UP CLOSE: Ted Lasso's Coach Beard opens up on Richmond, pubs and football

By Stuart Higgins

1st Jun 2022 | Local News

US actor Brendan Hunt who plays Ted Lasso’s sidekick Coach Beard takes in the view from the top of Richmond Hill
US actor Brendan Hunt who plays Ted Lasso’s sidekick Coach Beard takes in the view from the top of Richmond Hill

Actor Brendan Hunt who plays Ted Lasso's understated sidekick Coach Beard has fallen in love with Richmond upon Thames and here in a special UP CLOSE interview for NUB NEWS the co- creator, writer and executive producer talks candidly about the award-winning show, his real love of football and being an Arsenal fan.

In the series he may be considered a man of not many words but here he also reveals he LOVES Gogglebox. He offers a unique insight into the success of the show as well as the significant influence of his great and long-standing friend Jason Sudeikis, who plays Ted and tells of his close shave with a herd of deer in Richmond Park…...

Brendan, 49, describes the job as 'the greatest experience of his life.' He is due back home in Los Angeles later this year to play the artist Van Gogh in a play he wrote called The Art Couple.

So by all accounts you've fallen in love with Richmond since you've been filming Ted Lasso in the area. What do you like about it, in particular?

I can walk to work! Not every day but some days. Obviously, I have developed a strong sentimental feeling towards The Prince's Head and The Cricketers pubs because they have been such a large big part of the series. We have recreated an exact replica of the pub in the studios but all the external shots still take place outside the Crown & Anchor as it appears in the show. We have moved as a family into the town and I can almost walk everywhere apart from I'm struggling at the moment a bit with a broken toe after dropping some luggage on it!

I can remember the first time I was in the Prince's Head when I overheard this weird conversation between two local men about thrush with one saying to the other 'I've sorted it, I've sorted it' and the other guy said 'sorted what' and the other replied 'I have found a cure for thrush' and the other said "That's typically a woman's concern." It was the strangest thing. That was in May 2019 when we first started filming. Richmond Green has also been a very important part of the story and while the Green may not seem a big deal to most people we don't have parks like that in the States, surrounded by houses and businesses – it's beautiful.

Tell us about some of the places you've visited, which restaurants and local hostelries have benefited from your custom?

I frequent many of the pubs, obviously the ones above but I'm very partial to the Marlborough and the Roebuck on Richmond Hill, The White Swan, The Old Ship in the middle of town, where we got roped in to joining their quiz night and won and The Sun Inn. I love the Italian restaurant next to Ted's front door in Paved Court called L'Assaggino and another Italian called Sebastians and now we have moved to Richmond during the filming of Series 3 we are much closer and within walking distance of everything which is great. With Series one and two we were living in Notting Hill and Barnes and we have slowly drifted closer and closer to the Green. I have been to the Ivy, Franco Manca and I like Five Guys too and there's a great book shop selling children's book called The Alligator's Mouth in Church Court.

One of Brendan's favourite restaurants next to Ted's fictional front door

You've obviously been very busy filming most of the time but have you had the chance to visit other places of interest while you have been here. If so, where?

To be honest we've not really had that much spare time with the writing and the filming so I suppose you could call me a football tourist because I have been to so many matches. I've been to The Valley, The Den, Stamford Bridge, Emirates, Selhurst Park, Fulham,QPR, West Ham, Brentford and Wembley. I went to the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea – what a match! I had never seen a penalty shoot-out live and it was pulsating, to say the least. I can remember being at Stamford Bridge when Brentford won 4-1 and the Brentford fans started singing 'Can we play you every week.' Brilliant… I am hoping we can get to some of the big summer events here like Wimbledon too. I also had a strange close encounter experience one night when I was walking through Richmond Park in the dark and was confronted by a herd of small deer. I didn't know what the protocol was at all, I panicked and called Nick Mohammed (who plays Nate in the show) but he wasn't answering. In the end a woman riding a bike stopped and asked me if I was ok and offered to walk with me until we got safely pass the deer I'm not sure whether I was scared or not…just strangely bewildered.

How did you become an Arsenal fan?

I had been working in Amsterdam and became a big fan of Dennis Berkgamp and loved the Nick Hornby book Fever Pitch and then I saw Kanu's brilliant hat trick against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 1999 including that amazing third goal and that was it – I was an Arsenal fan and I have followed them ever since. Jason doesn't really have one team – he is intentionally agnostic but he does have a soft spot for Klopp and Guardiola.

In the show you and Ted (Jason) are often seen in the Crown & Anchor appearing to be enjoying a pint or two. Are you an ale man or a lager man?

I prefer some kind of lager like Camden Hells or Estrella but I will drink a whisky at home or a vodka soda. I am quite flexible. My mother was a bartender in Chicago. It was a kind of Irish bar and it had plenty of regulars and a great atmosphere and I like the conviviality of a proper pub or bar where you meet new people and strike up new conversations.

Contemplative Coach Beard has a beer as a companion at The Roebuck in Richmond

You've joked about having a growing fan club in Richmond as more and more people discover the show on Apple TV+ and recognise you in the street especially with your distinctive cap. How are you handling that new fame?

I am just happy as we are all are that people seem to love the show. Obviously it was difficult for everyone during the pandemic and people were not out and about as they are now. It's much easier now because they just ask for a selfie but during series one and two people weren't quite sure who we were and we got the impression that the British hadn't taken to the show at all but that's all changed now judging by the reaction we're getting here in Richmond and everywhere else we film.

