Long before tote bags, greeting cards, and baby onesies sported Roy Kent’s trademark scowl, Brett Goldstein vied to play Henchman No. 3 in “Kick-Ass 2.” At the audition, a “casting assistant’s assistant,” the actor recalls, presented him with the character’s line: a threat bellowed at Hit-Girl, who then proceeds to sever three of his limbs.
“I just did the line and tried to give it the attitude of the piece,” Goldstein says. The assistant popped out from behind the camera and said, “Um, can you do it again but, like, really lose your arms and leg?” Confused—and trying to suppress thoughts of the eventual prosthetics that would be used to achieve the task—a scarlet-faced Goldstein repeated the line six more times, flinging his elbows behind his back and throwing a foot skyward. “She kept being like, ‘You’re not really losing your arms,’ ” he says with a laugh. “I just was like, ‘What the fuck are we doing?’ ”
The part ultimately went to someone else, but you can consider Goldstein fully recovered. He was recently invited to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this year’s “Thor: Love and Thunder.” “I did not audition,” he says of his surprise mid-credits appearance as Hercules. Director Taika Waititi told Entertainment Tonight that the studio’s president, Kevin Feige, suggested Goldstein for the role. “You know the ‘Men in Black’ memory thing? [Marvel] put that in your face, so I don’t remember any of it, and I don’t know anything,” the actor says of the character’s potential inclusion in any forthcoming blockbusters.
Goldstein has spent two decades in the performing arts, but his career finally soared thanks to “Ted Lasso.” The Apple TV+ hit follows an American football coach (Jason Sudeikis) who journeys across the pond to invigorate a flailing English soccer team. The show’s sophomore season earned 20 Emmy nominations, including a nod for Goldstein as outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series—an award he won last year. If his portrayal of Roy, AFC Richmond’s captain-turned-coach, triumphs again in September, he will be the category’s first consecutive winner in 14 years.
Goldstein, who is also a writer and co-producer on the series, is currently developing new projects for Warner Bros. Television Group, the studio that produces “Ted Lasso.” These include “Shrinking,” an Apple TV+ comedy starring Jason Segel as a therapist, as well as Harrison Ford in his debut as a TV series regular.
“For many, many years I thought, As long as all of these small jobs together add up to enough to pay the rent and go to the cinema, I’m a very lucky boy.”
Thanks to “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones,” Ford has seen himself commemorated on merchandise for decades. But Goldstein finds his own tributes overwhelming. “I get sent pictures of that sort of stuff from friends in other countries: ‘Look what I found!’ and it’s, like, a candle of Roy,” Goldstein says from his London home after a day filming “Ted Lasso” Season 3. “That shit’s fucking mad.”
Amid his growing fame, Goldstein has established his trademark finesse with expletives. On the 2018 premiere episode of his podcast “Films to Be Buried With,” he warned, “There’s probably some swearing from time to time, because I do think it’s cool and clever.”
Roy relies on grunts and growls as much as speech; when he does talk, his frequent use of four-letter words reinforces his deep-rooted anger. He doesn’t share Ted’s optimism, and at the beginning of the series, he “expected the worst from people,” Goldstein explains. Since Roy “doesn’t like himself very much,” he’s unaware that he’s a good person with sharp instincts. “He doesn’t think he deserves happiness,” the actor says of his character, whether it comes from his new job or his romance with the team’s former head of marketing, Keeley Jones (Juno Temple).
From childhood, Goldstein took immense joy in shooting films and staging plays. He originally wanted to be a stuntman. “I used to pretend to be Indiana Jones, and I’d roll down hills with a hat…and jump off roofs with my neighbor,” he says. Prior to graduating from the University of Warwick—where he earned a degree in Film and Feminism—Goldstein began traveling across Britain with a budding theater company that cast him in several David Mamet plays.
His only acting training consists of a summer course at New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he focused on the Meisner technique. As he gained experience as an actor, Goldstein concluded that different methods work best for specific people—and projects.
“Meisner is great, but not always, and Stanislavsky is great, but not always,” he explains. “The reality of screen acting is, I think, unteachable, because the circumstances of it aren’t what it would be like in a school. The reality is there are crews, and there are politics. You might be in [a scene] on a day when it’s like, ‘We don’t have fucking time, and you have to get this in one take,’ and there are days where you can be thoughtful and try stuff.”
Performing in plays revived Goldstein’s interest in writing them, although presenting his ideas to strangers generated harsh criticism compared with the backyard antics of his youth. For example, he poured his “heart and soul” into an Edinburgh Festival Fringe–bound script about relationships, but “the first review we got was a one-star review that said the plot of the play and then said, ‘Who cares?’ ” he recalls.
