Brett Goldstein Is 'Probably' a Nicer Person Now, Thanks to 'Ted Lasso'
The Emmy nominee on love, death, and Roy Kent.
Brett Goldstein doesn't sound like Roy Kent, the perpetually pissed-off footballer he plays on the Apple TV+ streaming sensation Ted Lasso. The actor's voice isn't stuck in Roy's low growl. It's smoother, more easygoing. Before we spoke earlier this month over Zoom when he was at a hotel in New York, Goldstein hadn't really thought much about how he found the Roy sound. But suddenly it dawned on him. "Here's what I hadn't thought about," he says. "It's partly a kind of intimidating, grizzled thing. But I also think it comes from—and I'd never thought about it and I finally found it with you, so thank you—is that he's fucking repressed. He's a cauldron of feelings and he keeps it all in and I think it pulls him down. And that is partly where the voice comes from. He's not open and singing. It's all in here. It's all being held in." As he trails off he slips into Roy, that roughness entering through his throat.
Goldstein didn't join Ted Lasso to play Roy Kent. The comedian was hired as a writer first, but found himself drawn to the character, who in the first season is AFC Richmond's faded star and in the second, which debuted last week, is retired, cranky, and trying out a career in broadcasting. He was recently nominated for his first Emmy, a life-changing achievement. "The best part of it is I'm now Emmy-nominee Brett Goldstein forever, regardless of what I do," he says. "You know, 'Emmy-nominee Brett Goldstein goes on a killing spree.' I could do anything and the story sounds better. So that's great."
Ted Lasso has a reputation for being almost relentlessly upbeat, like its titular character, the loquacious American football coach played by Jason Sudeikis who is recruited to lead a British football, as in soccer, club. Roy is Ted's natural foil, a consummate grump, but deep down a softie. Goldstein, as his previous comment about his Emmy nomination implies, has a dark side. When he's not playing Roy, he hosts a podcast called Films to Be Buried With, where he asks his guests what DVD they would want tucked in their coffin. "I hate small talk," he says. "What else is there to talk about other than what all happens when we die and what does it all mean?" He was so convinced he could play Roy because like Roy he's "fucking angry." (He also has Roy's propensity for cursing.) "I'm better behaved than Roy is, I suppose, but the fury that he has, the boiling cauldron of rage? I sort of have it, is the truth," he says.
Goldstein was raised in London in a household where football was a religion. "My dad is essentially a football hooligan," he says. "I grew up with a Tottenham fan and Tottenham is the most important thing in his life including his children." In university, Goldstein studied film and feminism, and then went to work in a strip club his father bought in a midlife crisis, an experience he recounted in a show that ran at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Before Ted Lasso, he starred in and co-wrote the dark superhero parody SuperBob, appeared in the Ricky Gervais series Derek, and wrote for various shows in the UK. Around the same time that Ted Lasso was finishing up its first season on Apple TV+ last fall, the anthology he co-created, Soulmates, dropped on AMC.
When Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence reached out to Goldstein about joining the writing staff, there was a bit of fate involved. In the original commercials for NBC Sports' coverage of the Premier League that served as the inspiration for the series, Ted coached Tottenham, Goldstein's father's favorite club. It's fitting. Ted Lasso trades in questions of fathers and sons and how to crack the facade of masculinity. It's a communication style Goldstein recognized.
"I don't want to generalize, I'm sure there are many many exceptions to this, but it seems a typically masculine thing that men who are not emotionally articulate communicate through sport and not looking at each other to have big conversations," he says. "So part of why fathers and sons go to games is they are sat next to each other, they are both facing outwards, but a conversation can happen that feels easier than if they were facing each other. I know that with me and my dad we talk about football every time I speak to him and it's how we communicate and we're saying 'I love you,' but what I'm saying is 'how was the game?' and 'any news on Tottenham.'" Goldstein's dad always wanted him to be a footballer. Now he is one. Just on television.
In the writers' room for Ted Lasso's second season, Goldstein tried to devote his attention to all characters equally, even though he's protective of Roy. He admits he was probably more a "nightmare" about his beloved creation than he was the first time around when he hadn't played him yet. "In our heart of hearts Brett and I both think we are talented people and can do good work, but we are also kind of shy, don't make a fuss over us, please," says Ted Lasso co-creator Brendan Hunt, who, like Goldstein, has a role on the show, as Coach Beard. "But in the end all we care about in the writers' room is the story and are able to separate ourselves at least enough to continue that service." This year, Roy is grappling with his newfound life as an ex-footballer, something he'd never thought he'd be. He's desperately in love with Juno Temple's Keeley Jones, and a loving uncle to his niece Phoebe, but he doesn't exactly know what he should be doing.
After lockdown, Goldstein was thankful to be able to get on set, and quite literally kick a ball around with his teammates. Though he was raised on football, his appreciation for the game has only grown since joining AFC Richmond. "It's mad how comforting it is to stand around with a group of guys kicking a ball about, like when we're chatting in between takes," he says. He also suspects that Roy's pissed-off nature and repression has relieved some of his own burdens. "It probably makes me a nicer person," he speculates. "And I'm probably less angry because I get it out. I'm probably really lovely now, because of Roy."