Ted Lasso debuted only a year ago and has already become an awards magnet, with wins at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards for Jason Sudeikis’ portrayal of the show’s folksy and inspiring coach. The series received 20 Emmy nominations this year—a record for a rookie comedy—including nods for Hannah Waddingham, Juno Temple, Jeremy Swift, Nick Mohammed, Brett Goldstein, and co-creator Brendan Hunt in the supporting actor/actress categories.
So, it’s no surprise to see Ted Lasso’s casting director Theo Park get her own first Emmy nomination for assembling the show’s clearly talented ensemble. Park initially wanted to become an actor but quickly realized she was more comfortable with finding the right performers for a role. Based in the U.K., Park has worked on TV shows like Master Of None and Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings series, limited series Vanity Fair, and films like The Spy Who Dumped Me. The A.V. Club spoke to Park about the fun process of getting Ted Lasso’s relatively up-and-coming cast together, her love for Nick Mohammed, and the project she wants to cast Sudeikis in next.
The A.V. Club: How did you got involved with casting for Ted Lasso?
Theo Park: I’m friends with Allison Jones, a fantastic casting director in Los Angeles. She knows Jason Sudeikis, who asked her opinion on whom to work with in London. She very kindly suggested me and he listened to her, so I was really lucky. Allison and I met through my sister, weirdly. and then we worked on a couple of projects. I’ve helped her out over the years here and there.
AVC: How does it feel to get the nomination for a critically acclaimed show like Ted Lasso, and to see the cast you put together also get the same Emmy love?
TP: I feel lucky to even work on the show and to be nominated for an award is just thrilling and beyond my wildest expectations. I never thought I’d be in this position. As for the cast, all I’d say is I’d have trouble picking who should win. I’m especially excited for the girls, Juno and Hannah, they are both brilliant.
AVC: Were there any roles you had specific challenges with casting?
TP: There were challenges all along the way. We already knew Jason and Brendan were going to play Ted and Coach Beard. It was an open slate after that. Both of them came over to London, which was great. We could spend some time face-to-face to talk about the remaining cast members. We started with the search for Rebecca.
AVC: Hannah Waddingham is a total revelation in this comedic role, but her biggest one is in a drama like Game Of Thrones. Even in Sex Education, her character is a bit more rigid. What was it about her audition and body of work that compelled you to cast her?
TP: I’ve actually always known she was funny. I was working for Nina Gold when she was casting Game Of Thrones. We remember Hannah coming in and being totally hilarious behind-the-scenes. I mean, after action she would go into the Septa Unella mode right away, but in real life she is effervescent and hilarious. I then actually cast her in a small role in MGM’s 2019 comedy film, The Hustle, starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. The director of the film, Chris Addison, I really respect him. He did say to me after about Hannah that “Oh my god, she’s amazing.” We always had great feedback on her, so I’m glad we let her do this and she’s really showing her range because Rebecca is a well-written role with lots of facets to her personality.
AVC: Did you do chemistry reads and did anything stand out during that process?
TP: We only did chemistry reads with Jason. He was sure he wanted to work closely for all the casting, but especially with Rebecca’s. We flew Hannah out to LA so they could test together. As for the rest, it was a happy alchemy that everyone works so well together because they did not meet each other until the read. Well, maybe it’s not all happy alchemy alone. I think that the chemistry is luck but they’re also all talented actors. There’s no assholes in the cast, they’re all lovely people who gel well with each other.
AVC: Jamie Tartt was originally written as Latin American. Did that idea change during the casting process and was Phil Dunster’s audition a part of it?
TP: It was tricky. We couldn’t find anyone who was quite right for the role as it was written. Phil came in and did an amazing audition as this arrogant star player. No one was better than him. The writers rewrote the role around Phil.
AVC: Did he audition with the accent then?
TP: Yeah, when he came in, he asked what kind of accent he should put on. I said to him to just do something funny. Mancunian is not his natural accent and he’s putting it on for the show. I cant remember if he did it in something else I’ve seen him in, but the accent made all the swagger funnier. It lends itself to the Jamie Tartt character.
AVC: Is it true that you came across Cristo Fernández during your search for Jamie?
TP: Yeah. Cristo is based in Mexico but he has an agent in the UK because he did his acting training here. When his audition tape came through, we were all just like “Who is this guy? He’s amazing.” He’s an ex-pro footballer and his tape was hilarious. It wasn’t quite right for Jamie, of course, because he’s lovely and has such a puppy dog face. They were going to introduce the Icelandic player in season one but then the showrunners decided to rewrite that part for Cristo.
AVC: Were there any actors you saw for a role who came close to being a part of the show?
AVC: Funnily, Nick Mohammed originally taped for Leslie Higgins and then it wasn’t quite right. Jeremy Swift is bang on for that part but everyone remembered Nick when it came time to cast Nate Shelley. Nick actually said no because he was too busy. He said to me “I’ve rethought it, and I’m finishing my own show that I’m editing, so just take my name out of the running.” We begged him to just come do an audition. He didn’t have any time because he was filming Peacock’s Intelligence, so he just did maybe one scene but it was unbelievably perfect.
AVC: What about someone you didn’t end up casting in another role?
TP: Yeah, there’s definitely good people we lost out but we continue to try to get them in. Jason has really good memory with all of this. There’s an episode coming up, I think it’s episode nine, we have an actor who Jason remembered had taped for Keeley. So I’m glad she gets to come back in some capacity as a guest.
AVC: Season two introduces a few new faces, including Sarah Niles’ Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. What was the casting process like this time around, or was there any pressure after the success of season one?
TP: We always knew this going in even in season one, but it was good to have that reaffirmation that we needed people with proper range. Someone like Sarah Niles can do anything, but I do love how she is underplaying it so far. She’s keeping a lid on her performance, it’s clever they’re doing that. I’ve been a huge Sarah fan for ages.
AVC: Jason obviously is a recognized name but was casting relatively new faces a criteria for the show?
TP: It was exciting that it didn’t matter and we didn’t have to have recognizable names. It was lovely to introduce these wonderful actors and talent to the team. I love Nick’s work, I try to get him in for everything. We’re casting directors and we’re creatures of habit and we try to bring in people we know. But it’s also exciting to see new talent and meet people you haven’t met before. I hadn’t met Toheeb Jimoh when he came in for Sam Obisanya. It was thrilling to cast him for the first time.
AVC: Do you have a wishlist of actors you’d want to cast on Ted Lasso?
TP: That’s a great question. I need to think about that, I’m sure there’s loads of people I’d love to get in.
AVC: Do any names come to mind?
TP: It’s not quite answering your question, I know that, but I watch bedtime stories with my 3-year-old and they have cool people like James McAvoy and Tom Hardy reading them. I’m so desperate to cast Jason in one of those so I can show off to my kid that this is who I work with. I’d love to cast Jason in something my son could watch.