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The Ted Lasso Cast Talked About How the Show Has Inspired the World at PaleyFest

Mentorship and Empathy

Ted Lasso holds a cup of tea.

The virtual panels at this year’s PaleyFest, celebrating some of the best in television, continued today, with new content from Lovecraft Country and The Good Doctor joining panels from The Queen’s Gambit and What We Do In The Shadows, which we covered earlier today, as well as a 20th-anniversary reunion of Six Feet Under. But the panel we were most excited to watch featured maybe our favorite show of the last six months: Ted Lasso.

Patton Oswalt led a panel featuring executive producer Bill Lawrence, along with the cast: Jason Sudekis (Ted Lasso), Hannah Waddingham (Rebecca Welton), Brendan Hunt (Coach Beard), Jeremy Swift (Higgins), Brett Goldstein (Roy Kent), Phil Dunster (Jamie Tartt), Nick Mohammed (Nate Shelley), and Juno Temple (Keely Jones). And in case you didn’t know this, not only is Jason Sudekis a writer and producer on the show, both Brett Goldstein and Brendan Hunt are part of the writer’s room too.

The panel opened with praise from the show from Oswalt himself, who gushed about something everyone who has watched the show has experienced: how wonderful it feels to recommend this series to someone, just knowing how much joy it’s going to bring them. But how did this show become such a source of joy and why do we love it?

Jason Sudekis had a theory that it’s really about the characters and letting them have “micro arcs” so that when a character you’ve cared about does something big for them, but maybe not for the world, you care about it. Also, according to Bill Lawrence, what really frees the writers up to insert character moments and subtle scenes as they build things carefully is that the writers have a very clear beginning middle, and end of the story mapped out to work with. The writers know how this all will end, but the actors don’t, but that helps them.

The theme that came up many times in the panel was how much empathy we as an audience feel for these characters, and how the actors themselves connected to the stories and relished how they were able to make characters that might have been one-dimension supporting parts are villains much more because every character is the hero of their own story. And to play that requires empathy from writers and actors. Dunster touched on how Jamie may be unsufferable sometimes on screen, but to play him he has to have empathy for where he’s been and where he thinks he’s going, even if the audience may hate him.

And empathy is a key to another big theme of the show that Bill Lawrence wanted to emphasize: Mentorship. Mentorship and love don’t fix you, Lawrence made clear, they show you a different path that can be better for you. And the entirety of the show is about different people reaching up to help others rather than compete with them or knock them down. We see that between every character in this show and that’s how they grow and get better, and it’s a theme Sudekis especially brought up to the writers and wanted to weave into the show.

And I think that’s why this show had struck such a chord with audiences: it shows us a person whose whole thing is empathy and faith and mentorship for those around us, and that’s such an important thing to see after a year when we have all been beaten down so thoroughly. Juno Temple described how the show came on while “the world was weeping” and was such an “uplifting thing to watch” because it’s so gentle and hopeful. Brendan Hunt also talked about how the series and Ted remind us to keep in mind that everyone has a story they are living through right now.

We could all be a little bit like Ted, but as Bill Lawrence mentioned at the end of the panel, we also need to trust people like Ted when we meet them and not just judge things immediately. Being the hero of your own story sometimes means taking a hard look at how you see your supporting characters and reevaluating that, and Ted Lasso encourages us to believe things might not be as bad as we think.

(via: Yahoo, image: Apple TV)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.