By all accounts, it sure seems like Nick Mohammed loves playing Nate Shelley. On “Ted Lasso,” the British comedian has gone from playing the underdog soccer club’s brooding misfit team staffer to an assistant coach to — as some might categorize him — the show’s most recognizable villain as the new manager of West Ham.
Yet, even as Nate enters Season 3 of “Ted Lasso” on the outs with his former AFC Richmond pals, Mohammed is playing the part in more ways than one. At a recent virtual press day for the show’s farewell season, the actor was sporting a West Ham shirt.
For viewers of the show who aren’t also avid followers of the sport, Mohammed is likely the face of a club that outside of the show is a real-life Premier League team. (Right now, West Ham is one spot clear of relegation on the EPL table.) In an IndieWire interview, Mohammed said that he’s enjoying the chance to blur the line between reality and fiction a little bit.
“In my head, AFC Richmond was also a real club, but obviously it’s not. It’s fictional,” Mohammed said. “I occasionally retweet stuff that West Ham put out on match days. It’s very tongue in cheek, because then people pile in as if I’m the coach of West Ham for real. That’s always a delight.”
Season 3 picks up roughly where the last one left off: Nate still has a fraught relationship with his parents, he’s still harboring some resentment toward AFC Richmond, and his hair is still a Dark Side grey. But getting back in front of the camera was a much different feel filming this season. Rather than having to lay the foundation for a heel turn, Mohammed was coming into Season 3 with a much different objective.
“It was definitely another challenge, and something that I relished. Season 2, Nate had been taking a lovable character and making the audience dislike him. Not that Season 3 is about taking a disliked character and making them likable again, but there has to be sort of an element of trying to see things from Nate’s point of view. Otherwise, why are tracking this story?” Mohammed said. “I am mildly intrigued/apprehensive about seeing what people’s reaction are to it. It’s up for the audience to decide whether they have the capacity within them to forgive Nate for what he did. For some people, he absolutely crossed the line at the end of Season 2, and there’s no going back. For others, they might have it in them to forgive him or want to see that redemption, but it’s not clean-cut by any means. It’s far more nuanced than that.”
Courtesy of Apple
The first episode of the season gives a little insight into Nate’s ability as an actual coach. Time will tell whether he becomes the dictatorial manager that he seemed on the path to becoming. For now, his most telling moment in the premiere sees him berating a West Ham player for messing up during practice and making him stand on “the Dum-Dum line.” Mohammed said he struggled with that moment when he first read it in the script, but after talking it over with Jason Sudeikis — “it was a Jason line” — he started to unpack how this might just set the Nate tone for the rest of the season.
“It’s quite a childish thing to say, right? Nate’s sort of treating them like school children. He’s never really been in that position before,” Mohammed said. “He’s read a book on how to exert your authority in the classroom or something and he’s just trying to do it on the pitch. And clearly, I think the West Ham players don’t have any respect for him for doing it in that kind of way. But Nate believes that it’s brilliant. That’s classic Nate, him thinking that he has authority or some kind of status when, actually, we see his true colors very, very clearly.”
Near the close of the episode, Nate faces his first big press conference as West Ham manager. What should be a moment of him solidifying his place in a dream job becomes a nightmare public speaking scenario. So, of course, no “Nate in turmoil” moment is complete without a little self-psych-up spitting. The latest in a long line of messy saliva-centered moments, it was as unsettling for Mohammed to do on set as it is for some viewers to watch.
“COVID was still knocking around. It was a really difficult thing to film. After every take, people come in with masks and wipe everything down. It’s just not very pleasant, really. It’s obviously it’s not the kind of thing that I would necessarily do in real life,” Mohammed said. “What that has led to symbolize for Nate, that’s obviously not a good thing for him. The fact that he’s still spitting is not great stuff for him. It shows that he’s still got a lot of learning to do.”
“Ted Lasso” releases new episodes every Wednesday on Apple TV+.