The most recent and likely last season of the Emmy-winning sitcom on Apple TV+ ted lasso It was a bittersweet effort for director Declan Lowney, who had worked on the series since the first season as a director (on each of its three seasons) and as a supervising producer (on the second season, for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Outstanding comedy series). ). The Irish director says the US production, which he shoots in the actual city of Richmond, England, is much larger in scale and scope than other UK productions, even in the midst of the streaming age, and that brought with it so many challenges. as benefits: although he acknowledges that a larger production budget was certainly a bonus.
But he admits the stakes were high for him this round, particularly since he was responsible for directing the final two episodes. (He earned his second directing Emmy nomination for the finale.) He points out that the future of ted lasso The universe is still up in the air, as Apple hasn’t provided a definitive answer on whether the series is properly finished or if spin-offs focusing on other characters are in the works. (Says Lowney, sheepishly: “Everybody knew it was the end, but it’s also the end. for now.”) Lowney spoke with THR to look back on the huge success of the show around the world, the challenges of filming large-scale scenes in the middle of soccer games, and what it was like to read the final scripts as the crew neared the end of the show.
You’ve worked on a few American TV productions, but is it safe to say this is the biggest?
Definitely. I’ve been to a few Emmys (with the show), so you get the feeling this doesn’t happen that often. Most shows aren’t as big as this, most shows aren’t like this, are they?
Did it feel so big when you were in the production?
I had never worked with so many people on a show. A British show would have about a tenth of the budget: our audience is smaller, the shows are smaller, we don’t have as big production teams and not as big casts. And we do not have the facilities that a large budget gives you. The scale of ambition is smaller. That being said, more and more British shows are being made for streamers, and money is being spent on them. It didn’t take me long to adjust. It’s wonderful to have a little money. (laughs.)
What are some of the challenges of working on such a large project?
It is a very complex show to do. There is the central cast of 18 interacting characters. But then you have soccer, soccer as you call it, and that’s a pretty complicated thing to shoot. The football is shot by the football manager. Then if there’s drama on the pitch for the actors, the director of that episode shoots the (scenes) on the pitch, but then you get off and the soccer guy does all the wide shots of the action. And then he cuts to Rebecca and Keeley and those guys in the box: he shoots himself in the same spot, but he doesn’t shoot himself at the same time we shot the football. And then when you go to the dugout to see Ted and Beard and Roy and Nate, that’s in a separate, smaller field with nothing behind the camera. They are surrounded by about 200 extras. In the second season, I (arranged a lot of it) because I was a supervising producer. Fortunately this year, I only directed the last two episodes, but they were also very involved, being 70 minute episodes.
As someone who has worked on all three seasons, how early do you learn about the stories and character arcs?
The way Jason works develops as the season progresses. They cast actors who are really good and they say, “This guy is great. She is fantastic. Let’s keep them.” The characters are developed because the cast is very good at playing them. And that is why the episodes are lengthened; no one loses scenes or loses lines, there’s just more of everything. There is always joy in watching it unfold. Jason is very involved and there was a lot of improv on set. A two-page scene magically turns into three pages, overnight. But that’s also the genius of it, and that’s also the beauty of the show’s budget that you can manage a little bit with that stuff.
One thinks of a TV comedy ensemble as a compact group, but as you mentioned, the cast has only gotten bigger and the episodes longer.
The appetite is there. People want it. I didn’t hear anyone say, “Oh, that last episode was too long.” I think Jason wants to satisfy his appetite.
Reading the interviews with the stars of the show, it seems that hunger was among the cast as well.
If only the human cost wasn’t so great for those guys, because every time we do a season, it’s a year in England, away from their families. That’s old hard work (in the past) three and a half years, four years. You know, I think he (could have) gone on, but he had done his thing: the three-season arc, that was the deal, that was what (Sudeikis) wanted. But I feel that there is something more. … There will be other things.
You directed the last two episodes. Did you feel like this would be the end, or the end of something, before the next chapter begins?
Everybody knew it was the end, but it’s also the end for now. (laughs.) It will be two or three years before anything, if anything, happens, so let’s try to piece all these stories together correctly. I’m trying to remember how the script was delivered, because I have a feeling I might have gotten a big chunk of it, and more will come later, but I didn’t know how much more yet. I was like, “There are so many things to do!” And then Jason gave me the remaining pages and I was like, “Oh! That’s what he’s doing here.” But it’s very hard to step back and say, “Shit, guys… here’s 80 pages.” We filmed it as we went along, and it’s very hard to measure these things until you put it all together. Six weeks later, something else appears on the other end (in the edit), but it’s also about 10 minutes shorter than it was.
The final episode feels like a series finale, while leaving plenty of room for potential storylines in the future. While filming, did you feel like you were getting definitive answers about what was going to happen to the characters?
Many of those conversations took place behind closed doors between (executive producers) Jason, Brendan (Hunt) and Joe (Kelly). I was not aware of them. And also, (we had a tight) schedule. Juno (Temple) had (booked) other things, so all the scenes for her had to be shot in the first 10 days, and then she left. We were shooting for weeks and weeks without her. Saying goodbye to her was heartbreaking. But (the shoot) was very out of sequence, and that makes it a little bit more difficult for everyone to put it together. Of course, Jason has it all up there (in his head).
has the success of ted lasso – and its massive scale – had an impact on how UK television is produced?
Not precisely. It’s obviously more profitable: the more regulated it is, the less expensive it is to make TV shows. That’s not necessarily how you get the best comedy, but that’s still the tradition.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in an independent August issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, Click here for subscribe.