Ted Lasso co-star/co-creator Brendan Hunt spoke with Solzy at the Movies about Apple TV+ comedy series and Chicago improv.
I spoke with Hunt prior to Ted Lasso receiving a record 20 Emmy nominations for a freshman comedy series. Hunt was among Ted Lasso‘s four actors nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. In addition, Hunt picked up two writing nominations for both the pilot episode and “Make Rebecca Great Again.”
The critically acclaimed series makes its return with weekly episodes starting on July 23.
The first season of Ted Lasso brought about some much-needed comedy during the pandemic. How rewarding has it been to see the series receive so much acclaim?
Brendan Hunt: Well, it’s been surprising as much as anything else. I mean, we thought we probably had a reasonably decent show that some people would get the giggles at but this was not expected. For people to not only enjoy so much but for the show to mean something to people in such a powerful way—Twitter apparently suggests it does. It’s great. It’s gratifying and surprising and means a lot.
What’s it been like to watch Jason Sudeikis grow over a number of years?
Brendan Hunt: It’s great. He sort of rises to whatever occasion he finds himself having risen to. Does that make sense? He’s still a very grounded Midwestern cat. He’s not a Chicago guy but he’s got Chicago roots from his mom. And yeah, he’s still just a Midwestern fellow and he doesn’t let anything get to his head. He doesn’t get overhauled still treats people good. And yeah, I’m glad I know him
How much room is there to improvise on a series of this nature?
Brendan Hunt: Less than people think. One of Jason’s early sort of flaming arrow statements of intent when—even before Bill Lawrence came along and it was just me, him and Joe Kelly wondering if this commercial character could be something more. I mean, literally, I think it was the first thing he said when we were talking about maybe trying to sketch out a pilot or an arc of the season was: it should be 99% scripted. There should be little to no improvisation. I was surprised by that because we had really used a lot of improv in those commercials. I’m like, Okay.
I’m really glad that that’s what we’ve done because it allows us to come into shoot days with a foundation of scripts that are pretty well crafted with the great writers’ room that we have. And then once we have that, then we can add improv as the cinnamon dust that you put on the pancake as opposed to having to rely on improv and just the jokes you might get from that. It’s allowed us to have a deeper show than we would if we were just improvising all the time.
What were the biggest challenges that came with producing season 2 during a pandemic?
Brendan Hunt: Not hugging was a real drag. We’re all pretty nice people and after we’d all been apart from each other during the start of the pandemic and then finally after 10 months of that, we all get to go back to work, get on set, see each other, and no hugging. It was kind of an anticlimactic reunion. Eventually, we got accustomed to the mask wearing and all that. I think it got harder for the macro production. It got harder to find locations. We’d be very careful about using our extras, how many we would use, and how we would situate them and all that. But in the end, we managed to get through five months of shooting without a COVID shutdown. That was surprising and I’m very glad for it.
Is there a timetable for when season three of Ted Lasso will go into production?
Brendan Hunt: Not exactly. We know that it’ll be early next year—unless something crazy happens—but we don’t have any kind of concrete date yet.
When it comes to what happens during the season premiere, are you all afraid of any kind of backlash?
Brendan Hunt: I mean, you never know how people are gonna react to anything. And, certainly, there’s the old Game of Thrones situation, which was the biggest show in the world and everyone loved it. And then backlash! Mind you, I think that backlash was wildly overstated and kind of unfair. But yeah, you can’t control how people react. We just go about our business and try to make the best show we can and we’ll see what people say.
One thing I noticed while watching season 2 was the name de Maat appearing in the locker room. Is this a tribute to Martin de Maat?
Brendan Hunt: 100%, yeah. Me and Joe and Jason all took classes from Martin. I think I classes—two consecutive units, actually. That was like four months of having him very early in my branching out and trying to try to be a better improviser. And so, yeah, we remember him fondly. When we were first making names for the locker room, we started thinking kind of like demographics and soccer teams, I’m like okay, well, there’s always a Dutch name and de Maat was the first name out. There is no character who plays de Maat but we just made damn well sure that his name stays in the locker room?
Is there an improv instructor that had the biggest impact on your career?
Brendan Hunt: On my career, no. But in trying to be a better performer, yeah. It is probably Marty. He’s just so caring and thoughtful. I’d been improvising a bit at that point and the improv world, especially at that time, can be problematically macho. But, Marty did not have that energy at all. Marty had a much more thoughtful and gentle way of looking at things. And yeah, if it was a real macho aggro vibe, I don’t know that I would have stuck with it.
What was the most meaningful improv lesson you learned and have since taken with you throughout your career?
Brendan Hunt: Marty would finish the last moment of the last class with the Hokey Pokey. It seemed a little silly and when he would pull it out, and you’d be like, what, the hokey pokey dance we’ve been doing at birthday parties since we were like four? Okay/ He would have you do the hokey pokey and it transformed from being silly to being super fun and the greatest thing. By the end of it, you put your whole self in. Everyone’s lustily performing the Hokey Pokey and afterwards, Marty was emotional, like actually crying—very gentle tears. He was trying to keep himself together as he told us that is what it’s all about—put your whole self in. Shake it all about. On paper though, it sounds silly but after the way he said it, it was like, Oh, my G-d, he’s 100% right. That’s about having enthusiasm for life and commitment for performing and just doing everything to its fullest. It has stayed with me forever.
What do you miss the most about Chicago?
Brendan Hunt: Gosh, so many things, I am having an overload. I miss having a local. I miss being able to walk down the street and have my bar and seeing my friends at that bar. Specifically—even though I never lived by it but now when I go back, I find myself going to the Old Town Ale House because a bunch of my family started going there even before I was hanging out at Second City at all. So yeah, local bar culture but especially Old Town Ale House.
Do you have a favorite Chicago movie?
Brendan Hunt: I do. It’s The Blues Brothers.
Brendan Hunt: 100%.