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The 'Ted Lasso' breakout star you need to know

Neal Justin, Star Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

"Ted Lasso" kicked off its second season on Friday as one of the most beloved sitcoms in the United States, something cast member Nick Mohammed may be having a hard time wrapping his head around.

"It's a shameful admission, but I've actually never been to America. It's absolutely scandalous," the actor said during a video interview a few weeks before he got an Emmy nod, one of the Apple TV+ show's 20 nominations, the most ever for a rookie comedy.

Mohammed, 40, was chatting from his home in Richmond, England, the setting for the series about a European soccer squad that has more heart than victories. But the hometown connection is not what got him the part.

Show co-creator Brendan Hunt first saw Mohammed in 2007 during an afternoon showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He recognized his face when culling through audition tapes for the role of the team's director of operations. Hunt immediately encouraged Mohammed's managers to have their client try out for a role as Nate Shelley, a former towel boy desperate to prove that he's worthy of his promotion to the coaching staff.

"He effortlessly had this special sauce that put him several cuts above the Nates we had seen before," said Hunt, who also plays an assistant coach in the series. "I feel like working with him was 12 years in the making."

While lead Jason Sudeikis has received the lion's share of attention so far (he's the heavy favorite to follow up his Golden Globe win with an Emmy for best actor), the show relies heavily on its supporting players.

When we first met Nate, he was so insecure that you had to crank up the volume on your TV to understand his mumbling. This time around, he's trying to step up his game in matters that range from trying to secure a window table at a Greek restaurant to taking charge from the sidelines when Lasso has a panic attack.

It's a pivot from the other role that made Mohammed one of the pandemic's most memorable new faces.

In Peacock's "Intelligence," a series he also created, he plays Joseph Harries, a cybercrimes investigator who idolizes an American visitor ("Friends" veteran David Schwimmer). Joseph is too simple-minded to realize he's fallen for a false prophet.

 

Mohammed joined the "Lasso" family just 10 days after filming the first season of his own project.

"For 'Intelligence' I had to keep my eye on a lot of things," said Mohammed, who spent his downtime during the "Lasso" shoot editing his other sitcom on his laptop. "It was sort of refreshing to go from that to just being able to act and not worry about anything except learning your lines, showing up and being the character. I quite liked the balance."

The two gigs have given Mohammed the opportunity to work with two of America's most beloved comic actors.

"The key similarity between David [Schwimmer] and Jason [Sudeikis] is their work ethic," he said. "They're both humble and generous, but serious about their comedy and getting it right."

Mohammed's talents aren't limited to writing and performing comedy. Before discovering comedy at Cambridge, he had made his mark as a violinist.

"Jason wants to have Nate play violin in Season 3," Mohammed said. "He's trying to contrive a reason to shoehorn it in — although he hasn't heard me play yet."

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