Whilst Ted Lasso fans may have been shocked by Nate’s betrayal at the end of season two of the show, actor Nick Mohammed had been prepared for it for a long time. Early into filming on the first season, creator and star Jason Sudeikis sat Mohammed down to go through Nate’s full arc which will reach its conclusion at the end of this third season.
During our interview on Zoom, Mohammed is clearly bursting to tell us all about it but is very aware that the bosses at Apple are watching, ready to shut down any spoilers: “I’ve been carrying this burden of knowing where it’s headed for quite a while and often I feel like ‘come on, I just want people to know this truth’. But the latter half of this season, there’s a lot of Nate stuff to unpick.”
An irredeemable figure?
Not only is Mohammed eager to reveal the secrets he has long been entrusted with, but the actor also wants to show fans Nate’s “truth”, unmasking who he really is. His character went from beloved bumbling kit man to arguably one of the villains of the show as he tore up the ‘believe’ sign, betrayed his AFC Richmond colleagues, and signed up as head coach at rivals West Ham United - working with none other than Rebecca’s slippery ex-husband Rupert.
Unsurprisingly then, many fans have turned against Nate, now being filled with hate for him (as one quick look at the Ted Lasso hashtag on Twitter will tell you). Mohammed is fully aware of this, admitting that despite what happens in the show he knows that for some, Nate can never be redeemed. He explained to GamesRadar+:
“I’ve always said that I want him to be redeemed because I want to see that. I want to see him account for his actions and have that moment of self-realisation where he’s like 'oh shit, this is how you treat people, I don’t have to follow the path of what my dad did to me, I don’t have to play the victim'. But he has to realise that himself and it’s partly why he’s out on a limb in the wilderness now.
"Whether he is redeemed, that’s not up to him, that’s up to the audience as for some people what he did at the end of season two is too much and they will never forgive him. For others, he might be able to do enough and they can welcome him back, but I think he will never be the same. I feel like his hair is a constant reminder of what he’s done, it's a cautionary tale, be careful what you wish for - sadly Nate is that figure in the show.”
Sympathy for the devil
Mohammed there makes a good point that ultimately we shouldn’t be asking whether Nate will redeem himself - despite what actions he takes, what matters is whether both audiences and other characters forgive him. That's a question that Mohammed has been asking himself, stating above that he does indeed hope that Nate learns from his mistakes.
However, the actor's focus wasn’t on whether Nate does find redemption, with Mohammed instead looking at how he could still empathise with the character despite his cruelty. He admits it was difficult achieving the tricky balance of finding sympathetic reasons for Nate’s action whilst not making excuses for him:
“I was going to say I’m not an actor but I mean I am an actor, just not one who knows too much about technique. But I feel personally it's important that I have to be able to empathise, it has to come from a place of pretend truth, I have to pretend that I absolutely agree with Nate’s actions. Often that will come from me interrogating the script with the writers. I think it’s important that there is a level of authenticity to it, particularly because that journey is quite a convoluted one and Nate’s relationships with everyone isn’t as black and white or as easy as others in the show. But I can’t personally account for or condone his behaviour, he absolutely oversteps the mark. But you have to try and see where he is coming from to make it feel believable.”
Whilst this was clearly challenging, the star admits that he actually preferred playing the more wicked Nate as it pushed him out of his acting comfort zone, testing him. Mohammed also actively enjoyed embracing his meaner side, even correcting us when we are hesitant to call Nate a “villain”, stating: “You can say 'villain' as he has villainous tendencies. I found it easier to play season one Nate as I’ve done the socially awkward bumbling before and I enjoy that, it was also easier to find the comedy within that. The flipside is finding some of the more emotional stuff and really raw stuff quite challenging as I’ve never done that before, but it’s more rewarding. I think particularly because it’s all part of his journey and I’ve known for so long where that journey is headed, we have been finding it together over the past three years and we are approaching an end point to that particular story.”
Nate vs. Ted
The show’s creators and cast have repeatedly stated that this season will conclude a storyline that has been planned out from the very beginning, therefore teasing that this might be the end of Ted Lasso. We will therefore definitely see what happens to Nate and if he is able to patch up his relationships at AFC Richmond, particularly with Ted. The pair have a particularly complex history, as seen recently when Ted showed up at a West Ham game, partly at his son Henry’s request but also to show Nate support. On the pitch we see Nate clearly delighted that his former colleague is there, but then gives in to Rupert when the boss tells him that he will ensure Ted doesn't attend a match again. Whilst this is a reminder that growth is an evolving process, it also shows that the pair’s relationship is still on the rocks.
Which is unsurprising considering that Ted bared the brunt of Nate's wrath in the season two climax which saw the young coach tell Lasso, "you sure as hell don't belong here but I do". Nate's angry speech criticised Ted's knowledge of the game, telling the manager that he has got by purely on luck, not skill. However, in season three we have seen Ted not only show more interest in the tactics of the sport, but roll out the Total Football strategy to great effect - AFC Richmond are currently on a winning streak.
But will this change from Ted earn him any respect from Nate? Mohammed isn't sure, believing that the matter of Ted's football knowledge is only the start of the problems. The wounds cut much deeper, tying to the show's key theme of bad dads: "Does Nate not respect Ted because he’s not savvy about football? There’s definitely an element of that and in that speech at the end of season two, he does say ‘look, people think you are great, but I think you are a con artist here on a whim, you shouldn’t even be here, you don’t know anything'. I don’t know if that’s just Nate lashing out, if he’s just saying those things - does he truly believe them?
"I mean, he definitely feels abandoned by Ted. He thought that he had found this father figure and in season one it’s just this incredible moment in his life, where you see his confidence increase and the amount of pleasure and pride it brings him to be given these opportunities by Ted. Then he rises to them, achieves them, and is promoted as coach. That’s the happiest we have ever seen Nate. But when he is effectively abandoned by Ted in season two - although he’s not abandoned, Ted just thinks Nate is fine now and he’s got other things to be dealing with - Nate just starts spiralling and it’s because he has these deep-seated insecurities. Bless him, his mental health just gets the better of him and he starts lashing out in all kinds of ways, with Ted being on the receiving end of that. But we are all guilty of saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment."
Beyond season three
Given that Ted Lasso is the most wholesome show on television, our bet is that Ted and Nate will work things out. And who knows - maybe Ted will head back to America so he can spend more time with his son, handing the reins of looking after AFC Richmond to Nate The Great. That storyline is definitely plausible and sets up a neat idea for a spin-off that focuses on Nate's management of the team.
And all eyes are on if one of the characters will get their own spin-off, given that this season may be Ted Lasso's last. Whilst Mohammed is open to the idea he is also wary, admitting that he doesn't think Nate is the most suitable character for a future show: "I’m wary of a spin-off to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, if everyone else was up for it and doing it, and the story felt intriguing and interesting, I’d be open to it of course. But particularly with Nate, we have told a real story with him, so you wouldn’t want to do something substandard. So, I’d have to query it and interrogate it, especially since Ted Lasso has been welcomed into so many people’s hearts, we need to handle a spin-off with care. But it’s not up to me, it’s up to Apple and the writers, and of course I’d be up to it, but a Nate one doesn’t feel natural or right to me." Let's see what the future holds then.
Ted Lasso airs every Wednesday on streaming service AppleTV+. Check out the release schedule and our interview with Mohammed's co-stars James Lance (Trent Crimm) and Billy Harris (Colin).