Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, actors on Apple TV+’s hit series dubbed dialogue from within very private places
“We didn’t feel any sense that it was impossible,” the show’s supervising sound editor Brent Findley (“The Good Place,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) told TheWrap. “Sure, it would have been easier back in our old-timey, naive, innocent days before the virus, but we had a good handle on how we could make it work.”
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This meant taking advantage of virtual communication. It also meant getting to see the inside of co-workers’ homes. Findley shipped professional recording equipment to members of the cast, and then from his home in Los Angeles, was taken on tours inside the residences of the mostly London-based cast, sleuthing for the best place to record.
“In doing ADR with actors normally, it’s only a voice relationship,” he said. “I’m in a studio and they’re in a studio. So this was actually a nice consolation prize amid the pandemic. Everybody got to wave and say hello to each other. And we all got comfortable with it pretty quickly because we were all stuck at home. It became, as it did for a lot of people, an outlet to socialize.”
Over the spring and summer, Findley recorded the dialogue of 42 different actors. Across the spectrum, one thing proved to be universally true about the experience: There is one room in the home most rewarding as a mock studio.
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“A walk-in closet is the best homemade vocal booth that exists,” he said pointedly. “You’ve got all those soft surfaces and all the clothing and shoes just sucking up all the noise reflections. It’s really fantastic.”
For his purposes, some closets were better than others. Eschewing the famed advice of decluttering guru Marie Kondo and her bestselling “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Findley said with a laugh, “A messy walk-in closet sparks joy for me! The messier your closet is, the better the sound quality will be. Messy closets have brought me much happiness this year.”
In one instance, Findley needed to re-record the actor Cristo Fernández, who plays young soccer hotshot Danny on the show. In the opening scene of Episode 9, Danny is running on a treadmill in the background of a shot featuring veteran footballer Roy (Brett Goldstein) immersed in an ice bath. As the scene was filmed, Danny was singing a song, which Sudeikis and his producers later decided against using. Instead, they wanted Danny to sing a Spanish-language version of the “Ted Lasso” theme music, which would lead directly into the opening credits.
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(Photo: Apple TV+)
“It was a great idea, a nice little meta touch,” Findley said. “But we needed Cristo to sing it, which he did in his walk-in closet on his iPhone. He couldn’t actually run in place because then the audio would pick up the sound of his feet. So I asked him to roll his shoulders up and down, just to give a subtle sound of movement in his voice. It worked perfectly.”
In another case, actress Hannah Waddingham requested to dub her singing voice in a scene from Episode 7, where her character Rebecca, the team’s imperious owner, unexpectedly belts out a version of “Let it Go” in a karaoke bar.
“It was 3 or 4 in the morning when she shot that scene,” Findley recalled, “and even though we thought it sounded wonderful, she could hear how tired she was. I was worried because it had been captured so well and there’s a danger of losing the authenticity of the moment. But Hannah re-recorded the song for us in her bedroom in London and it was masterful. She’s such a pro. I challenge anybody to spot the dubbing in that scene.”
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Working in one’s own bedroom has its advantages, according to Findley. Often during ADR, actors are encouraged to assume the same posture as their character in the scene. If the character is in bed, for example, sound engineers prefer the actor horizontal to allow for the slight extra tug of gravity on their vocal cords. “We didn’t need to ask the actors to lay on the floor when their own bed or couch was just a few feet away,” he said.
Some recording studios, especially for action films, are equipped with what’s called a stress bar. “The actor can pull on the bar and strain and it gives their voice that extra added bit of tension for the scene.” Did Findley ask any “Ted Lasso” actors to pull on the clothing rack in their closets?
“No, I didn’t,” he said, laughing. “I didn’t want to be responsible if it wasn’t bolted into the wall strong enough.”
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