Building the cast of Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” required more than just finding actors with good comic timing. To create the world around a London Premier League soccer team and its fish-out-of-water story, U.K. casting director Theo Park employed her go-to crop of actors while also looking outside her traditional talent pools. Working with series star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis, she ultimately found funny actors who could pass as footballers (or soccer players, as they’re known on this side of the pond) while also handling the series’ more emotional beats.
“The main thing that makes my ears prick up or makes me take notice is timing—using the right beats and hitting the joke.”
What was the casting process like for “Ted Lasso”?
It was a bit different from a lot of other jobs. The producers were in America for most of the prep period, but I was lucky enough to get Jason and [co-creator and co-star] Brendan Hunt over from America for a day of casting Rebecca [Welton]. She was our female lead, so we had to start there. In that time, I was able to pick their brains on the other roles. For the most part, I would just put people on tape and send the tape to Jason and the other producers, and they would decide from tapes.
What did actors have to do while auditioning to prove they could pass as football players?
The boys on the team had to play football to a good standard, so we made them do little videos of their skills, which were really great. Cristo Fernández, who plays Dani Rojas, had one of the best self-tapes I’ve ever seen in my life. His football skills are fantastic. I saw some brilliant tapes—really creative self-tapes—from actors showing us their football skills. It’s great.
What research or special searches did you have to do to cast the series?
We did try to branch out a bit and try and find real footballers. For example, there’s this role of a girl—she’s actually just called “Soccer Girl,” but she’s quite an important role. She had to be really cool but also play football really well. We tried to find girls’ and women’s football clubs. My associate and I would go and meet them at the after-school clubs and video them showing us their skills. We also had some of them come to the office, and we’d take them out into the car park and video them with the football that we bought. It’s exciting when you get those sorts of jobs where you can really branch out; it’s not just straight auditioning in a room with someone. It was really fun.
“It’s exciting when you get those sorts of jobs where you can really branch out; it’s not just straight auditioning in a room with someone.”
Where else do you like to look for talent outside of agent and manager submissions?
I’m really interested in comedy, so I look to the standup scene. I’m also really interested in looking outside the normal route for young people, and we’ll do that by going to the National Youth Theatre; or there’s this great group called Open Door that encourages actors from less privileged backgrounds. There are lots of entities like that, where you can actually get in touch with them and see what they’ve got. There’s a fantastic group up in Nottingham, the Television Workshop. Just looking outside of people who already have agents is really good and really exciting.
What advice would you give an actor who is just starting out?
Film something and stick it on YouTube. Especially in lockdown, social media is so big now. You can get a retweet, and suddenly thousands of people are watching your sketches or whatever. It doesn’t have to be a sketch. It could be anything—a monologue, whatever you want you want to do. Just film something, stick it out there, get on social media, and tweet it. That could be the best thing to do.
“Film something and stick it on YouTube. Especially in lockdown, social media is so big now. You can get a retweet, and suddenly thousands of people are watching your sketches.”
While casting is limited to self-tapes and Zoom, what can an actor expect from you when auditioning?
It’s really hard. It has become a really solo project, casting. It’s just you at home doing a little tape. I’m just here in the office, emailing the agents. I would hope that we can continue to connect, give feedback on the auditions, and just keep talking to each other, [and] keep them abreast of the status of the role as well. I’m really trying in this new climate to properly get back to everyone to say, “I’m really sorry; it’s not gone your way,” because it just feels like there’s a lot of silence, and I don’t want them to feel like they’re just doing this tape and then they’ll never hear back.
What will make you remember an actor during an audition?
I keep notes all the time. The main thing that makes my ears prick up or makes me take notice is timing—using the right beats and hitting the joke, [and] finding the joke and hitting it.
What do you think actors don’t know about what you do as a CD?
They probably don’t know that we get a lot of silence, too. Sometimes we’re chasing and chasing for feedback from the producers, but the producers are busy, and they just can’t get around to seeing the tapes yet. Actors probably don’t realize that it’s hard for us to get some answers, as much as we want to. It’s in our best interest to get them their feedback as soon as possible.
This story originally appeared in the Jan. 21 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.
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