Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso just dropped an episode unlike any other — and you probably have a few questions.
In Season 2, Episode 9, titled “Beard After Hours,” the assistant coach (played by the series’ Emmy-nominated co-creator Brendan Hunt) set out on an all-night odyssey through London to clear his head following that devastating loss to Manchester City. Along the way, Beard snuck into an elite club populated by pompous British scholars; fled a seductress’ flat and made a death-defying jump to escape her seemingly menacing boyfriend; engaged in fisticuffs with Jamie Tartt’s street-tough father; and took center stage at an underground rave, where he got to show off some sick hula-hooping skills.
Below, Hunt delves deep into Coach Beard’s psyche and reveals how the standalone adventure came to be. He also discusses his one big regret about that unforgettable dance scene.
TVLINE | This episode is quite unique in a number of ways. First, talk a bit about how the idea to follow Beard on this bizarro night out came to be.
When we were putting the season together, it was originally going to be 10 episodes. And when you start the season writing process, you just pitch a bunch of different ideas. In the end, you probably have 20 ideas that you like. You whittle that down to what are the most important, and this was not in the final 10. We were starting to write the scripts as Season 1 was being released, and Apple was so enthusiastic. They said, “First of all, you’re picked up for Season 2. And second, could you do two more episodes in Season 2?” So we went back to the discard pile and everybody picked their favorites. In the end, Jason Sudeikis had the final say and he said, “All right. We’re going to do a Christmas episode, and we’re going to do ‘Beard After Hours.'”
TVLINE | It’s quite the aesthetic departure for the show. At times, it feels like a movie. Were there any specific influences at play here?
[Director Sam Jones] is drawing from Martin Scorsese’s After Hours in a lot of different ways… Jason originally had said it should be shot on an iPhone, but what he really meant was it should be handheld and should feel intimate and up-close in a way that the show isn’t really. The idea of making it look different from other episodes was always part of the package.
TVLINE | The episode features an alternate rendition of Marcus Mumford’s theme song, performed by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. How did he become involved?
Well, we got Jeff because of Sam Jones. He has that Wilco documentary, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, which was one of his first big projects and a fantastic documentary that is close to my heart. Once we had Sam, it was, like, “Hey, Sam, you think you could pull out your Rolodex?” We got Tweedy because of him.
TVLINE | How important was it to have this more melancholy version, in terms of setting a tone?
It was invaluable In terms of setting the tone, to be able to tell the audience very, very clearly, early on, that this is not your usual episode; there is something else happening here. But there was some debate for a while, of like, “We have this acoustic version that is so f–king good, but it doesn’t actually tell you what the episode is going to be about,” you know? I mean, it ends, essentially, at a rave. The song doesn’t tell us where we’re going, it only tells us that we’re going somewhere different. And I can’t believe that Jeff Tweedy did it, you know? I’ve never met the man, but I hope he someday finds out how touched I am that he did this.
TVLINE | Rather than surround Beard with any number of players from the series-regular cast, here you are supported by more minor, albeit fan-favorite, characters, such as Crown & Anchor frequenters Baz, Jeremy and Paul (played by Adam Colborne, Bronson Webb and Kevin “KG” Garry). What was the reason for that?
We knew we had a lot of different options. In the beginning, we didn’t even know for sure if the episode was going to be all Beard or if we were going to jump into other storylines. At one point, there was a pitch — it didn’t get very far — where Beard finds himself at a falafel stand or something, and Sam is there. He’s nervous and you don’t know why. And then Sam’s falafel order comes up and it’s two falafels, and I’m like, “Two falafels?” And he answers, “Yeah, no reason. Got to go.” And then he jumps into Rebecca’s car and off they go. But in the end, we decided to make it organic to what would Beard actually be doing: He would go to the bar. If adventures were going to happen, it had to start from there and with these people. Once we locked into that, it was so much fun. Mae’s greatness speaks for itself, as does Annette Badland’s storied career. But the other three guys had not gotten much chance to show their stuff, and they’re incredible. And they love working together and hanging out with each other.
I remember when we were shooting, gosh, it must have been Episode 7 or 8…. Scripts eventually get down to the cast members, but very, very late in the game, and I don’t think they had any indication that this was going to happen. Once I knew that the scripts for Episode 9 had gone out, I remember seeing them on set and they were playing it very cool, very close to the vest. I’m like, “Hey guys, good to see you again. I don’t know if you saw the script for Episode 9, but…” And all three of them were like, “Yeahhhh!” They had been holding it in and they exploded once they were given the go ahead to discuss it.
TVLINE | At one point, a club hostess asks Coach Beard for his name, presumably his full name, but he doesn’t give it to her. Did you discuss in the writers’ room the possibility of revealing a first name? Or has it been decided that it should remain a mystery?
We might do it someday, but it was never on the table to do it this episode. We never thought of this as an episode where we find out a lot about Beard, just that this is an episode where we put Beard through something. If we ever do reveal Beard’s name, by which I mean if we ever decide it, we have options, but we don’t know what we’re going to do. It definitely won’t be for a while.
TVLINE | At different times throughout the episode, there’s this big, bright, unmissable full moon in the background. What’s the significance there?
