Nick Mohammed still can’t believe how lucky he was to have scored the role of Nate Shelley in Apple’s multi-Emmy Award-winning series Ted Lasso—but it almost didn’t happen. Mohammed had set his sights on a different role which he didn’t land but at the time he didn’t realize it didn’t work out for a reason.
Across three seasons, the British actor brought to life a hard-working man with a good heart who was trapped in the shell of an insecure and jealous bloke dealing with mental health issues that prevented him from finding happiness and fulfillment. He learned many lessons, though at the cost of many mistakes and hurt feelings. But in the end, he walked away with a renewed pep in his step, a lovely and understanding woman by his side and a fresh new opportunity to climb the ranks again while healing continues.
Mohammed spoke to Deadline on Thursday from Los Angeles where he spent time with cast and executive producers to say goodbye to Ted Lasso, and perhaps even the series.
DEADLINE: Tell me about your journey playing this character across three seasons.
NICK MOHAMMED: It was the funniest thing because I had not actually auditioned for Nate when it came about. I auditioned for Higgins actually and obviously didn’t get that, the role went to Jeremy [Swift]. It was probably a good month or so later that I got asked to go in for Nate. I couldn’t do it at the time, because I was filming something else. They were like, ‘Can you just do a tape on your phone?’ So I hastily put something together over a lunch break during filming. My friend read in, and it was kind of mad because I sent it off and didn’t really think anything of it. Then it wasn’t long after that I found out that I got the part and I was like, ‘Oh, God, that’s crazy.’
Then in August 2019, we started filming Season 1. I knew from even the small bits of scripts I’d been sent before it was going to be a really classy show. But I remember distinctly Jason [Sudeikis] taking me aside, I think while filming Episode 4, and saying, ‘If we get picked up for Seasons 2 and 3, this is where things are headed.’ And they were doing that not just for Nate, but Nate is a quite clear example of that, particularly his downfall having been promoted at the end of Season 1 to where he finds himself at the end of Season 2, ultimately betraying Ted. Obviously, there’s quite a visceral reaction to that from fans.
Ultimately, Season 3 is about our capacity to forgive Nate. We’ve given his background and his circumstances and tried to shine a bit of light as to where he came from. He clearly struggles with his mental health and has deep-seated insecurities, which undoubtedly come from a toxic relationship with his dad which I knew would be explored. It’s funny because I’d heard [the writers] were going to do that, but, it was then such a delight to see them genuinely commit to that on the page. Then in the filming process as well, they really stuck to it.
DEADLINE: There was plenty of fan reaction after the Nate episode specifically because of how easy it seemed he and his dad “fixed things” after so many years. What say you?
MOHAMMED: Everyone’s entitled to their interpretation of it, even I questioned it. When I read that speech that his dad gave I said to Jason, ‘Nate has put up with 30-plus years, of never being good enough. It can’t just be that.’ And Jason was clear that it’s not that at all. And that’s why there are no tears on Nate’s part and he doesn’t hug his dad. His dad doesn’t hug him. That’s all saved for Ted in Episode 12 and it was deliberate because it just represents the start of the healing process. It was not, ‘Oh, right. They’re fixed.’
There’s even, in the montage sequence of [Episode 12], they’ve moved on and now Nate is sitting with his family, and they’re in their seat at the restaurant, which is the one he used to try to get to impress his dad. I think I agree that some people probably did see it like that. But for me, I think they will always have issues because of the trauma to a degree and what he’s gone through for so long. I was keen that the apology wasn’t just enough, and then that’s it. But it has to represent hope, which I think it does. And that’s really important because that’s dramatically a strong part of the show.
DEADLINE: I heard there was a big watch party for the cast at a hotel room in Los Angeles. What all went down?
MOHAMMED: Yes, we watched it all together in the hotel. We were all an absolute wreck because it’s really so special. Who knows if we’ll make any more, and I don’t know if we will. Obviously, it’s such a special thing for all of us. It’s so rare that you’re in a show that suddenly takes off like that. None of us anticipated it. We just wanted to do a good job. We’re so indebted to it, and we’re a little family. I’ve never watched an episode with other people so it was quite nice to share it all together.
DEADLINE: That scene in the finale where you say you’re the Assistant to the Kitman, is that a nod to The Office?
MOHAMMED: Completely, to the first one, the British one. I know that line from like, literally when I was a student. I was obsessed with The Office when it came out and I’d just watch it again and again.
DEADLINE: There are so many little nods in the show that it’s inevitable to catch them all. What were some standouts for you?
