Brett Goldstein Talks ‘Ted Lasso,’ His Emmy Win & His “Surreal” Hercules Marvel Casting [Interview]
Dec 23, 2022
In the span of three years, Brett Goldstein’s life has completely changed. The British actor, comedian, podcast host, and writer saw himself inexplicably join the ensemble of what turned out to be Apple TV+’s first breakout show, “Ted Lasso.” That role saw him win the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy for his performance as the aging football player Roy Kent in the show’s first season. Now he’s nominated in the same category for the second year in a row. He is also the co-creator and executive producer of another new Apple TV+ series, “Shrinking,” currently in production starring Harrison Ford and Jason Segal. Oh, and now he’s a Marvel Studios god, er, superhero.
READ MORE: “Thor: Love & Thunder”: Taika Waititi explains how Brett Goldstein’s cameo came about
Currently in the middle of shooting the third and final season of “Ted Lasso” as well as producing the LA-based “Shrinking” (somehow via zoom from the U.K.), Goldstein says his appearance as the MCU version of Hercules in the end credits of Taika Watiti’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” came out of nowhere. He was asked to get on a zoom call with some people from Marvel and had no idea what it was for. He said the entire experience was “surreal.”
The London-born Goldstein recalls, “It was literally out of the blue one night, and I was very busy, and it was like, ‘Can you make time for a Zoom?’ ‘Yes, sure.’ And they go on Zoom, and they just told me what you see in the film, which is they sort of opened with, ‘So Russell Crowe is Zeus,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, go on.’ And blah, blah, blah. And then they turn around, and they reveal, ‘It’s Hercules; it’s you.’ And I went, ‘What?’ Just like, ‘Are you serious? Are you f**king with me? Is this a wind-up?’ So yeah, it was as surprising to me as I think it has been to other people.”
Goldstein admits he’s been surprised and “delighted” by the positive response. He only had two weeks to prep for the scene, and he jokes that he did 400 hundred pushups to get as pumped as possible for the shot.
“In a way, that was an experience that I haven’t had for a long time, where I had no involvement in the behind-the-scenes of it,” Goldstein says. “Look, you’re in f**king good hands. They make really good shit. Do you know what I mean? And Taika Waititi’s fucking brilliant, so it was like, “I’m in the best hands possible.” But it’s amazing. Who knows if anything will come of it? Who knows, but it was a fun thing to do, and I’m pleased that people seem to have enjoyed it.”
No, Goldstein has no idea when he’ll return as Hercules, but he’s got enough on his plate now. During our interview, he discussed his good fortune at yet another Emmy nod, whether his mother will ever return his Emmy award, the joy of working with co-star (and fellow Emmy nominee) Juno Temple, how he’s juggling “Lasso,” “Shrinking” and standup gigs, and how being this busy is pretty much a dream come true (although we think at least a short vacation is in order).
The Playlist: First off, congrats on the Emmy nomination.
Brett Goldstein: Thanks, man. Wild, isn’t it?
It is wild but deserved. What was your reaction this time around as compared to last year?
I think it felt so complete last year. It was so insane last year and so surprising and so complete that it ended up being the same because I just sort of assumed that was it. You know what I mean? I didn’t think there was more. I wasn’t greedy; I was like, this unbelievable thing happened for all of us, surely that’s the end of that. So I think, I mean, it’s difficult, isn’t it? Because you don’t want to think about it and you don’t. And to be honest, we were in the writers’ room for “Ted Lasso” and we had kind of forgot about it, but Brendan had his phone under the table and then just very quietly went, “This has been nominated. This has been nominated. This has been nominated.” And we were like, “What the f**k?” So my reaction was similarly shocked and delighted, and it just feels … it’s ridiculous. I’m from Sutton. It’s ridiculous.
Everyone’s from somewhere. It can’t be that. But I do have to ask, you won last year, where do you keep your Emmy?