Tell us about the caps. Is that a Brendan trademark or a Coach Beard fashion statement? Where do you get your caps? As you probably know a big TV show here called Peaky Blinders triggered a big cap wearing fashion craze?

The truth is that I really love caps. I have been wearing flat caps for the last 20 years. Before that I wore baseball caps. Coach Beard is getting into London life so he's wearing caps a lot more. Most of them come from a shop in St James's Street called Lock & Co which was close to where we stayed when we first started working in London.…

It appears that the local community is very supportive to the show and the filming in the area. You and the other cast members happily pose for photos. What kind of people do you find are typically fans of the show, younger older etc?

It's a broad range of people really and from all over the world. Obviously, a lot of Americans. I think they find it amazing that we are quite as accessible as we are because we are filming in public places and to some extent we have to fit into other people's daily life and routine. It's been very noticeable that more people are now turning up to our locations than ever before. There must be someone in the know or they just strike lucky but the local community has been fantastic, very supportive and helpful. I don't know how many have actually seen the show but the word is spreading and by the time we get to Series 3 I think we will see a real lift in the viewing figures.

Brendan and Jason happily pose for fan photos on Richmond Green

Have you had the chance to dip into any popular British TV shows. If so, which ones and what do you like about them?

To be honest I was an Anglophile before I knew the meaning of the word! I was into Shakespeare when I was 13. I loved the Beatles and the Stones and I was a massive fan of Monty Python and Dr Who and I have to confess that I LOVE Gogglebox. Gogglebox just never disappoints. I love the couple from Blackpool, they're my favourites. I was on the floor when they were talking about looking like Nigella Lawson. It was Pete and Sophie, the brother and sister from Blackpool. Sophie sees Nigella and says "I hope I look like that when I'm sixty." The brother immediately replies "When you're sixty you'll look like you've been set on fire and put out with a golf shoe." And now I am forever cursed to now that I will never say anything that funny!

There's been lots of filming on The Green and most recently it was reported that your wife and baby son ended up in a scene with Ted as they came to visit you on set. Tell us how it came about? Will they make the cut…..?

 Yes, that's true, in fact we were filming for the first episode of the new series and Ted is striding out across the Green. He casually kicks a football back to some youngsters having a kickabout and then happens to bump into my partner Shannon and our one year old baby son Sean in the buggy. It seemed to be a totally natural Ted-like gesture to stop and talk to the mum and baby, even though it's a bit of a giveaway as Sean is also wearing a flat cap! It was a very fleeting moment but seemed to fit well. We will have to wait and see if it makes the final edit, I hope so!

Can you enlighten us about how Ted Lasso first came to be filmed in the area and how you decided to settle on AFC Richmond as the name of the football club?

That's a very interesting story actually because originally it was not going to be AFC Richmond at all. The executive producer, Bill Lawrence from Warner Brothers didn't want a club where there was already a significant real-life football presence, so there would be no confusion for fans so rather randomly he picked AFC Greenwich but for some reason that didn't work out.  We knew what we wanted and it had to be a club which would attract genuine supporters, working class, blue collar and salt of the earth type people and then suddenly it was AFC Richmond which seems to have worked brilliantly.

What do you personally think is the unique appeal of the show. It's obviously uplifting and inspirational and very funny - is it to do with the pandemic or the strange and uncertain state of the world generally or something else? Why does it work?

It's not over complicated. It's great that people say positive things like it's inspirational and uplifting but all we do is make comedy, make people laugh - that's our focus. The people in the show, the characters are all going through stuff of their own and they might say something or do something which reflects that emotion or feeling and we want to make it funny. Both Jason and I learned this from an early stage of our careers. We want to be there for anyone who has anything to say. We call it the democracy of laughter. If two of us are laughing at the same thing then we are probably in a very good place. It's highly likely the whole room will be laughing with us and that's a very positive sign that whatever we are doing is working.

It appears to be a really happy cast with a real sense of fun and camaraderie between you. Is that the case?

There are great bonds forged by working to do the best you can together. We put in the hours and we forge friendships that work. Jason is a great example of this. He won't just stop and pose for a selfie. He will immediately engage with that person, which sometimes comes as a bit of a shock because fans always think it's a bit of a chore or intrusion. But Jason will ask 'Where are you from, do you like the show?' and so on. There's nothing contrived or false about that. It's really authentic. He treats everyone the same, the cast and the crew and I am not really sure where that comes from. It's just his very natural way. It may be from his time as a basketball player where you have to be close friends and work together. He's not too concerned about hierarchies and that emanates across the board. There's definitely some Ted in Jason. His view is be good to each other and not to judge a book by its cover. That kind of attitude is definitely infectious amongst us all. 

Brendan and Brett Goldstein, who plays Roy Kent take a break from filming on Richmond Green

We totally understand you don't want to give any secrets away from Series Three BUT can you give us a couple of teasers about what's in store? Any big shocks? And when will get to see it? And what was happening in Amsterdam? And is this the last series……

That is a tough question and I really can't say for sure that this will be the last series and I know there's been lots of speculation. You do feel it has a life span but it still feels as if it is growing. Originally, it was always intended to be a three series show. There are lots of stories to unravel and settle one way or another in Series Three but when it does finally end all I can say is that we will take great care in landing the plane in a proper and loving way. As for our stint filming in Amsterdam what can I say? All I will say is that it was a time when things were not going particularly well for AFC Richmond. I can't say anymore. It has been the greatest experience of my life. We got to go to London for three days originally to make the NBC commercial and nine years later it's where I live! It has been life-changing for my life and my family and I will never have another job like it!

Head to Apple TV+ to see the first two series of Ted Lasso now.

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