This story contains spoilers for the Season Three finale of Ted Lasso.
There may not be a more beloved antagonist on television than Nathan Shelley. Throughout the character's three seasons on Ted Lasso, the kit-man-turned-rival coach gained a massive fandom, broke our hearts, then won them all back. British actor Nick Mohammed was so popular as "Nate the Wonder Kid" that actual West Ham football fans were thanking him on Twitter for real-world victories, joking that the team needed his coaching acumen after every loss. If football’s really like a second religion in the UK, Ted Lasso completes the holy trinity.
It’s why it feels so surreal for the 42-year-old to be in this position. He's closing a chapter on the largest role of his career thus far, not knowing whether or not the series will ever return. Some signs have pointed to this morning's episode being the series finale—mainly from Lasso himself, Jason Sudeikis—but Ted Lasso can't really be over so soon, right? "It'll be quite emotional actually, because who knows whether it's the very, very end or not or whether there'll be more after a break," Mohammed tells me over Zoom, before watching the finale in Los Angeles with the rest of the cast and crew at a big wrap event. "I don't know whether it comes back as a film. I've heard rumors of spinoffs... Who knows?"
In the final moments of Season Three, Nate's story ends up right back where he started. He was always going to be a football coach, but his journey on the Apple TV+ series was more internal. Like many characters who looked up to Ted as the supportive father and/or silly uncle they never had, Nate had much to work through emotionally. He may have found his way back to Richmond by walking the hardest road out of anyone in the cast, but he got there. That's what matters. For Mohammed, it’s the best ending his character could possibly ask for. "He's back where he's belonged and he's the happiest that he's been as a result of it," he explains.
As the world mourns the potential loss of yet another massively popular television series, Mohammed looks back on his time as Nate like a life come full circle. Here, he opens up about his character's rare journey, dealing with the fandom's wild online reactions, and whether a Nate the Great spinoff is in the cards.
ESQUIRE: Nick, did you ever imagine that Nate would become such an important character to the series after being introduced as the kitman?
NICK MOHAMMED: No, I knew. They promised this series arc, but it's quite rare. Particularly in the UK—which is obviously what I'm more used to—often supporting characters stay constant and it's your major players who bounce off them and then learn and grow. So when they told me, I was like, Oh, well that'd be great. Then, as I kept on getting sent scripts, I was like, Dude, they're really committing to this.
What was your first impression of Nate when you got the role?
I felt like I could find my comfort area with Season One Nate, because there's quite a lot of comedic beats in it and I was doing this socially awkward kind of guy. It's not that it's necessarily a comfort area, but it is something that I'd done before. Actually, I went up for Higgins rather than Nate in the first season—which I didn't get obviously. It went away for about a month and then they asked me to come and tape for Nate. But when I found out that they were really committed to seeing the idea for Nate through, obviously a lot of the comedy got replaced by more dramatic and emotional storytelling. And that was thrilling to play as an actor, but definitely more of a challenge.
Would you want to reprise the role if Nate got his own spinoff after this?
I don't think a Nate spinoff would be quite right—just because that character, I feel, has been on such a journey over these three seasons already. I'd have to be sold on what the story is. Because the last thing everyone wants is to do something that is not as good as what the original was. I feel it's been so cherished this season, and I feel really indebted to it as well. The last thing I'd want is for it to fizzle out by doing something that's not as good.
Was it emotional on set when the team asked Nate to come back to Richmond?
It was so great that the way that they handled it. He felt like he had to prove something almost to himself that the way he left was worth it. He has to prove himself to West Ham, to Rupert, to Ted, to himself... and his priorities in life have changed. He's obviously found himself in a relationship. Jade is a brilliant force in his life. She's guided him. But Nate has had that reckoning himself. It's important that he goes back to his family home. He starts to address things with his dad. It's not fixed that relationship, but it's the start of something and it's hope. And I think what Nate realized at the end is that none of this stuff really matters anymore. What's important is family and friendship and relationships.
What do you think of the ideas of masculinity that Nate has to reckon with throughout the show? He's asked to be more assertive in Season Two—things like getting the window seat, or finally telling Ted off. But he becomes the full version of himself once he taps into his softer side.