Well, the answer to that at the moment is that my mum has it. I was in L.A. so I had it shipped back to my mum to look after, but she now won’t let it go. So in a way, it would be nice to win another one purely so I actually have an Emmy because at the moment I don’t have one. My mum does, and she’s not letting it go. That’s the truth. My mum just sends me pictures of her with the Emmy quite regularly. She seems to be having a lovely time with it.
I actually haven’t seen it since the ceremony, because the only chance I get to see is at my mum’s house. That’s like her way of getting me around to tell her.
Clearly. So, you’re still shooting season three, right?
Yeah, we’re in the middle of shooting it. I don’t know how near the end. We’re two-thirds through maybe?
But you’re in a different place than you were before last year because you guys had already started shooting season two when season one came out, correct?
Yes, that’s it. We were already writing season two, yes. Is your question, is the expectation different this time?
Yes, or did it put more pressure on you guys because the show has become a phenomenon? Especially with it just being three seasons, did you feel like everyone felt pressure?
I mean, truthfully, yeah. It’s hard to say because I certainly did. I was certainly aware of it before we started season three. And you’re right when we did season two we didn’t know what the reaction was. So, season two was, I guess, purer. Going in, we had no idea what the expectations were or what people thought of characters and stuff like that. So, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered that this time around in terms of, “F**king hell, it better be good because people really like it.” Whereas before, we didn’t know anyone would watch it so it was fine. But equally, the skill you have to learn, like all these things, is you just have to forget everything because as lovely as it is that people care, and it is really wonderful and surprising, it isn’t good to think about that because it will get in your head and mess with what you’re doing, and what we are doing is what we were always going to do. I don’t think Jason has changed a single part of the plan based on what people are saying or thinking. So, we’re sticking to the plan as the plan was. And you’d go f**king mad if you really thought about it all, so you just have to go, “Oh wow, isn’t that amazing?” and then put it out of your mind. And luckily I was thinking this today when I was on set. I was like, “We’re very lucky because we film in the middle of nowhere and we’re very separate.” So, when we go to visit L.A. and you meet people and there’s a real sense of “Wow, people really care about this show. That’s amazing,” that isn’t our day-to-day life. Our day-to-day life is we’re on an island making this thing and all we see is each other. And so it’s easier to put all that stuff out of your mind while you’re making it.
I don’t know what part of the U.K. you guys are shooting it in, but if you get a coffee isn’t the barista asking you 10 questions about what’s going to happen to Roy and Keeley in season three?
Yeah. I mean, sure, if you go out to get coffee, but we never do that. Never leave the set, lock yourselves in the set. We’ve all been locked in the set for months. I haven’t seen the outside world.
You thought you were going to escape the pandemic and the bubble, but you haven’t.
You mentioned how Jason always had a plan for the show. Has Roy’s arc changed since when you first came on board? Has it gone in the direction you anticipated?
It’s hard to say because I forget how these things happen. As in, because it’s such a long and gradual process, I think what kind of happens is Jason has almost flags in the sand of the journey. I know this happens, I know this happens, I know this happens. So let’s say there are three things in a season for each character or whatever, and then it becomes, “How do we get to this point and that point and this point?” So, the sort of points I think are fixed, but I didn’t know all the points going in. At the beginning of the season, it’s quite complicated because I don’t have a simple answer. There was a general three-arc structure in terms of I always knew what the ending was from the beginning, but things are different. It’s a fucking tapestry. And also, the show’s like [“The Simpson’s”] Springfield, there are so many characters in it now. And so many characters that I’m sure weren’t thought of on day one, that was a guest star that we put in a thing but then they turned out to be brilliant so now they’re in it more. Do you know what I mean? There are many, many detours that this thing takes that have grown and been enriched by the cast and whatever. But the big, big, the big arcs are these big arcs, as they’ve always been. Does that make sense?
Yes, it does. But you’re in the writers’ room and whether it’s season two or season three, you have all these characters but you know you have to get to the endpoint. Who’s the person that wrangles everybody in and says, “That’s a great idea. We can’t do this; it takes too much time in an episode that’s too off the course”? Because the show does take swings and leaps.
