How Donald Trump influenced "Ted Lasso"

Star Jason Sudeikis once said his father inspired Ted. Strangely, so did the ex-president

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published May 16, 2023 7:04PM (EDT)

Jason Sudeikis in "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)
Jason Sudeikis in "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)

Soccer  managers Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp. Basketball coach John Wooden. Maybe even high school football coach Eric Taylor of "Friday Night Lights." But . . . Donald Trump? "Ted Lasso" star Jason Sudeikis has revealed in an interview that the title character he plays on the Apple TV + show was actually inspired in a meaningful way by the ex-president. 

"Saturday Night Live" alum Sudeikis developed Ted, an American football coach pluckily heading a British soccer team, nearly a decade ago in a faux commercial called "An American Coach in London." 

In an interview with The Guardian, Sudeikis said he originally conceived of Ted as a grumpier, more caustic figure. Ted "was more broadly comic – 'belligerent,' Sudeikis calls him – so why make the new version so warm and fuzzy?" Sudeikis told The Guardian, "It was the culture."

Sudeikis described Trump's influence and "what he unlocked in people . . . I hated how people weren't listening to one another." Despite not being "terribly active online," Sudeikis was still impacted by Trump around 2015, when Trump announced his first presidential campaign, following a golden escalator descent at Trump Tower.

And that character Sudeikis was planning to revisit, to perhaps develop into his own show? Sudeikis felt Ted could no longer be angry and bombastic, not in the face of Trump. He told The Guardian, "It was like, 'Boy, I don't want to add to this.' Yeah, I just didn't want to portray it." As CNN described it, "the character became the warm, affable, positive quote machine viewers first came to love at the height of the pandemic in 2020."

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Instead of shouty, Ted the character became folksy, supportive and unfailingly positive, often to the point of extreme, sometimes to the criticism of "toxic positivity." Three years on, some of that lovable charm may be chipping off a bit, while, as The Guardian writes "the line between Sudeikis and his saintly creation have become blurred over time." 

But the show has been rumored to be ending after this third season, and Sudeikis firmly came down on the side of curtains for Ted. Discussing the "final day of filming" with The Guardian he said, "The show may be over, but what we learned here . . . It's not like Vegas: what happened here, stays here. No, what happened here, take it, take it to your village, take it to your family, take it to your next project. For real."

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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