It’s because “Blue Moon” is among the most beloved chanting songs for Manchester City. And so, the blue moon is basically [following] Beard this whole night, as he is haunted by this loss… The whole night is kind of like an exorcism for him, of the ghosts of what happened at Wembley. And when he’s at his lowest point — when he’s getting his ass kicked by these Man City fans — we have Marcus Mumford singing “Blue Moon.”
TVLINE | During the fight with Jamie’s dad, it is suggested that Beard would rather punish himself than accept the love and support of the people around him. Do you think that sentiment is specific to what he is going through on this particular night, or does it speak to a larger point about your character as a whole?
I think it speaks to the larger point about my character as a whole. If we learned anything about Beard here, it’s that he’s dealing with self-love issues and likely has been his whole life. We know that his mother is now full-blown QAnon, so she’s perhaps not been, you know, Mrs. Cleaver to him all his life.
On one hand, I think it’s part of why he’s able to be such a devoted friend to Ted. I have my theories, and I think Ted helped Beard get through some dark patches in his life. That’s why he is now happy to follow Ted into Hell — or, you know, to London. But there’s something in there, as well, about why Nate and Beard are different — why Nate sees being an assistant coach as being muzzled or collared, or someone trying to keep him down, whereas Beard does not have that thought, even a bit. Beard is perfectly content to be part of something bigger than him.
TVLINE | Beard is taunted by football commentators Thierry Henry and Gary Lineker, who call him out for not challenging his fellow coaches on the pitch. Do you think they have a point there? Has he always just allowed Ted to call the shots?
Well, we know he hasn’t always allowed Ted to call the shots because he had that blow-up with Ted towards the end of Season 1. But yeah, I think he’s less likely to call Ted out in front of others. When it’s just the two of them, he’s more likely to give hard truths. Specific to this game, Beard would have wanted to win, but part of Ted’s coaching philosophy is — and pardon me if I use some boring football terms here — to play the kind of football that his players like to play, which is to be attacking. And I think we know this only by inference from Nate. When Nate takes over as coach he immediately goes to the most defensive move possible, and I think this is one time when Beard wishes they had gone ultra negative as opposed to trying to play open, which is suicide against a team as good as Manchester City.
TVLINE | There are so many specific moments we could discuss here, from the foot chase on the roof, to the fight with Jamie’s dad, to the elaborate club sequence towards the end… What was your favorite to shoot? And which was most difficult to pull off?
The most fun and the most difficult was the club sequence. It was the most fun because I love dancing, I love those pants, and I got a kick out of the fact that they put hula hooping in the script… I like hula hooping, and to be able to do it here was something I was really looking forward to, but it was difficult because we shot all the running scenes and all the fighting scenes in the days before the club sequence. It’s COVID, I’m in a foreign country, and I did not have the access to my Pilates teachers that I usually have, so by the time we got to the dancing, I was old and broken. I look at that scene with a bit of regret, because I’m not actually doing my best dancing there.
TVLINE | There are a lot of moving pieces in the scene that go beyond the choreography itself. What was the experience like that day on set?
It was all day. I can’t remember when we started and when we finished exactly, but they don’t typically allow overtime on UK shoots. Our production designer Paul Cripps, who is a g–damn genius, really put something nice together. It was very important for us — not just for me, but also to Joe Kelly and Brett Goldstein, who so kindly wrote this episode — that the party not look like the Hollywood sitcom version of a rave, with feather boas and cowboy hats. So, our assistant directors, who are the people who cast extras, went out and did it in a fairly unorthodox way. They tried to reach out to party people and artists, and people with really unique looks who would agree to it. So the cool thing wasn’t just what the set was and what Paul had done, but what those extras — or supporting artists, that’s what they’re called in England — brought to it, just by being themselves. It felt like I was at a party that I would want to be at, which was the goal.
TVLINE | I like how the dance sequence brings some light to an otherwise dark episode.
Yes, for sure. The idea was to really run Beard through the mud, but then at the end give him the release of this. It’s not necessarily a happy ending, but certainly an opportunity to shake it all off. And that comes, in a big way, from the fact that me and Joe and Jason, we all had met each other in Chicago back in the day, but we cemented our friendship [doing comedy] in Amsterdam. And in Amsterdam, you learn that a night out dancing is good for the soul. No matter what kind of tough times you’re going through, if you can get a night out with friends and really just lose yourself in the music, that’s just straight-up good for you, you know?
TVLINE | During the dance sequence, Henry and Lineker are seated at the bar, which initially led me to believe that parts of Beard’s journey didn’t actually happen. But then he wears those extraordinary pants into work… Are we to assume everything that we saw actually happened?
Oh, I think absolutely everything really happened. The only thing that is in his head is Thierry Henry and Gary Lineker, who are legends by the way — actual sporting legends. Thierry Henry, I mean, he’s someone who I became a fan of when I was getting into soccer while living in Amsterdam. He’s a big part of the reason why I fell in love with the sport, and thus he’s a big part of the reason why Ted Lasso even exists. So, yeah, the only thing that’s imaginary is those guys. Those guys are the devil on his shoulder, the bad voice in his head. They’re like his version of Fight Club‘s Tyler Durden.
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