MOHAMMED: Oh, I’m probably not the best person to say, but in terms of the football Easter eggs, there are tons in there. Like Brendan, who plays Beard, is an absolute football nut. Even in the background on the whiteboard, the gameplay and tactics. There are so many kinds of little clues and codes and things. [The writers] made the best possible show they could make. They just pulled absolutely everything into it, and it shows. It does translate, that stuff, when people care.
DEADLINE: Is there anything you wish would’ve been different for Nate?
MOHAMMED: No, I don’t think so. In Nate’s story, particularly in Season 3, he’s deliberately out on a limb and he’s abandoned. His screen time is quite minimal. So it was important to be really efficient. A lot of the time he is literally alone. He doesn’t have people to bounce off of. So I don’t know, I was kind of worried at the time that, ‘Oh, God, am I doing it right? Are people going to buy into a redemption story?’
Similarly, when he was being nasty in Season 2, you want it to feel believable. I still wanted people to at least see where he was coming from. I try not to really have any regrets. We were so lucky. We were surrounded by the creators and great writers and directors pretty much every day. So if there was any kind of query that we had, [we could] just drill into the detail of what they wanted out of the performances. I felt like we were really supported.
DEADLINE: Have you thought of Nate’s future once the show goes dark?
MOHAMMED: No, no, I haven’t actually. Well, occasionally I do. We always hear these rumors of a spinoff and I feel really wary of anything, because I feel like Nate’s story in particular just feels so complete. I feel like we don’t really need to see or know anymore. We just needed to just have those bits. I think we could leave it there, and I’d be very proud of it.
DEADLINE: Certainly people would love to see a wedding, Nate farther along in the healing process and thriving, maybe even some children. Could you be into that?
MOHAMMED: I still don’t think there’s definitely unfinished business to a degree there. He probably still needs to go to Dr. Sharon [Sarah Niles] for a little bit.
DEADLINE: We all need Dr. Sharon. [Laughs] Many speculated Nate would become the team’s new manager but it was Roy who was picked. Why was that the right decision?
MOHAMMED: I think Roy was the correct choice, because I think ultimately, Roy deserved it. When we see Roy and Nate and Beard together, I think that’s the perfect trio. I think it’d be too unbelievable if Nate took over that job. I think that’s asking a bit too much to think that, ‘Oh, not only has he redeemed himself, and he’s forgiven, but he’s literally back at the club and coaching.’ Roy definitely deserves that. I think Roy has been through a lot.
I really liked the fact that when they’ve just returned to Richmond, he’s the assistant to the kitman. I feel like it’s right that he should start back where he belongs but be happy because that’s always been the thing, hasn’t it? He’s always needed to be the best and have the fancy cars and be at the fancy club…But actually, I think in Season 3, he realizes that those things aren’t really as important as he thought they were. They’re very seductive, but they’re not the things that really truly make him happy.
So to see him happy back at Richmond, but just doing the lowly job that he was doing at the start of Season 1, I think that’s a great way to come full circle. And yet, now that Roy’s the big boss, he’ll get lots to do, because Roy and Nate never really fell out. I think Roy always loved Nate.
DEADLINE: We never saw Nate’s reaction to Rupert’s downfall. How do you feel about that?
MOHAMMED: It was really deliberate on the writers’ part to leave out key things. When we were filming earlier episodes, we were like ‘Oh, God, I wonder what that scene is going to be like.’ And then they didn’t include it. And we were like, ‘I wonder why.’ And then I had a really good chat with Jason about it and he’s like, ‘Why do we need to see that?’ It’s not important because the show is not about revenge. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s a lot more positive and optimistic.
So him just leaving and going straight to Jade, I felt like it was a really smart move. I think that scene would have just been too predictable. I think that’s what Ted Lasso does. It makes you think we might be going one way and actually then subverts it or does something different or unexpected. Suddenly, you’ve got this player singing ‘So Long, Farewell.’
When we watched the episode, the finale, I went onto the balcony of the little hotel room, because Jason was outside. And I was like, ‘Well done, Jason. It’s so good.’ And he was laughing like, ‘It’s a bit mad isn’t it?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, it is a bit mad.’ There’s no ever show on telly where there can be a joke about someone sending a giant avocado, and then and then we’re all crying because he’s got a difficult relationship with his dad. It’s just such a ride.
As a writer, though I didn’t write on this show, I still don’t really know how they managed to balance that — the comedy and then the emotional storytelling and the dramatic storytelling. Because what the comedy does, it’s sort of slightly blind with you. So you’re laughing and then suddenly there’s this huge rug pull because the drama and the emotion are so impactful and you’re in too deep at that point. It really kind of smacks you in the gut. It’s really smart. I mean, initially, that season finale goes from hilarious to devastatingly heartbreaking to hilarious.
