Season 3 of Jason Sudeikis' "Ted Lasso" premieres on Wednesday. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, March 15 (UPI) -- Emmy-winning actor Jason Sudeikis says more pressure existed going into Season 3 of Ted Lasso because this was the first time the cast and crew were keenly aware of audience expectations while they were filming the sports dramedy.
"The first one was made in the bubble of it not existing and being this invisible thing. Then, even by the time we were shooting the second season, we had already written it without knowing the reception of it," Sudeikis, the show's star and co-creator, told reporters in a recent Zoom press conference.
Premiering Wednesday on Apple TV+, Season 3 was about "keeping the bar at the level we'd had for ourselves the first two years and just trying to clear that by the skin of our buns," Sudeikis said.
Co-starring Hannah Waddingham, Nick Mohammed, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Anthony Head, the show follows the titular American college football coach who unexpectedly reinvigorates the British soccer team he takes over as he deals with his own personal and professional challenges.
"It is very funny in places and very serious and very sad," Goldstein said about the tone for the show's final 12 episodes.
Hunt added: "There are people who love each other. There are people who apologize. People who kick a ball around. Everything. Everything we did before is back, but in different shapes."
Looking back over the last three years, Sudeikis said he still is surprised that they were allowed to tell this story, which has expanded and evolved over the years.
"There are certain elements of the journey that are preplanned, but you never know how something is going to go," he said, adding that Season 1 could have "bitten the dust," leaving the story and characters in very different places than they will now.
Bringing in new people to write and act in the show in the subsequent seasons took it in directions Sudeikis said he couldn't have imagined.
"You get the lovely agitation of other people's ideas and the way people view the material, and then you cast folks in it, and the invisible becomes invisible and they start to feel ownership over it," Sudeikis said.
"You just start to drink up how they are or what you love seeing them do," he said. "All those things -- the fact that it has harmonized so well within the endeavor of production has been a wonderful surprise, but one that I like to think we were kind of manifesting and were hoping for."
Waddingham said she was eager to explore Rebecca Welton's enthusiastic support of the team she owns in Season 3.
"I was able to lean into being the figurehead of it and when you see how Season 3 unfolds, I couldn't have asked for anything more. I wouldn't tell them to their faces that they gave me everything I wanted, but they did," she said.
"In Season 2, she was head-down and introverted a bit," the actress added. "We see 'feisty Welton' coming out a little bit, which I love. It was very satisfying."
Waddingham said she appreciates that the show's writers' room is "staunchly feminist" and crafted complex characters for her and Juno Temple to play in a cast and story populated largely by men.
"You feel it all the time," Waddingham said. "It's made me realize how much in other things I've constantly been fighting for the woman's voice to be heard, whether it's my age group -- mid-40s -- or Juno's age group as Keeley in her 30s. We are both fed beautifully."
Sudeikis credited the show's success, in part, to the fact it offered hope and heart when it was released in August 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when many people were depressed and stuck in their homes.
"I would have preferred that people could have gone on date nights and kids could have gone to school and played with their friends, but if we helped folks through that weird, odd, and in some cases still ongoing time, I'm very very happy to have obliged," he said.
Being able to shoot the second season after lockdowns and travel restrictions were relaxed made the cast and crew feel as close to normal as possible at that time.
"It was thrilling and healing," he said, adding fans shouldn't feel it's necessary to say, "I know you hear this a lot. ..." before telling the show's stars how much they connected to it and how grateful they were for the laughs during such a difficult time.
"We do [hear it a lot], but also it doesn't mean it doesn't matter," Sudeikis said. "It is still warming and flattering."