Here at BYT we’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching Ted Lasso (concrete evidence from Svetlana) on Apple TV+; the series (which has officially been renewed for a second season) follows the story of titular character Ted Lasso, an American football coach who winds up leading an English Premier League squad. (As you can imagine, hijinks ensue.)
The show was actually born out of an NBC promo after the network acquired Premier League rights; as most Americans know, soccer (which we’ll now refer to as football because that’s what it is) is not the most wildly popular stateside sport, but maybe if Jason Sudeikis could rally us all via comedic sketch it’d be a different story.
Whether or not more people were convinced to tune into matches, the Sudeikis skit got its claws into us, and some years down the road we’ve got a full-fledged (and fantastic) TV series out of it. I recently spoke with one of the cast members, French actor Stephen Manas, about how he landed the dream role of French international Richard Montlaur.
“I was at Cannes last year, which is where I met an agent who focuses on international castings; many Parisian agents only cast for French productions, and it’s only a very small amount of people who have access to those castings. My English isn’t perfect, but I wanted to try some international work, so I decided to see what would happen, and not even a month later I got my first casting for Ted Lasso. The process was very fast; after I sent in a tape they confirmed I had the role, and the next thing I knew I was on a flight to London to start shooting,” he said.
And what’d he think of his time there? “My god it’s cold! But it’s close to Paris via the Eurostar, so sometimes when I had days off I was able to go back home, which was cool for me. But the people are lovely in London, and there’s so much diversity; people are from everywhere. It’s great.”
Of course, he was mainly there to work, and to get fully immersed in his role as a French footballer. “My character doesn’t speak English, and he’s trying to make himself understood to the coach, so he always needs a translator here and there. That’s what makes it so funny. And they gave me a bit of freedom with my lines, which is always good when it’s a comedy. But even if I tried something and it wasn’t working, Brendan [Hunt], Jason [Sudeikis] or whoever it might be would be really helpful in suggesting other ideas. You’re always learning; it’s been great.”
When he wasn’t shooting, he and the rest of the actors comprising the fictional AFC Richmond squad did actual football training to keep fit.
“We had to train when we started shooting, but they were very specific in asking for the talent to have some basic skills in football. Luckily for me I’d done two years of competitive football when I was young, and I’d always kind of kept up practicing, so I felt comfortable. Once we were all in London, they hired many professional footballers for the tactical training to teach us how to place ourselves on the pitch, and what kinds of strategies we could use to film. Some days we weren’t shooting, but we’d still be practicing to keep ourselves in shape.”
Is it a hobby he keeps up when he’s not on set? Well, yes and no. He told me, “I only play with my friends and family; it’s something that almost everybody plays on weekends and holidays, but I personally don’t play that much, because it’s still a contact sport, and people (at least in France) get too competitive. They play too hard, and you can get hurt quite easily.”
For Manas, it’s often much more fun to watch matches instead. “I was in Japan when France won the World Cup, and the French community all got together to watch. It was really fun. (I actually wonder if France winning the World Cup had anything to do with my Ted Lasso casting!) But currently I’m supporting PSG (Paris Saint-Germain), a domestic side based here in Paris.”
He hopes to eventually get back to England for a second season of filming, but all of that is still to be seen. “I know they’re writing season two; I’m not sure if I’m going to be in it, so all I can do is stay healthy and in good shape for a hypothetical appearance,” he said.
In the meantime, whoever is in charge of Apple TV+ should absolutely be giving Manas a bonus, because from what it sounds like, he’s recruiting the whole of France to get on board with the previously borderline-unheard-of streaming service.
“I knew about Apple TV, but I wasn’t aware of Apple TV+ as a platform before this. It’s only €5 a month, though, and it’s got a lot of series in addition to Ted Lasso that are really cool; I started telling all my friends and family to get it, and now everyone around me has it.”
Featured photo by Claude Pocobene