Oh, completely. He's always been seduced by the idea of being a coach, or being with a big fancy club, or driving a fancy car or being a supermodel. And all that's quite toxic. Those things don't matter anymore. I get how he's never quite been that big dog and he's looked up to people like Roy. He surrounds himself by these guys who can be quite alpha. And he's obviously a bit more insubordinate. He's short. Even him being a person of color—he's a bit of an outsider and he is a bit more introverted. But part of his journey is him embracing that, realizing deep down it's not him—and that he's faking it. He just needs to find the version of himself where he can be comfortable with who he is.
You tweeted about the episode where you play violin. Was that a special moment for you?
So special, yeah. My wife and I went and recorded it together—and we had discussed for ages with Jason [Sudeikis] what the piece could be. We landed on this piece, which is actually Jason's idea. It's really a very simple piece. But even though it is simple, it's actually quite difficult because it requires quite a lot of control. But it was special to get to do that with Becca [Mohammed's wife], because that's how we met—playing in the same orchestra together at university. She plays viola as well as the piano. And she loves it. She watched that episode before I did, and she was just crying her eyes out. Partly because we're emotional. We've got a new baby. We were tired. But it's a nice thing to have done.
Did you ever think about a career in music before acting?
No, I don't think I'm good enough. I mean, I'm proficient on the violin, but if you want to make a career out of being a violinist, you've got to be really good. It's a difficult life, actually, being a musician. I considered being a magician, but not a musician.
Well, magic is my foremost love. That's something that I got into as a kid. And I used to work professionally as a magician for years before I did comedy and acting. I did weddings, hotels, and restaurants as a closeup magician. I always enjoyed performing. Obviously, I do it less and less now because acting and comedy have taken over. But I still always read about magic and learn new tricks. In fact, Jason is a brilliant card magician. We used to geek out over card tricks all throughout Season One.
I noticed that you weren't able to attend the Ted Lasso White House visit.
Yeah, because I'm such a huge Trump fan. [Laughs.] No, it's because Annie, our baby, was being born. So as much as I would've loved to go to the White House, Annie was due literally on the same day. So I couldn't be there, but I was there in spirit. And I love what they did there. The fact that the show has resonated with people to the extent that the American President is forming a mental health policy in tandem with the message of the show? I mean, that's absolutely mad. It'll never happen again in my lifetime, that I'll be in a show that resonated that much with people. Yeah, absolutely mad. It's a shame because I don't think I'll ever get invited to the White House again.
Maybe you could do comedy or magic for them. I'm sure Biden would love that.
Yeah, I could be asked to do some magic there or something. I could be a closeup magician at one of their events. I'd do that.
Do you follow football as a fan?
No, I don't really. And I would say quite pointedly, not a fan. I used to really hate it as a kid. I wasn't sporty. I was quite short and all the trendy kids were the sporty kids. Having to do PE and get picked last because I just wasn't very good—that was heartbreaking. Just soul-destroying, when you're a kid. I very much carried that with me through life. My dad's a huge football fan, and he would drag me to football games and I always hated it. Weirdly, I had to go to one of the West Ham games this year as a publicity thing. They welcomed me as part of their family, but then it was really weird. It was almost quite triggering. When I sat down to watch the game I was like, Oh, God, I shouldn't be here. I feel like an imposter.
Was it weird because you were welcomed by the West Ham fans, even though Nate was the antagonist when he was there?
Yeah, they really embraced it though. They were quite up for it. It is proper imposter syndrome because I would go there and all the fans would want a selfie with me. And I literally act in a show where I pretend to be the coach. So there's a real art imitating life thing. What's weird was when West Ham won a game, occasionally people would tag me on Twitter—things saying, Oh yeah, the Wonder Kid. Yeah, great stuff. And then if they lost, it would be like, Oh, we need the Wonder Kid. It was a win-win situation for me, but completely mad because it's all fiction.
Is there anything you'd love to do next now that you're at peak Ted Lasso power?
I think even if I just do it once, an Indiana Jones, a James Bond or a Marvel film—just something with ridiculous amounts of action and stunts. Because I'm sure it's probably really grueling and really tough. I'm just completely romanced by the idea, but the reality is probably physically and mentally exhausting. But I would love to experience that, even if it's just once. I'm writing quite a few things at the moment. I'd love to get something picked up—and obviously there's a Writers Strike going on at the moment in the States—but I'm just seeing where things head next.
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