As Ted Lasso‘s Coach Beard, Brendan Hunt has created a legendary TV side-man, bolstering the show’s lead character, offering the occasional sober truth and the ability to be a reliable non-sober sounding board. And, of course, there are Beard’s own side missions, the After Hours-inspired gauntlet last season and whatever happened on the way to Piggy Stardust in the most recent episode. But could Beard work as a lead character whenever Ted Lasso comes to an end (its fate is still up in the air, according to Hunt)? We asked the actor/writer/and producer in addition to talking about the cast’s recent trip to the White House, weathering criticism, and how a hilarious Jordan Peele story influenced one of this season’s most charming moments.
Everyone loves the bike scene between Jamie and Roy. Before we talk about that, are there any secret things like bike riding that you yourself don’t know how to do that you want to reveal?
Gosh, there must be.
Well, there has to be because the alternative answer to that question is, “No, I know everything.” I’ve really put you in a humbleness trap.
Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I don’t know so many things (that) I don’t even know how many things I don’t know.
You escaped the humbleness trap, very nicely done. How did that scene come to be? It’s such a beautiful moment.
We knew we wanted to have the two of them on a bike ride late at night. That was kind of the start of it. And then we wanted that to make sense and we wanted it to be part of some kind of escapade. They couldn’t just decide to get bikes. There had to be a reason behind it. So those were the steps to it. And I think it might have been Jason (Sudeikis) who came up with the Butch Cassidy element of it all, which is a wonderful extra layer, but it is also connected to one very specific memory I have from Amsterdam.
We’d had a big party at my theater (Boom Chicago) and I was biking home with my girlfriend along the Lijnbaansgracht. And that was when Jordan Peele was in the cast. And Jordan lived closer than I did, and he didn’t like biking very much, so he was walking home. But I passed him and it’s like three o’clock in the morning, “Jordan, let me ride you the rest of the way home!” Because riding on the back of someone’s wheel and just grabbing someone by the waist and biking along was common practice. And he said, “Brendan, no, no.”
“Jordan. Jordan, let me take you home. Come on. Jordan Peele, I insist you get on my bike right now!” And he did. And I remember it clear as day. “Okay, you good? You good? Okay. Woo.” (At this point, Hunt falls over in his chair to demonstrate how he almost took out one of America’s foremost auteurs one night in Amsterdam some time ago.)
And Jordan landed on his back and we both died laughing admitting defeat, I just got back on my bike and biked away. “See you tomorrow, buddy!”
“All right, later!”
(Laughs) So, why was it important that we only saw the end result of Piggy Stardust instead of the origins of that?
We really went back and forth with a lot of options on what Beard’s Amsterdam experience was going to be, including having him stay with Ted all night. But once we knew he was going away (from that), we decided we didn’t need to see it because “Beard After Hours” already exists. So if you multiply that times the costume that he shows up in, it’s like, “Oh, okay, yeah, we know what happened.” So it kind of felt like you didn’t need to do it. I have optioned the Piggy Stardust Rock Opera with Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s going to be Rap Rock. And I’m very, very excited about it. Technically he hasn’t answered the email. But I got a good feeling.
Everybody knows your chops when it comes to rap, but the rock element and how much you shred on the guitar, I think it’s something that people need to see.
Thank you. I agree hard.
Hard agree. The future of the show is still somewhat up in the air, right?
Still up in the air.
Still up in the air.
Anything can happen. The only thing that’s not up in the air is we’re going to take a break once we’re done with this season and promoting everything. At the end of that break, then we’ll figure out what, if anything, is going to happen. But right now, it could be anything.
Is Coach Beard a character that you could see as the anchor of a spinoff?
I honestly don’t (see it). And the reason why is he’s the only character on the show who’s defined by his proximity to another character. So I don’t see Beard existing on a show that is not called Ted Lasso. It is, of course, financially suicidal to say that.
Yeah, I was going to say.
(adopts faux pretentious voice) But I’m an artist!
(Laughs) I remember last season, the therapy angle took some time to develop and I had seen the screeners and I remember seeing people criticize the show and I was like, “Wait, just wait. Because it gets amazing. It’s building to something.” Is it frustrating to see people react to things week by week, not waiting to see how the whole thing plays out?
It’s easily compartmentalized because we can’t worry about people’s reactions that much. We just can’t. It does not help us make the show. It doesn’t help us make the show better. And in particular, with season two, watching it play out, it was exactly as you described. It was like, “You bunch of Trent Crimms, what are you doing? Look at this, you.” You know how this story goes. You’re going to feel a little foolish soon enough. And so to see people doing that again for season three, if you watched the first two seasons and we have not yet earned your trust, I mean all right. Well, hang out, do what you like, but I think our track record’s pretty good. You might want to stick around.
The White House visit, do you get starstruck with something like that?
I try actively not to, because I’ve lived in LA long enough that I’ve seen firsthand the limits on a sustainable relationship that a bit of starstruckness can inflict on merely an introduction. So I try to just play it cool and don’t try to be funny or anything. Just say hi and thank you and be polite and go from there.
The hardest moment for that was meeting Madame Vice President because we weren’t expecting to meet her. We basically literally crossed paths in the hallway and I was like, “Oh, hello.”
We did a pretty good job of keeping our shit together, but it was a conscious choice.
So obviously, the show crosses into the world of sports. I do interviews all the time. The starstruckness thing gets beaten out of you after a while, but I’ve met athletes and it comes right back. Do you find yourself having that when you run across people from the world of soccer?
A little bit, but yeah, it’s the same philosophy of I just have to consciously keep my shit together. But the weird thing about it now is they come to us knowing us. So it’s a much easier introduction. And I think I’ve told this story before, but before it was a show, but after it was a commercial, we were at a game, an Arsenal-Chelsea game, and we met Thierry Henry afterward. And I was in my cups a bit. It was my first day at the Emirates. I saw all the statues and the signs and it was a terrible game, but we met so many people and it was so cool. And we’re talking to Thierry Henry about this game we’d been to the day before. He’s clearly charming. And then finally, Joe Kelly says to Thierry Henry, pointing back at me, the drunk one, “Well, Thierry, he’s the Arsenal fan here.”
And Thierry Henry, I feel like he sensed I was drunk or perhaps it was just obvious, because he’s like, “Oh really? I’m like, “Yeah, yeah.” And being very proud of myself about their previous stadium. “I went to Highbury three times,” which I thought was very impressive for someone who’s never lived in London, but he just goes, “That is not that many times.” Which I thought was hilarious. And it was a great lesson in, don’t tell people you’re a fan of them. Everyone just wants to hang out no matter who they are. So just hang out.
This is great. Thank you. You didn’t hurt yourself when you fell out of the chair, right? Because I’m not liable for that.
You are liable and I won’t really know till tomorrow after the MRI.
Okay. I look forward to ignoring that bill then.
Thank you, Jason. Cheers.