The final decision is always Jason’s. So, you have this kind of whatever you want to call it, hive mind, and it all gets filtered towards this last checkpoint, which is Jason. He’s the one that will say, “Yes, no, more like this, less like this, absolutely not.”
In this timeline, last month you were working on the show or you guys are writing the show, I don’t know, when did you start shooting season three?
Oh no, we’ve been shooting for months, but we were also, we were just doing some work on the final. I can’t really, I don’t think I’m allowed to say it, but we were just doing …
It’s OK You were shooting something.
So, we’ve been shooting for months, yes.
Have you shot “Shrinking” yet?
Yeah. “Shrinking” finishes filming next week.
So, you’re not day to day on “Shrinking.”
I’m on Zoom. So I’ve basically been doing “Ted Lasso” by day and “Shrinking” by night, which is in L.A. So, I’ve been overseeing “Shrinking” as much as I can. I see all the dailies, I’m writing, I’m on Zooms with the writers, I’ve written scripts for it, I’m overseeing it. But, I realized this today: the team is so good, that writers’ room, those writers are great and the showrunner we have is great and Bill [Lawrence] knows what he’s doing, and it has been less stressful than I thought it would be. And that is partly, it’s all the things you learn. I am an obsessive perfectionist, but I have kind of learned with “Shrinking” it’s like, “Oh yeah, I can go to bed. It’s in good hands. They know what they’re doing with this scene.” This is great. I’m happy.
Does that make you more confident about producing more shows down the road?
At some point, maybe when I’m dead, I do need to address my work-life balance for sure.
Well, I guess that’s my next question for you. You have a burgeoning career in front of the camera and you have a burgeoning career behind the camera. Which one do you feel like you’re continuing to gravitate toward? Do you have more ideas for shows that you want to do? Are you turning down ops because of the schedule of other stuff in front of the camera?
I’ve had to turn down a lot of stuff because of the schedule. I mean, truthfully, look, I hate to say it because I’m sure it’s annoying to listen to but I am the luckiest guy in the world. I’m truly doing what I wanted to do. And like I said before, before “Ted Lasso” I was also doing what I wanted to do, it’s just no one saw it. I’m at this very lucky level where some people seem to be interested in what I’m doing, but I was always just making stuff and doing standup and writing and acting. That hasn’t changed, it’s just on a bigger scale. And I don’t think I can choose between them all because my brain’s always doing something. I love the acting, I love the writing, I love doing standup. I don’t want to not do them.
I haven’t looked at your social media so I apologize for not knowing this, have you even had time to do standup?
Yeah, I’ve also been doing standup, yeah, because I’m insane because if I had a…
Wait, you’re shooting “Ted Lasso,” producing “Shrinking” and doing standup at the same time.
Yeah, no, I mean, I’ve been doing like one or two gigs a week. Whenever, if I’ve had a night off, if it’s a Saturday or Sunday, I’ve been doing a gig. But that’s because I’m not well! [Laughs.]
Have you taken a vacation in the past year?
No, there’s no time for that, but also…look, we can all agree this isn’t exactly healthy. I’m sure if I stopped, I’d completely fall apart. But I half-joke when I say these things about work-life balance, but then there is the reality that I f**king love this stuff. I’m very lucky. So, it isn’t like a chore. Sometimes I think, “Oh, you’re doing too much and you’re fucking stressed,” and sometimes I am, but I’m also like, “But you’re doing the thing you wanted to do.” I’m very lucky. It’s hard to say, “Oh God, I’ve got another gig.” It’s like, “F**king great. That’s part of your life.” I don’t know. I appreciate I do sound insane!
So, you’ve got all this going on and then Kevin Feige calls you, I guess, and says, “Hey, will you shoot something for the end credits of ‘Thor: Love & Thunder.’” When you got the call, did you even know what it was for?
