TED LASSO's Sarah Niles on AFC Richmond's New Sports Psychologist - Nerdist
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TED LASSO’s Sarah Niles on AFC Richmond’s New Sports Psychologist

In season one, Ted Lasso faced off against a country that mocks him, a team that doesn’t take him seriously, and a boss who repeatedly undermined him. And still, the titular character fared pretty well. But season two just debuted his greatest challenge thus far: a no-nonsense yet affable sports psychologist. Sarah Niles plays Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, who Higgins brings to AFC Richmond during the season two premiere after a freak accident leaves superstar Dani Rojas with a case of the yips. While the club specifically hires Sharon to help Dani, the end of the episode reveals that several other players seek her guidance, indicating we haven’t seen nearly the last of her.

Nerdist chatted with Sarah Niles, who plays Sharon, at a Ted Lasso press day in late June. The actress revealed that while she hadn’t seen the first season of the series before her audition, she quickly dove in, armed with a lot of praise for the series from friends. “I was really excited to work with Jason and the Diamond Dogs,” Niles shared, referring to the quartet of coaches and Richmond officials who pal around Ted’s office. “I was really excited to be a part of that. And just find your feet as a new person in this, and observe them and watch them. It was a real joy to be able to, as the character, observe, but as me, the actor, observe and watch them. It was really fun.”

A woman stands in a football office surrounded by coaches and executives

Apple TV+

But while Sharon spends a fair bit of time with the Diamond Dogs, she doesn’t share their same brand of silliness. She meets them while they’re playing hacky sack with a piece of scrap paper. And she watches blankly as Ted does a dance by way of greeting her. If she seems amused, she doesn’t show it. An unnerving experience for the American coaches for whom joking is the premier way to get to know someone, even if it’s often a front for their own anxieties. According to Niles, Sudeikis describes Sharon as “an assassin.”

“He said, ‘She just comes in, she wants to do it and that’s it. She just wants to do her job,'” Niles said. “It’s interesting that [Ted] has ways of being funny, and he’s got ways of covering up something, and she’s got ways of covering up something as well. So it’d be interesting to see where their journeys go for them.”

Ted and Sharon look at each other

Apple TV+

While Ted Lasso has never shied away from mental health, by adding a sports psychologist to the cast, season two has an even greater focus on it. Niles says it’s been an exciting role to dive into because Sharon’s arc presents a side of the sport not usually depicted in media, especially with a woman in the role.

“It’s been great, because especially when you’re talking about football, you don’t often see a lot of women in football. You don’t see a lot [of] older women in football. And when you’re talking about psychology, you don’t see many women in sports psychology, particularly in the UK. So it’s really interesting to have that position, to come in and be an older woman, and be able to come in with these young players and have some agency and drive. It was really interesting to watch them play and watch them as characters and unpack certain things.”

Of the AFC Richmond officials, Ted is the most hesitant to bring in a therapist. He brings his usual brand of Ted Lasso humor and grace, but Sharon’s presence is unsettling and he clearly struggles to find his footing with her. He initially says it’s his “midwestern skepticism” when Higgins first inquires about bringing in a therapist. But it’s deeper than that, and this dynamic really appealed to Niles.

I’m really interested in the relationship—how they interact,” affirms Niles. “[Ted’s] been able to create his position in the role, as a coach. It’s been quite tricky for him to place his feet firmly on the ground. He’s always making decisions. Sometimes he’s observing, but he’s a decision-maker. To bring someone new into the space who is going to be observing and in a way, analyzing some of [that] decision-making and stuff, it’s going to be interesting to see that interaction between the two of them. I think they both think they’ve got it sussed.”

Three men in coaching uniforms cross their fingers

Apple TV+

While Sharon is very much keeping it stoic against the endless Richmond silliness, Niles admitted it was sometimes hard to keep a straight face on set. “Yeah, sometimes it was really hard because [Sudeikis is] just too funny, and he would just be cracking jokes,” Niles shared, “And there’s a naughty side of him that was just trying to make me corpse. I tried to keep this kind of sheen, [a] kind of face that doesn’t give anything away. As it got further and further along in the episodes, he would be doing stuff and I’d be just corpsing and cracking up.”

Just watching Ted do his welcome dance for Sharon on TV, I completely guffawed in both amusement and second-hand embarrassment. So I can imagine it was very difficult to not burst out laughing seeing it happen in person. Niles added that co-creator Brendan Hunt, who plays the eccentric Coach Beard, was also excellent at reducing Niles to a fit of laughs. Which is, of course, a very Beard-like thing to do. “Brendan would just come in and he would just do one thing and that was it. It was game over.” she laughed.

But even if she wasn’t duking it out against Sudeikis on-screen, Niles shared what a joy it is to watch the Saturday Night Live alum in action as Ted, bringing all the layers that took viewers by surprise in season one. She continued, “It was great to play that kind of character up against him, because I could just watch him a lot of the time. I feel like Ted’s got all these different layers and things going on. He’s not just one thing, he’s not just this happy-go-[lucky]. He is very curious, he’s very smart, very clever.”

Ted Lasso airs on Fridays on Apple TV+.

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