things come out of the rehearsals. We end up sort of changing things at the last minute to suit whatever they’ve rehearsed but it’s good fun. As Nikki said Juno is so into her character, it’s great actually to have somebody that’s so collaborative and so excited about it all.

N.A.: She loves it and Hannah as well because she’s playing her age. She’s literally playing her age in the show and she loves being able to play her own age and being a strong, independent woman and all that stuff. She very much wants to reflect that in her costume and her makeup and her hair. Especially when we see her in season one and she starts off hiding the fact that she’s been treated so poorly and she’s trying to stay strong and come across as this very together person, despite what Rupert [Rebecca’s ex-husband] puts her through. She wanted to be very composed very together. Then we get those moments when we see her at home in her dressing gown, with her makeup off and our hair a mess. You get to see a bit of an insight into the real Rebecca. It’s things like that when you’re breaking down a script and you have these ideas to change that they make such a difference. All the execs and all the writers, they really appreciate what we all do so we can put those little things in place to help tell the story.

J.L.: And make a rounded person so you see a sort of complete person rather.

N.A.: We all go through those times, don’t we? We can all relate to probably. Everyone can relate to what Rebecca Welton, not being married to a multi-millionaire who cheats on you necessarily, but just being broken hearted and just feeling at a loss with what to do with yourself. But she picks us up and plasters on the war paint and puts herself in an amazing outfit and that was kind of what we wanted to reflect at the beginning of season one.

The cast is not only stacked with outstanding lead actors, but scene-stealing secondary and even tertiary characters, from Sam Obisanya, to Colin and Issac to Mae and the three fans back in the pub. It felt like there was as much attention to detail with casting those roles and those characters as there was with some of the larger roles like Brett Goldstein and Juno Temple. What was that process like of ensuring that there was just as much attention placed on, finding the right people for their smaller roles as there was for the headliners?

T.P.: I have more fun casting smaller roles because you can just let your imagination run wild and you don’t have to worry about casting a name or a known or whatever. You can just go with the people that you know are really good and can deliver. What was really great was I was just casting for a bunch of Americans and they didn’t know anybody and so they thought everyone was fantastic! I just literally showed them all my favorite people and got all my favorite people in all of the smaller parts! It was brilliant. It was a dream job really.

Can you talk about finding one of the break-out stars of the show? Say Dani Rojas played by Cristo Fernández?

T.P.: Well that was a really interesting story actually, because in the original script the Jamie Tartt character played by Phil Dunster, was called Dani Rojas. He was supposed to be the arrogant star player with attitude, but they wanted him to be from south America, a Hispanic, Latino actor, and we searched far and wide. I searched here in the UK and Europe, and then they had someone in America looking for an American. We just couldn’t find someone right for the part Phil Dunster was right for the part, but he was British. So in that big search for what was called Dani Rojas, we got this tape from this amazing guy, Cristo Fernandez. He actually used to be a pro footballer in Guadalajara, Mexico, but happened to have done a year’s training in acting in the UK and retained a UK agent who I knew of.

So through them, we got this self-tape and we were like, “Who is this guy? He’s not right for Dani Rojas because he’s so exuberant and fun and sweet and nice,” where we wanted the opposite. What happened with him was that everyone saw this tape and were like, “Okay, so he’s not Dani Rojas, but we’ve got to get him in this! We’ve got to get him! So what they did was they rewrote the whole script and we made Phil Dunster’s Jamie Tartt, British and then we created this whole new character called Dani Rojas. And that’s Cristo Fernandez. That’s all down to just the genius of two different actors who just out shone everybody else that we auditioned, getting parts written around them.

J.L.: Can I just say that Christo is absolutely lovely? He is a dream. He’s a dream to work with. He absolutely is.

P.C.: Literally the best human on earth! Football is life.

T.P.: Everything you see in that character, that’s him. They wrote the part for him. So it’s just lovely.

You can catch the first season of Ted Lasso on Apple TV Plus. The second season is set to premiere July 23. Watch the trailer for season 2 below. 

A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.