No, I didn’t know what it was for. I was told that some Marvel people would like to have a Zoom with you, and I met with them and it was just so surreal because…it was literally out of the blue one night and I was very busy and it was like, “Can you make time for a Zoom?” “Yes, sure.” And they go on Zoom and they just told me what you see in the film, which is they sort of opened with, “So Russell Crowe is Zeus,” and I’m like, “Yeah, OK, go on.” And blah, blah, blah. And then they turn around and they reveal “It’s Hercules; it’s you.” And I went, “What?” Just like, “Are you serious? Are you f**king with me? Is this a wind-up?” So yeah, it was as surprising to me as I think it has been to other people.
Personally, I didn’t think it was surprising, but, listen, I know you’ve had to keep yourself in really good shape for everything you do on “Ted Lasso.”
Did you feel like, “Oh no, for two weeks I have to starve myself before we shoot this”?
Yeah, when I spoke to Taika, I said, “You know I’m basically like a skinny comedian?” I said, “When is this filming?” It was like in two weeks, and I was like, “I mean, I’ll do my best, but two weeks feels …” I said, “He doesn’t have to be as big as Thor, does he?” And look, on the day, I mean, I’m doing 400 pushups that day. I was fit to explode. I did the best I could on that day, yeah.
It worked! You’re online, you’ve always had a social media presence. Did you care what the reaction was when people saw you? Are you happy that people seem excited that you’re the character?
Yeah. Of course, I care. It would be a real bummer if people weren’t interested. Of course, I care. I have to say I was surprised and delighted, as in it seemed to get a real positive response. And that, it’s amazing. I just, I’m not in charge of what they’re doing or what they want to do. And in a way that was an experience that I haven’t had for a long time, where I had no involvement in the behind-the-scenes of it. Look, you’re in f**king good hands. They make really good shit. You know what I mean? And Taika Waititi’s fucking brilliant, so it was like, “I’m in the best hands possible.” But, it’s amazing. Who knows if anything will come of it, who knows, but it was a fun thing to do and I’m pleased that people seem to have enjoyed it.
Well, I think people will demand that you somehow come back somewhere in something, so fingers crossed for that.
I’m going to eat 30 chickens a day from now on; it will be fine.
Before I let you go to enjoy the rest of your night, about season two and Roy’s journey. Was there one aspect of it that you found the most challenging from an acting perspective?
I wouldn’t say this about challenging, but it was interesting doing season two because, in season one, I was very nervous about this show coming out in season one because I’m taking quite a big swing with that character and there’s a big chance it could not have worked. And again, I didn’t know what the reaction would be and I was very worried that people wouldn’t go for it or whatever. And so the fact that they seemed to, made season two a bit easier in that way, in that you’re a bit more confident, like, “OK, so we’re doing … this is working.” But it was a much different experience in season two because, for the first half of it, I wasn’t with the team who I had been with for the whole time in season one. So I think I was nervous in the beginning, like, “Oh, it’s a completely different journey for him and I’m now not surrounded by the cast that I was surrounded by.” But the huge upside to that is that I was with Juno the whole time. And Juno is, I mean, the best actor in the world and I learned so much from working with her. And look, I think everyone in the cast has this, but I felt it so much about all the scenes I have with Juno, they’re so special to me because it was like, especially when we do stuff in Keeley’s house, it’s like our own little island. We’re away from the main set, it’s just the two of us; it felt so sort of intimate and special. That’s the thing, I’m learning all this stuff as I go. As an actor, I keep saying this, it sounds like a joke but I mean it, she’s a fucking light. She gives you pure light. And so you just have to be there with her and give it back. And so it was such a wonderful thing of feeling really locked into each other that it was great. I just loved those scenes.
Well, all of your scenes together are fantastic. I do hope, by the way, you get a vacation or a couple of weekends to just sort of chill at some point.
One day. One day. One day.
“Ted Lasso” is available on Apple TV+.
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