Brett Goldstein on Ted Lasso and Putting Humor into Drama
August 25, 2020
If there’s a word to describe Brett Goldstein in 2020, it would be ubiquitous. First up for the British actor-writer-comic: Apple TV+'s new series Ted Lasso starring Jason Sudeikis as the new (American) head coach of a British soccer team in desperate need of a winning record. Working both offscreen and onscreen, Goldstein plays the team captain, Roy, in addition to writing for the show.
Goldstein stayed in touch with the series’ co-creator Bill Lawrence after they worked together on a pilot that wasn’t picked up.
“He called me to say he thought I might be a good fit for the writing team for Ted Lasso,” Goldstein said.
“I had a FaceTime with Jason [Sudeikis] at 1 a.m. (I’m in the U.K.) and we got on so well we talked for 90 minutes.”
He soon traveled to L.A. to write with the rest of the writers.
“It was my first American writers room, which is almost completely different from how writing is in the U.K. (Although that is changing.) In the U.K., there’s usually just one or two of you.”
Once the team had written most of the episodes and shaped the season, Goldstein said he “secretly was thinking that I felt I really ‘got’ Roy and could play him.”
“But I was well aware that he was very unlike the type of characters I was usually playing. I typically was cast as ‘softer, nice guy, sweet guy’ types. So I knew no one was probably thinking of me for the part, and I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.”
So on his last night, Goldstein recorded a tape and sent it to Lawrence and Sudeikis.
“I said, ‘Look, I think I get Roy, but if this is remotely shit and/or embarrassing, please just pretend you never got it and we need never discuss it.’ They called the next day to say they liked it. It was very, very exciting.”
Goldstein said that being both a writer and actor on the show only made it more fun.
“To be able to change things up once we got to know the cast and play to their strengths and accentuate what they naturally brought to the table; I just loved all of it,” he said.
Goldstein’s work on Ted Lasso is a far cry from his upcoming AMC drama Soulmates, a six-part anthology series that wryly examines the cost of finding love, of which Goldstein serves as co-creator, executive producer and writer.
Goldstein co-created the series with William Bridges.
“We started talking about relationships and the idea of soulmates; what would it mean if someone is ‘destined’ for you? What about all the other choices you made in your life? All the relationships that came before? Would they count for nothing?”
Initially, the duo started out making a short film, but Goldstein said as they started developing it, “we realized that the stories were infinite because ultimately, ask anyone what they believe love is, and they will tell you a different story. So an anthology seemed the smarter way to go, allowing us to look at love and relationships through many different angles.”
Goldstein said the hardest part about making an anthology was telling a movie-length story in half the time.
“The run time was always a problem because you want to tell a full, rich story with a satisfying structure; but like making six pilots, every time you begin a new episode, you also have to set up a whole world and a whole new set of characters and a different tone. So it was definitely challenging,” he said.
As for what helped his writing process and busting through those challenges, he said the key was planning.
“Once the story has an emotional throughline, it starts to get a bit easier. But look, it’s really hard! Every time! That’s the truth. Every time you think you’ve cracked it, you have to start from scratch again.”
While a lot of writers tend to fall into either categories — drama or comedy — Goldstein said he really liked the opportunity to do both.
“My aim is to always put humor into drama, and drama into comedy,” he said.
“I get annoyed when I see heavy dramas where there’s no moment of levity. That is unrealistic. People in the midst of war make jokes. People about to die make jokes. Drama with absolutely zero laughs is unrealistic and drives me nuts.”
Both writing and acting come naturally for Goldstein, who said he was always acting in school.
“I remember writing a story for school about a shipwreck when I was like, six or something and my dad thinking it was good and coming in and telling me, ‘You know, you can be a writer. That’s an actual job.’”
When Goldstein left the university and entered the world of acting, he said he was “so sick of listening to actors complaining and waiting for the phone.”
“I thought, ‘It’s on me. You have to write your own stuff. Then you can’t complain.’ The idea of just waiting for a magical phone call drives me mad. In the end, I realize I just love making stuff. It’s that simple, really. And if no one wants to hire you, then make your own stuff in whatever form you can.”
After writing and acting for years in obscurity, Goldstein received his big break in Ricky Gervais’ Derek. Goldstein said he believes both acting and writing help inform the other.
“I think they are weirdly similar processes; the difference is that one happens in front of a crowd and the other doesn’t. In writing and acting you are still asking the same questions. What does this character want? What is stopping them getting it? How can they overcome this? How can I best communicate that in a way that feels real?”
Next up for Goldstein is the feature film This Nan’s Life, the next installment in the popular British Nan character, for which he co-wrote alongside his frequent collaborator Catherine Tate, and which will be distributed in the U.K. by Warner Bros.
When he’s not busy writing, Goldstein hosts his podcast, Films to Be Buried With. There, he has candid conversations with a special guest who discusses the films that have shaped them.
“All the guests say something surprising at some point. Ricky Gervais explained how The Jungle Book taught him about death. That was very moving to me,” he said.
“The most brilliant and surprising one was how much Sharon Stone loves Vin Diesel in XXX.”
Written by: Brianne HoganBrianne Hogan is a freelance writer currently based in Prince Edward Island. A film studies graduate from NYU, her byline's been featured in Creative Screenwriting, ScreenCraft, The Huffington Post, among others. "Jurassic Park" is unashamedly her favorite movie (at this moment). You can follow Brianne on Twitter via @briannehogan