Not even Ted Lasso star Nick Mohammed can defend Nate: 'He crossed the line'
Warning: This article contains spoilers about the Ted Lasso season 2 finale.
That being said, he knows it currently looks bad for the once-lovable underdog, especially with the final shot of the season 2 finale positioning Nate as the new manager for Rupert (Anthony Head) and West Ham. But Nate — no longer that Great — was headed down the wrong path long before that, whether it be with the treatment of his kitman replacement Will (Charlie Hiscock), or, more recently, making a move on Keeley (Juno Temple) and telling the suddenly very-independent Trent Crimm (James Lance) that Ted (Jason Sudeikis) left an earlier match due to a panic attack. The building tension finally boiled over during halftime of a pivotal match when Ted asked a clearly annoyed Nate what he'd done to him.
"I'll tell you what you did," began Nate, launching into an emotional tirade that saw him wiping away tears. "You made me feel like I was the most important person in the whole world, and then you abandoned me. Like you switch on a light, just like that. And I worked my ass off trying to get your attention back, to prove myself to you, to make you like me again. But the more I did the less you cared; it's like I was f---ing invisible… Everybody loves you, the great Ted Lasso. Well, I think you're a f---ing joke. Without me, we wouldn't have won a single match and they would have shipped your ass back to Kansas where you f---ing belong, with your son. Because you sure as hell don't belong here. But I do. I belong here. This didn't just fall into my lap. I earned this."
Ted agreed, and said how sorry he was for not telling Nate how important he was to him, only to be cut off by his assistant. "No, you're not, you're full of s---," barked Nate. "F-- you, Ted."
To discuss Nate's dark season 2 arc, EW chatted with Nick Mohammed about being unable to defend his character's actions, if he'll get kicked out of the Diamond Dogs group chat, and looking forward to season 3.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling right now? People are a little salty towards Nate, and probably will be even more so after the finale.
NICK MOHAMMED: I've not actually seen the final cut of the season finale, so I'm going to watch it when it comes out on Friday. But yeah, I'm anticipating a little bit of a… backlash is too strong a word. The fan base is strong and they love the show, and I think, particularly episode 11, with all the surprises that that brings, they were deeply shocked, but they were very kind in the little bit I saw on social media. Yeah, they were saying that they hate Nate. [Laughs] But it's right, they should, because he's made a series of wrong decisions. They should be following that journey in the way that they are. Who knows how they're going to react to what episode 12 brings — it's one hell of a finale. But I'm excited. That's probably the word.
Of all the things he's done, I strangely feel like him ripping up the "Believe" sign might be the dealbreaker for many.
Oh my goodness. When [co-creator and costar] Brendan Hunt told me, we were filming episode 10 or 11, and I remember we were out on the training pitch, and Jason was finishing off writing episode 12. And he was like, "Oh, by the way, just to let you know, we're thinking of having Nate have ripped up the 'Believe' sign and leaving it on Ted's desk." And I literally fell to the ground. I was like, "No!" I honestly was so shocked. And then Brendan did an impression of me finding out that news to Jason, who also then was finding it funny. That "Believe" sign has become such an emblem of something really positive and really good, in real-life and in the show. To rip that in half, that's a big gut punch. I'm going to feel that as well as everyone else.
Before we get too deep into this, I want to give you the platform to share your defense of Nate? Or can not even you defend him?
I don't think I can condone any of his actions — the bad ones. He crosses the line with Keeley, he crossed the line with Will, the kitman, he crossed the line with Colin, who was rude to him, and he crossed a huge line with Ted. And, ultimately, he's betrayed the club and gone elsewhere. So I don't condone those actions at all. In terms of empathizing with him, Nate is such a troubled soul, and he's the same guy from Season 1; he's insecure, he lacks confidence, he needs praise and he's now not getting any at all, and he has a toxic relationship with his parents. That's very clear. Ted was almost a replacement father figure in season 1 and now he feels even abandoned by Ted. So he's questioning if anything that Ted did for him had any real meaning. He's at such a loss and he's lashing out at all the people who've stood by him. He's just making mistake after mistake. So I can't defend his actions, but he does lay it out to Ted in that scene between the two of them, he explains how he felt abandoned. And it's true. There hasn't been a scene between Ted and Nate this whole season, and that's deliberate. It's to make the audience feel, hopefully, that Nate has been lost. He hasn't been able to have it out. He's just been this bubbling pressure cooker of a whole manner of emotions and he's really got no release valve.'
