Jason Sudeikis says time spent working in Europe early on in his career “dispelled” all his assumptions about the UK and taught him that Americans and the British are a lot more similar than we might think.
The Saturday Night Live comedian grew up in Kansas City, but spent a year-and-a-half working at a theatre in Amsterdam called Boom Chicago.
Sudeikis told the Sky News Backstage podcast: “The lesson I learnt from that, [is that in] the macro we’re all a lot more similar. Which is why I think the success of British shows as recently as Fleabag or I May Destroy You, or as genre shifting as the British Office, those things are hits over here too, because they speak to the human experience.”
The meeting of two cultures is a theme Sudeikis explores in his latest TV project Ted Lasso, which he both co-wrote and stars in.
The Apple TV+ show is based on short films that Sudeikis starred in to promote NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League back in 2013 and 2014.
In it, Sudeikis plays the titular Lasso, an American football coach who heads to England to teach “soccer” despite knowing absolutely nothing about the beautiful game.
Sudeikis describes the superhumanly nice character as “the best version of me,” joking that his wife (actress and director Olivia Wilde) and two children may wish he was more like Ted.
He adds: “If you can spend a quarter of your day looking through the glasses that Ted sees the world through, I think it makes it that much more fun to wake up the next morning.”
Away from the clash of different cultures, Sudeikis sees the opposing worlds of sport and the arts as natural bedfellows.
A basket-ball player in his youth, he says: “There’s no bigger fan of the arts than athletes and musicians. When they’re on their tour buses they’re ingesting the things that people create – and those people are people they might have picked on in high school.”
He goes on: “We’re not all who we think we are by the echo chamber of whatever little community we’re in. I love it when the athletes are speaking about their emotion, especially a group of men.”
And while there is the potential for lots of laddy banter in a show about a team of young football players, Sudeikis says it’s more subtle than that: “There’s elements of it in there. But I like when they’re smarter than we think they should be or more connected to their emotions.”
The 10 half-hour shows were all filmed in the UK ahead of lockdown, predominantly in Richmond in southwest London.
Sudeikis says one thing that did surprise him was the British weather: “We got really lucky for some reason that it wasn’t as grey and rainy.
“Everyone from Dickens to Rowling will make you feel like you’re going to get a cloudy, rainy, dreary, foggy, Sherlock Holmes-type experience. And we were somehow blessed with a lot of sun.”
Ted Lasso also stars Juno Temple, Brendan Hunt, Hannah Waddingham and Nick Mohammed and is available on Apple TV+ now.
Hear more from the interview and a review of the show on this week’s episode of Backstage – Sky News’ entertainment podcast.