Nearing eight years ago, NBC Sports aired a series of promos advertising The English Premier League’s return to their channel. The promos featured an “American Coach in London” struggling to understand the rather vast differences between British and American versions of football. In 2020, this lovable himbo — now known as Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis, “Booksmart”) — made his way out of commercials and into our hearts. The show, named for its title character, was one of the most deliciously wholesome shows of the year, and not just because of Sudeikis’s character. Behind it all was a charming ensemble of lovable characters, all assembled by seasoned casting director Theo Park (“Piss Off, I Love You”).
“I just set about trying to introduce them to the finest comedy performers available in London,” Park said recently in an interview with The Daily. “What was really important was that everyone felt very real, like it wasn’t sitcom. And I hope we achieved that.”
The show received 16 major award nominations and a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes — it feels safe to say they did achieve their goal. This isn’t the first massively successful endeavor for Park, though. The former agent has helped cast some of the most notable films and shows of the last decade, from “Paddington” to “We Are Who We Are” and “Star Wars: A Force Awakens.”
Park started working with Sudeikis, though, because of a mutual connection.
“He knows my friend who’s a casting director in L.A. — her name is Allison Jones, she’s a total legend,” Park said. “He asked her, ‘Look I’m going to London. I’m doing this show. I need someone to cast it, who do you recommend?’ And thankfully, she suggested me.”
“Thankfully” is right. The show features lively chemistry between every actor involved. Its magnetic pull is hard to resist, so much so that even the supporting roles like kit manager Nate (Nick Mohammed, “Intelligence”) are unforgettable.
Park remained modest when asked about how she built these relationships through casting: “That’s pure alchemy, that is,” she said. “Who knows when you put these people together?”
“But we didn’t get any of these people together for chemistry reads — apart from Jason, Jason did meet the Rebecca candidates — but apart from that, it was just luck … All of them are so good. They’re such good actors with really good range, so one would hope it would all work out, and it did.”
According to Park, most of the characters were already very well fleshed out by Sudeikis and his team, including Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard on the show. Yet, there was one lucky surprise with fan-favorite Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández, “Blade of the Assassin”). The character was first written to be the show’s arrogant footballer, similar to the self-important Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster, “The Trouble with Maggie Cole”) now. Park and her team searched in multiple different countries, finding nobody they were satisfied with. Then, they found Fernández.
“Miraculously, a British agent I know happened to have Cristo Fernández on their books because he trains for Mexico, Guadalajara, but he trained for a year in London,” Park said. “So he had him on his books, and he did this self tape and it was just amazing. It wasn’t the Jamie Tartt character at all. It was something completely different, and so they wrote another character around him.”
Park has already started working to expand the cast in season one’s follow-up. “We’re casting season two right now, and there’s a good few new roles,” she teased. “One really great new regular role who you’ll meet soon (is) Sarah Niles. So that was great that we cast her because I’ve been a massive fan of hers for ages and ages and ages.”
She continued, “But a lot of season two has been trying to get the guests — even the really small dayplayers from season one — getting them back again and getting a new story going with them. There’s lots and lots of returning cast … It’s nice to bring people back.”
Talking with Theo Park only proves what is so evident from the show’s radiant energy: “Ted Lasso” is made with love. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where they take these characters next.
Daily Arts Writer Ben Servetah can be reached at email@example.com.