DEADLINE: I would have paid all the money in the world to see everyone’s reaction when Beard came out in the thong.
MOHAMMED: Oh, we were all just whooping and cheering. We couldn’t believe that. Even when Ted stepped out and it was the insinuation that he and Rebecca were together. It was playing with our emotions. We’re proper fans of the show. We love it.
DEADLINE: Earlier you mentioned that you weren’t sure if people would take to Nate having a redemption story, but he certainly was never a bad guy.
MOHAMMED: No, no. I mean, he made mistakes. I think some of his actions could be seen as villainous. And undoubtedly what he did to Ted revealing to the press that he’s having panic attacks and stuff like that, is quite pointed and cruel. But you can argue that he’s doing the best for Richmond, and he’s worked hard at that club, and he wants them to do the best. And he doesn’t feel that Ted is the best. He’s so insecure. He doesn’t have a support network. In my head, I was like, ‘Give the guy a break.’
The thing is, because Nate starts off as the underdog in Season 1, and because we rooted for him, we sort of feel, not that he owes us, but we feel like, ‘Hey, we’re on your side. We were there for you. We wanted to see you succeed.’ And he does. And then obviously, he starts his downward spiral in Season 2 and then betrays Ted.
I think redemption is a lot easier when your first introduction to a character is their behavior’s poor, and then they start to redeem themselves. It’s a really positive trajectory. But to kind of go that way, and then back down, it’s really difficult to recover from it. So that was definitely a challenge in Season 3, to allow people to question how they felt at the end.
DEADLINE: What is your take on whether or not this is really the end? When I spoke to Jason in May, he said that once we watch the finale we may be satisfied with the conclusion. Do you feel like the chapter is closed?
MOHAMMED: Completely. We obviously knew where it was headed, and we read all the scripts, and we were doing all these interviews. In our heads, we’re like, ‘Wait. Once you’ve seen the series, you won’t probably won’t want anymore because there’s so much closure, so much catharsis in it being three seasons.’
Ted’s not going to come back, because he’s not going to make that mistake. He’s got to stay with Melissa and Henry. That’s where his place is, and that’s where he’s happy. There’s always going to still be fixing for the characters to do. They’re not all of a sudden perfect. Ted’s still probably got his demons in there. But it is such a cathartic ending. I think it would be a shame to kind of be like, ‘And see you next year.’ It’s like, well, where are we starting off on that?
You know, I’m sure if we do anything — who knows — I’m sure there will just be a sizable break between them, especially if we film another series. I don’t know. But we’ll see.
DEADLINE: What are you taking with you from your time playing Nate?
MOHAMMED: I didn’t go to drama school or anything. But I believe that this is taught at drama school, when you first start out, you’re almost taught to assume the worst, assume that everything that you’re in is not really going to take off. It’s the same as doing live comedy actually. You have to approach it with an attitude that you’re probably not gonna get huge audiences. You might get mixed press, but it’s all about having thick skin. You’ve just got to keep at it. But what no one teaches is what happens when a show does well.
It was really interesting because I think we all realized that there was a slight duty of care to the show. There was a responsibility to the storytelling and the kind of characters we were playing. I’d never experienced that before. That was a big take home, the fact that people would come up to you on the street or get in touch on Twitter and say things like, ‘I want you to know that this has improved my mental health.’ Or ‘This got me through the pandemic.’ It sounds like a real cliché to say almost, but it really meant a lot to people and that is so touching. No one can take that away from us.
I really hope the show stands the test of time, but it felt like such a special period and as a cast, it’s simply the best. We are a family because we’ve been on that ride together, not just filming, but even doing press. Then the icing on the cake, getting to go to some of the award things, I would never have dreamt of. My first time in America was to go to the Emmys. I’ve never been before, even on holiday. It’s just been absolutely crazy. I will remember it forever. I’m sure it will never happen again in my career to be involved in a show like this because it’s so special. We adore each other. We’ve got lots of WhatsApp groups.
DEADLINE: Multiple groups? How do they differ from each other?
MOHAMMED: Diamond Dogs, of course. We’ve got one called Touchline Chappies, which was set up in Season 1, which is Jason, Brendan and me because we’re always on the sidelines of the football matches. So we just had our own. I think that then we added Brett to Diamond Dogs after he asked to join on the show—art imitates life. Then we’ve got our main one, which is with the whole cast.
We also have a little spin-off group from a few of us who took part in Hannah’s Christmas special. So there’s a few of us who were involved in that. So that’s a separate group called Hairless Penguins.