Continuing our countdown to Ted Lasso, we're featuring our interview with two actors from the show, Hannah Waddingham and Jeremy Swift.
All around the world, people know Waddingham from her role on Game of Thrones, even if they're unable to recognize her immediately. She played the nun who famously shamed Cersei Lannister as she walked the city.
She's also starred on Sex Education and has had roles on Krypton and 12 Monkeys. Swift is a prolific actor best known to US audiences from playing Spratt on Downton Abbey.
Together, they represent the new ownership of the Richmond AFC team on Ted Lasso. Waddingham plays Rebecca, the woman scorned hoping to tear down the franchise her philandering husband built that she won in the divorce.
Swift plays her right hand, former right hand to said husband, providing the two characters an arc that requires them to work closely together but without the pleasantries of their time before Rebecca's divorce.
Waddingham was familiar with the promotional videos on which Ted Lasso is based. "When they told me the premise of it, I was like, 'Hold on. Isn't that, isn't that thing, the guy where, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah.' And so I just, I couldn't believe my luck.
"And then when I went out and met Jason for it, and he and I had a little bit of time to see if we had any chemistry, it's one of those things where you don't dare allow yourself to dream that you might actually get a chance to play such a brilliantly fleshed out human, very, very human character. And then I got it. So, that was a very drunken day, my friend," Waddingham laughed.
Rebecca is a very layered character perfectly suited to Waddingham's talents. "I think on face value, people will decide who they think she is very, very early on because she's become a master at letting people see what she wants them to see because she's had years of experience being on Rupert's arm.
"But the biggest thing for me was finding a way to show her vulnerability and fragility and then suddenly snap it shut again. And I'm very grateful for the relationship that she has with Higgins that has all the pain of her past, but also, they do naturally have a banter, and that allowed me the humorous moments as well."
Swift had done a couple of movies with Warner Brothers, but it was through a British casting director that he got directly involved. "I went in, and I had sides, and I thought it was very funny, but I didn't know what the whole show was about.
"So I just did it. And it was one of those castings where I thought, 'Well, I'd love to do that.' And then I got the script because they said they were 'you're their favorite.' I was like, 'oh, no, don't tell me that. Oh no, no," he laughed.
"I was so excited to get it because it's been my dream to do an American comedy for a long time. And although this is set the UK, it's got American sitcom, high-quality writing, and production values about it. And Higgins is a great character.
"He's a bit of the history of the club, really. He's one of the people who's been around the longest time for Richmond, and because he used to work for Rupert, of course, he had to do some really uncomfortably bad stuff that he's very, very ashamed and guilty about. And that's what Rebecca uses for her revenge and her cunning plan. So he's drawn into all that."
While the characters do butt heads because of Higgins' involvement with Rebecca's husband, they have some cracking dialogue.
"You know, they did have a bit of fun," Swift said. "there's a great dynamic, comedy dynamic to them because he's trying to appease her, and she just shuts it down and dismisses it."
Waddingham agreed. "You can see that they obviously used to go and have lunches or a coffee, or whatever. And they were pals, which is what makes it worse for Rebecca. She not only had her heart ripped out by Rupert, but she's also had a big slap around the face from somebody that she thought was her confidant and friend. And that's just awful, Jeremy Swift."
Swift retorted, "Yeah. I didn't write it; my God!"
Before Ted's arrival, it seems that Higgins might have been a bit of a stuffed suit at the office, not because he wanted to be but because that's the role he was cast to play for the team.
"He's definitely... Yeah. Well, you'd almost say lubricated by Ted to get out of that suit," Swift laughed before Waddingham chided him on his language.
"And I'm regretting it already," he continued, "but yeah, Ted kind of works his magic with Higgins very quickly. And so it's obviously after Rupert, who's a quite toxic manipulative undermining character, Ted's very open and playful and warm. So he's very taken with that. It kind of improves him, really."
If you read our Ted Lasso review and the earlier interview in which Juno Temple was featured, you know there is a lovely relationship that blossoms between her character, Keeley, and Waddingham's character, Rebecca.
"That was just so lovely to play because Juno and I had never met and are now firm friends because of it," Waddingham said. "And we just totally fell in love with each other, from the word go. And I think Jason and Brendan observed that so brilliantly.
"I mean, we could see them writing it in. We could just see them writing in our banter together. How lovely for the writers to present a female-female dynamic between two different generations of female."
Playing such a dynamic character was a joy to play, Waddingham said. "Some of the rewrites were my biggest privilege because there were often chunks... I mean, I think Jason annoyingly realized quite early on that I almost functioned better when I don't know whether the script is in my head or not.
"Because he just changed it for the gazillionth time. And when the person who's written it is there, right in front of your face, you kind of want to get it right.
"But the ebb and flow of her emotions coming in and out of one monologue was just... I had to concentrate like a crazy lunatic to try and hit the marks he wanted me to hit, but what a privilege to have been afforded. I've never had that before, and I hope I've done her justice."
Swift said, "Of course you have, darling. I think it's what every actor wants. And it's a show with a lot of depth, and it's a very funny show, and it discovers stuff about people as you go along, and that's just really something to relish as a viewer. What's not to like about finding other stuff in your character and being taken on a journey? It's the best for an actor."
Ted Lasso is in a unique position to marry the loves of American Football with international football, aka soccer. A coach without knowledge of the game offers opportunities for culture clashes on and off the pitch.
Swift said that there's "a lot of that in the show," and since it will be in countries all over the world, he anticipates everyone will be able to imagine themselves in the positions of the characters, depending upon where they reside.
Waddingham agreed. "I think it just shows you that we are actually the same the world over. People have their misgivings about things, and there's the funny side of it all as well.
"But, at the heart of it, all that I see... I'm just basically talking for myself, all that I see when I see American Football is loads of blokes and shoulder pads running around and jacking a ball up in the air. And with British Football, I just see a load of people, very sweaty, but with very nice eyes. So that is my only opinion on American Football and Soccer," she laughed.
So I had to try and concentrate on the kind of humanity of it all. And it was quite nice that there were moments when Rebecca actually starts to give a crap about it all. I was like, 'Oh, this I can definitely identify with.' Because she's like, 'Oh, actually, I am enjoying this football match.' There's a bit when she says, 'I've forgotten how stressful it is when you actually give a shit.'"
So, do you need to understand or even watch soccer to enjoy Ted Lasso? Not by a longshot. And we'll continue proving our point with more interviews with the cast and writers, culminating with a piece with Jason Sudeikis before the show premieres.
Ted Lasso drops three episodes on Friday, August 14, on Apple TV+ and subsequent episodes will drop weekly.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.