We're going to dig into a lot of what you just brought up, but, first, like I gave you the chance to defend Nate, I now want to give you the chance to call out Trent Crimm for so easily divulging Nate as his source. My colleagues have rightfully been criticizing his journalism ethics.
[Laughs] That's true. But I think Trent Crimm is a good person, right? And Nate currently is not a good person. So I think we needed sunlight in that very dark episode. We see Trent be a good person in episode 12 and deciding not to do this anymore. So everyone is making their life decisions, and some people are making the right ones and some are making the wrong ones. But I like that everyone is questioning the journalistic integrity of a fictional character.
Taking a few steps back to the beginning, how did you react when this arc for Nate was presented? And did you know where it was ultimately headed?
I knew very early on, before season 2 and 3 had been commissioned. I remember we were filming the gala episode in season 1, and Jason and I sat next to each other for long periods of time as they reset the cameras and stuff, and he kind of outlined the whole three season arc for Nate, including this sort of Empire Strikes Back season, which has been this turn to the dark side for Nate. I was like, "Oh wow, god, that would be incredible if we get to do that." And then season 1 happened and I was just bowled over by the reaction to the show and to people embracing Nate's underdog story line. So I was kind of nervous, I guess, when I then knew what was coming in season 2. I didn't know quite how far they were going to take it, and so every time I got sent a new script, I was like, "Oh, crikey, here we go." It threw people off. They were like, "Hang on, this isn't the Nate that I love." It's been an absolute rollercoaster, but really fun and, frankly, really challenging to play at times because my comfort is to do awkward comedy rather than to do anything more than that. So to do those scenes, which have a little bit more emotional weight to them, was challenging, but fun. I've just had to ride this wave and it's been thrilling.
You talked about some people being like, "Oh, this isn't the Nate we know." Was there ever a specific moment or scene where you had a similar thought, or wanted to talk it through with the writers to fully make sense of it?
Yeah, I made a point of asking lots of questions and they're so generous with their time. Obviously there is Jason, Brendan, often Brett [Goldstein], and sometimes the other writers. So there's a big support network. I guess my concern was always not wanting to peak too early. I remember texting Jason when I saw the first two episodes where I have a go at Will, the kitman, and I was like, "Should I play that a little bit lighthearted? Because I don't want it to feel too dark too soon." But there's been a spell of time between season 1 and season 2, so it's important for the audience to know that this is Nate's position now. He's been given this new position of responsibility and a bit more power, and already it started to go to his head, because that's the start of his journey this season. But I would never question the writers, because I trust them, and I would only ever question them for clarity in terms of my performance.
Earlier, you mentioned that big scene between Nate and Ted in the finale. What were your immediate thoughts when you read that scene, and what was your process in plotting out how you wanted to attack it?
I knew that I'd find it difficult, just because I don't usually do scenes like that. It sounds really obvious but I knew that I had to really know the lines back to front. It has to feel really real. If I was unsure of anything other than the performance of it, then I think it would've read as slightly untrue. So I wanted to make sure I go in there fully-prepared. It didn't take that long to film, weirdly. It was a very quiet set. There was a lot of time with just Jason and myself. [Co-creator] Joe Kelly was there, Declan [Lowney], who directed the episode, and Brett showed up halfway through. We just talked it through. Jason's got this amazing way of getting inside your head in a really good way. He almost can sort of speak to an individual in a character monologue. I remember him saying to me, "Do you like to be left alone before performing or do you want me to talk to you?" And I was like, "No, talk to me." So I was really puffed; when I was laying into him, I felt like I really wanted to go for him. It was oddly very emotional, because Jason and I hadn't had a scene together. It had generally been quite an emotional series with everything that's been going on and COVID and we were getting to the end, so it just felt like we were able to channel a lot of real stuff into it.