Acting remained one of his main pursuits, even as he began to notice an alarming pattern: “All I was getting auditions for were terrorists, always terrorists,” Goldstein says. “It took me a while to realize, Oh, I guess if you see my headshot or you don’t know anything about me, maybe you think I look like a terrorist.”
He implores performers to craft their own material in order to triumph over typecasting and get the opportunity to meet future collaborators. “If you are just an actor and you don’t create, you don’t write, you don’t do anything else, you’re literally waiting for a magical hand to come and go, ‘It’s you,’ ” he says. “Aside from creative fulfillment, from a practical point of view, I think you should all make things. Plus, then you’re not sitting around waiting for the fucking phone to ring all day.”
In 2006, he achieved his long-held dream of doing standup comedy. “I was always scared of it, and I put it off for years,” he says. “One day I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’ll be dead one day. I’ll do it once, and I can tell all my grandkids.’ And then I did it, and the first [set] was incredible, and I thought, Oh, wow. I also realized you have to do this a million times to get remotely good at it, so I just started gigging and gigging. For the next two years, I was fucking awful.”
Beyond raising his public profile, Goldstein’s standup sets helped endear him to casting directors. “People saw me, they heard me, they got a vibe,” he says. Eventually, he booked roles on British sitcoms such as Ricky Gervais’ “Derek”; “Hoff the Record,” anchored by David Hasselhoff; and “Drifters,” which he worked on with Nick Mohammed (Nate Shelley on “Ted Lasso”) years before they were co-nominees for the same 2022 Emmy. Goldstein also received a British Independent Film Award for his work in Rachel Tunnard’s “Adult Life Skills.”
“If I could have all my dreams, I’d like to make a Muppet movie. I’d love to make a horror film; I’d love to make all kinds of things.”
Stepping onstage solo taught Goldstein the fundamentals of storytelling. The first show he took to Edinburgh was “Brett Goldstein Grew Up in a Strip Club,” a monologue about the aftermath of his father selling his bookstore. “My dad had a midlife crisis, and instead of buying a car, he bought a strip club in Spain,” Goldstein says, remembering the bizarre odyssey that began when he was 20. “My mum sent me over there to just check up on him, and a lot of stuff happened”—including an array of mob encounters—“and I ended up having to run the place for a year. The true story was very dark, but I also knew that it was funny.”
Following a preview performance, a woman who had been in the audience “hugged me and held me and said, ‘I’m so sorry that happened.’ I realized I have to really work on the tone of this thing so that people feel comfortable enough to laugh,” he says. By restructuring the narrative, he was able to lead the audience where he wanted. “There were things I under-exaggerated and things that I just left out…things I moved forward, ’cause you could take that bit, but you needed to trust me before I could tell you that [other] bit.” Similarly, “Ted Lasso” hinges on its comedic beats as much as it makes space for honest moments of hardship and connection.
Becoming a multihyphenate was never Goldstein’s goal; he simply explored his curiosities as they arose. Projects don’t register to him as “steppingstones,” he says. He’s more comfortable talking about “making stuff” than “the industry.” “For many, many years, I thought, As long as all of these small jobs together add up to enough to pay the rent and go to the cinema, I’m a very lucky boy.”
Still, his imagination is keeping pace with his increasing opportunities. “If I could have all my dreams, I’d like to make a Muppet movie,” he says. (Goldstein admits that filming his April 2022 guest spot on “Sesame Street” was “the best day of my life.”) “I’d love to make a horror film; I’d love to make all kinds of things.”
Right now, he’s immersed in the next round of “Ted Lasso” episodes. When Apple released Season 1, the writers were in the middle of scripting Season 2, a process that was interrupted by COVID-19 lockdowns in the U.K. “Although we read stuff on the internet, we didn’t see people in the street; we didn’t have any actual human interaction that would suggest that this show was being watched,” Goldstein says. The Season 3 writers’ room assembled after the series had landed seven 2021 Emmys, including for outstanding comedy series.
On staying genuine despite fan and critical expectations, Goldstein says, “You have to put all of that stuff out of your head, because it doesn’t serve you; it’s not useful. The first time, what we all did was we made the thing that felt truthful. It’s hard, but [we’re] trying to be present in [the knowledge that] this is all we’re doing. Forget that they sell candles.”
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 18 issue of Backstage Magazine.
Photographed Zoe McConnell from JOON at Darbys Restaurant on 7/23. Styling by Rose Forde. Grooming by Emma Day. Cover designed by Ian Robinson.