How “Star Wars” and Versace Inspired “Ted Lasso’s” production design4 min read
As the new season of “Ted Lasso” returned to Apple TV+ Wednesday, audiences will see some new faces and places. Season 2 of the Emmy-winning series ended with rising PR star Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) striking out on her own, preparing to launch her own firm. Meanwhile, Nate “the Great” Shelley (Nick Mohammed) joined the Dark Side, as head coach of Rupert Mannion’s (Anthony Head) newly acquired football club, West Ham.
Production designer Paul Cripps had the exciting task of creating new spaces befitting characters we love — and love to hate. In early conversations with set decorator Kate Goodman and showrunner Jason Sudeikis, they knew Keeley’s new company, KJPR, needed to reflect the quirky person she is, as well as the confident businesswoman she is growing into. “Keeley’s house is very unique to her style,” Cripps says. “Her confidence comes out through her surroundings, rather than through herself.”
He explains that Sudeikis’s vision for KJPR was an office that illustrated the tension between her corporate investors and her own individuality. “We felt like the best way to do that was the majority of the office would be an attempt to be tasteful, but quite a bland corporate look.”
“Nothing jumps out,” Cripps adds. “It’s all very muted and beautiful.” That type of sameness goes against Keeley’s nature, and will come into play as the season progresses.
Keeley’s own office, however, is where she gets the chance to express herself more. Though it is now a more mature workspace, it is still hers, complete with fluffy, hot pink pens, sparkly accessories and her signature pink cheetah statue. At heart, Cripps describes Keeley as “somebody who cares a lot about what people think. In terms of her own style, she’s quite confident in herself but not in business. In order to get along in business, she is putting up this face as a little bit childlike and a little bit crazy, because that helps her be creative in a corporate world.”
After a season on AFC Richmond’s coaching staff, Nate Shelley is off to West Ham to work for Rebecca’s ex-husband, Rupert. His former digs in the Richmond managers’ offices boasted a wide window overlooking the vibrant locker room, and a steady flow of traffic and collaboration. His new work life is different. In stark contrast, Nate finds himself alone on the ground floor of the stadium that served as home to the 2012 Olympics. “I wanted to make Nate feel a bit more isolated, so he’s in an office on his own,” Cripps says. “He looks out towards an empty corridor, and people will pass occasionally. And I just felt that’s a bit sad, really.”
Nate’s descent into darkness last season offered a lot of comparisons to Darth Vader and “The Empire Strikes Back,” so it is only fitting that when he is summoned to Rupert’s office, high above the football pitch, it bears a striking resemblance to the Emperor’s throne room on the Death Star in “Return of the Jedi.”
Cripps explains the design choice acknowledging with a laugh, “We always talked of Rupert being like — not saying anything about West Ham the team — but wherever Rupert is, it’s his empire, and he’s the Dark Lord who’s interfering all the time. I just thought, well, actually, why can’t we make him an office that feels like the scene when Luke meets the Emperor?”
To be clear, though: “It’s not a parody. I just couldn’t resist it.”
For the look, he credits Kate Goodman with finding an “amazing” Gianni Versace black-on-black wallpaper and gold lights. They also built steps up into the office to add to the sense of approaching Rupert’s throne. But what really completes the image is the round window overlooking the West Ham world below. The window bears the most pointed visual reference to its Death Star inspiration. “It’s such an iconic image,” Cripps says. “Rupert fills that dark presence, taking people away, tempting them with things. It’s an absolute, precise metaphor for Nate’s decision to leave.”
But the real question is, would Rupert see the Death Star design as inspirational? Or is it an ironic nod to his evil nature? Cripps likes to imagine the West Ham owner’s conversation with his interior designers. “I thought of it in that the interior designers, whoever they were, built it like that but Rupert didn’t know about it.
“I like the idea that Rupert doesn’t really realize,” Cripps says. “That it’s just a stylish office to him.”