As a viewer, I was watching and assuming that it would end with a big hug and they'd go back out to the field stronger than ever, because that's what we're trained to expect in instances like this between characters we love. So were even you a little surprised that it didn't go that direction?
Well, I knew where it was headed, so I knew that there was no release from that moment, which I think is quite useful. Because, again, it makes it feel quite raw and real, because it's like Nate really believes everything he's saying. There's not going to be some moment where they're going to score a goal and everyone's friends again and it's going to be fine. He absolutely oversteps in that speech to Ted, and in the second half of that football game, there's no going back. Whatever happens, he's made his bed and he's going to have to lie in it. It's quite distressing. Like I said, I haven't seen the final cut of it, so I'm kind of sort of anxious/excited to see it. It'll be weird to watch it back.
The real tragedy here is the fracture amongst the Diamond Dogs! Just as Roy (Goldstein) joins, Nate leaves. We'll see what happens in the future, but, at least for now, how much are you going to miss being on that locker room office set, with those guys?
Oh, I know. And we've got a Diamond Dog WhatsApp group as well. We genuinely just let Brett into it when [Roy] joins the Diamond Dogs. So do I get choked out of it? I don't know. But it's really fun playing with the dynamics, which are familiar, like the Diamond Dogs. At the start of season 2, I remember Brett saying it felt so strange to be away from all of the players and to not film in the locker room, until he was then brought in as a coach. He felt strangely absent and it means that you can sort of use that to try and make it real, whether Nate comes back or gets welcomed back into the Diamond Dogs. But if that's the end of it for Nate and the Diamond Dogs, then I will miss those scenes.
While you're not sure yet exactly where Nate's story is headed in season 3, is there something with him that you'd be particularly interested in exploring moving forward?
It would be interesting to see him in a relationship. I feel like we've sort of flirted with the idea. He's always had feelings for Keeley, and he obviously makes a completely misguided, misjudged, inappropriate pass at her in episode 11. And he hates himself afterwards, you can see it when he looks at himself in the mirror; he's just ruined that genuine friendship. That was horrible. Story-wise, it would be interesting if they pair him up with someone. I feel that that's what's lacking for Nate. When I say intimacy, I don't mean intimacy in a kind of sexual way. I mean intimacy in terms of the closeness of a bond with someone, because he doesn't have it from his dad, he feels abandoned by Ted, he's now left the club, he saw Roy as an older brother figure and then Roy became a coach and took away something that was his. And so there's just a series of time where he felt abandoned. So it'd be interesting if he does have a relationship with someone and how he deals with being in a relationship and having that kind of closeness. Maybe you can't deal with it until he's dealt with these issues.
Speaking of Nate looking himself in the mirror, what's your spitting secret? You got an opportunity earlier in the season and then seemed to have really mastered it by the time you were in that fitting room!
It's horrible, isn't it? I think it's real; either a friend of Jason's or a friend of Joe Kelly's did it whilst drunk. They spat on themselves in a mirror as a way of pepping themselves up. You'd have to ask them to sort of double check that story. So it was based on a real kind of truth. I remember Jason saying, "Can you spit, as in properly spit? So it kind of creates an amount of liquid." And I was like, "Yeah, I can." We were filming during proper COVID, especially in the U.K., like real COVID lockdown, so spitting was like a real hazard and no-go area. So there was hardly anyone on-set, and they would have to come and antibacterial every scene. They were conscious that this is a potentially really difficult thing to be doing in COVID times. As well as it's just been gross to look at and to do.
Yikes, I hadn't even thought about the COVID angle of it. Wrapping up, do you have one final message for any Nate critics out there?
There's always a season 3. I'm not saying it's a redemption arc, because I genuinely don't know. But maybe there's always hope. If I believe in anything, I believe in hope. So maybe believe in hope? But then I don't know, because maybe this will be the one character that doesn't get a redemption story. Maybe they'll keep it real and maybe someone doesn't get to redeem themselves. So I don't know, but they're an amazing fan base. They're so full-on and they're intense and they really love the show and they've stuck by it. I hope they're ready for episode 12. They've seen it coming. We've been building towards this. At least there's some kind of release in Nate getting to lay into Ted and explain where Nate is coming from, even if we don't condone what he's saying or his actions.