Nick Mohammed kept the intense fan reaction to his character’s villainous turn at the forefront of his performance when reprising the role of Nate Shelley on the third season of “Ted Lasso.”
The actor said he himself agreed with the viewers’ outcry at the end of Season 2, when the previously kind and shy water boy-turned-assistant coach of AFC Richmond saw his anger and pride transform him into a new adversary for Ted (Jason Sudeikis). That batch of episodes ended with Nate ripping his former mentor’s famed “BELIEVE” sign in half and taking a new job as coach of the rival team West Ham, owned by Richmond’s former owner and current nemesis Rupert (Anthony Head).
“There is an odd parallel there with Nate suddenly being, you know, quite hated. And rightly so, I’m not judging the fans for that because his actions are quite despicable at the end of Season 2, and he does betray Ted in a quite cruel and vindictive way,” Mohammed told TheWrap. “There’s a lot of pressure on Nate in Season 3 to prove himself, and I feel like equally [to] the ‘Ted Lasso’ fan base; like, he’s either not going to get redeemed because he’s a step too far, or he absolutely has to have that redemptive story because he needs to see in himself that what he did was wrong.”
And while “Ted Lasso” fans have no qualms labeling Nate as a villain, Mohammed knows that trying to explain his character’s actions is far more complex than that. He credited the writers, directors and co-creator Sudeikis for always bringing a sense of truth to what happens o the show.
“I think that’s always been the thing for me, trying to find an authenticity to it,” Mohammed said. “Even when Nate is, you know, being despicable or cruel or lashing out in all the wrong directions. Even though I don’t condone his behavior — like him kissing Keeley, for example — trying to find a reason, a believable reason for why he kind of got to that place and [why he] made certain decisions. [That] has always been quite important to me, to make the journey feels realistic.
With Nate at the helm of West Ham, Mohammed said he took advantage of being away from his castmates to show the “sense of loneliness” Nate feels after betraying his friends. He teased that the new environment will have his character feeling like a real fish out of water, while juggling the dynamics of leading a new team of players and impressing his cold new boss.
And things will remain cold between West Ham and AFC Richmond, as co-creator and cast member Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard, teased to TheWrap.
“As we build up in Season 2 and really confirm here in Season 3, there’s no one who is more pissed off at Nate than Beard,” Hunt said. “He was the only one who saw it coming. He tried to stop it and he couldn’t. And for a guy who values loyalty above all else, there’s nothing he hates more than betrayal.”
He added Beard and a few members of the team will be struggling with those feelings as the action picks up on the third season.
“Ted Lasso” Season 3 premieres Wednesday, March 15, on Apple TV+.