AFC Richmond's newest team member talks falling in love with Ted Lasso
Sarah Niles joins season 2 as Sharon, the team's straight-talking new sports psychologist.
"Part of me was going, 'Yeah, yeah, what's the big hoo-ha about?'" Niles tells EW with a laugh, having now been lassoed, like so many, by the heartwarming comedy. "He's charming, funny, and got good teeth - what more can you say?"
When season 2 premieres July 23 on Apple TV+, Niles will join the cast in the new series regular role of Sharon, AFC Richmond's sports psychologist. As evidenced in the exclusive photo below, Ted (Sudeikis) is hoping to win Sharon over with his famous daily biscuit delivery.
EW spoke to Niles about overcoming her skepticism, falling in love with Ted, and learning more about herself while making the series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When this opportunity came your way, were you already familiar with the phenomenon that is Ted Lasso?
SARAH NILES: I was not familiar with it all. I felt like I was under a bit of a rock during the first part of lockdown, just trying to survive like everybody else. Then I watched it, [and] absolutely loved it. I love Jason Sudeikis, I love the humor, I love the heart of it, and I kind of love the clash of the cultures, the American and the English. The cynicism and the snobbery of the British up against this heart and this warmth of this kind of character. I just thought it was so funny because people are so precious about football over here, we take it really seriously, and so this guy who's just happy-go-lucky, has no idea really about the game and really doesn't know quite what he's gotten himself into.
How would you describe Sharon?
She's a sports psychologist who is coming in to sort a few things out. People have their ideas about psychology, particularly when you're talking about athletics, and more so in this country there's a bit of a skepticism. They think the game is about physicality and the body, and it's not about the mind. So I'm sure she's going to come up against some kind of resistance. She's straight-talking, very good at her job, very kind, and wants the best for everyone.
What is Sharon and Ted's dynamic like? Last season we saw him win over all the skeptics on the team and in ownership, so is it fair to say that maybe Sharon is his latest target in that regard?
Ted has gone through a journey, and what always seems to be the case with this show is things never run as you assume they're going to. There's much more than meets the eye. And I feel like he's gone on a journey to get to this point and to get the trust of the team in him, and it's interesting when you get another person that comes in to this space, into this kind of family, and how everything has to shift around that. So I think the character Sharon has one motive and one idea of how it's going to play, and she might be pleasantly surprised by how things turn out. Because you get the impression of Ted that he's one thing, he's all happy and he's always light and fluffy, but he's got a lot of substance. He's very smart and very sharp, so there's a lot more going on.
In addition to the comedy, should we expect some heavier moments? We saw some of that last season with Ted's panic attack at karaoke, and I have to imagine a sports psychologist has the potential to break through that sunny disposition of his.
There's always that, isn't there? There's always light and shade, which makes this character and this show more than just one-dimensional. Because it can only run so far just being happy, light, happy, light, and I don't think the show has ever been like that. When I watched those episodes where Ted was having panic attacks, I found it actually quite disturbing given what we're going through and what's happening in the world. To see someone who has got so much heart and so much optimism go through that, you see that this show has a lot of that light and shade.
You mentioned being a longtime fan of Jason's, so what was it like working so closely with him? He's obviously really tapped into something with this character that a lot of people have connected with.
It just felt so easy. Like, I remember meeting him the first day and we had a chat. I feel like he's holding all these worlds in his head; I don't know how he does it, but he has such an idea of where this show's going to go and so much of this character coming in. We had a long conversation, about the character, where he thinks the shades of it might go. He had a long rant, I'll call it a rant, and I was happy to be on the receiving end of it. I feel like Jason is a very talented actor and he's very generous and he offers up so much space, so you just feel like you're supported. And that was a little bit disturbing, because these people are a well-formed family and I'm coming in and I don't know, I felt like, am I getting a little bit too comfortable, are they going to pull the rug from under my feet? But it's been just an absolute joy working on it.
I kind of jokingly called Ted Lasso a phenomenon at the top of the interview, but this show really became a juggernaut since release. I'd argue that it ended up being the show of 2020. As someone who first watched as a fan and has now stepped into this world, what do you think it is about the series that has made it resonate so strongly with so many people?
Gosh, yeah, part of me was going, "Yeah, yeah, what's the big hoo-ha about Ted Lasso?" And when I got on set and watched it, you can't help but be open to it. It's the heart, it really is the heart, and everybody just wants it to do well, everybody's supporting one another. I know Jason is leading the way, but it really feels like it's a group thing. He really opens up a lot of space and suggestions, which is really humbling. And I just think it's the hope, there's always that hope. And he's an underdog, and, you know, the British love an underdog! And he's charming, funny, and got good teeth - what more can you say? But it's the hope, the optimism, the heart. You see parts of him that are a real human being. The strange thing is I've learned a lot about myself as a person while doing the show, and that's kind of strange and wonderful at the same time. Must be something in the water! [Laughs]
You've already given us some info already on season 2…
Have I? [Laughs] Not too much, or Apple will kill me.
Smart, because I was talking to [co-creator] Bill Lawrence and he said the same thing when I asked him for some season 2 scoop. But what would maybe be your very non-specific tease of what fans should expect when Ted Lasso returns?
I suppose there's a few more roller coasters. That's as much as I can do.