Jason Sudeikis, ‘Ted Lasso’ cast take over White House briefing to talk mental health

·4 min read

Coach Ted Lasso made a pitch at the White House on Monday that people shouldn’t be afraid to talk about their mental health with one another and that the negative stigma that clings to the topic “doesn’t have to be that way.”

Ted Lasso, of course, is Kansas City’s Jason Sudeikis, the star of the Emmy-winning show on AppleTV+, which began streaming its third season last week.

Lasso portrays an “aw shucks,” Kansas-bred American football coach leading a fictional British soccer team, AFC Richmond. Sudeikis is also executive producer and co-creator.

The White House invited Sudeikis and fellow cast members to talk about a topic the show does not shy away from: mental health.

They were scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden to talk about mental health’s importance to a person’s well-being.

Jason Sudeikis, center, aka Ted Lasso, spoke at the White House daily briefing on Monday in Washington. He was flanked by, from left, cast members Toheeb Jimoh, Brett Goldstein, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Hannah Waddingham and Brendan Hunt.
Jason Sudeikis, center, aka Ted Lasso, spoke at the White House daily briefing on Monday in Washington. He was flanked by, from left, cast members Toheeb Jimoh, Brett Goldstein, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Hannah Waddingham and Brendan Hunt.

But first, they appeared at a White House press briefing. Sudeikis stood at the podium where generations of White House spokespeople have addressed the media.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter who you voted for, we all probably, I assume, we all know someone, or have been that someone ourselves actually, that’s struggled, that’s felt isolated, that’s felt anxious, that’s felt alone,” Sudeikis said.

“And it’s actually one of the many things, believe it or not, that we all have in common as human beings. And that means it’s something we can all, and should, talk about with one another, when we’re feeling that way or when we recognize that in someone feeling that way.

“We encourage everyone, and it’s a big theme of the show, to check in with your neighbor, your co-worker, your friends, your family and ask how they’re doing. and listen, sincerely.”

While that is easier said than done, he said, “we also shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help ourselves, and that does take a lot, especially when it’s something that does have such a negative stigma to it, mental health, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Jason Sudeikis allows just 1 question at White House briefing. It’s about Kansas City

In its first two, Emmy-winning seasons, “Ted Lasso” has been hailed by mental health professionals for accurately depicting what it’s like to live with depression, have anxiety attacks, even be skeptical of therapy itself.

Addressing mental health issues happened organically as the show’s characters developed, an acknowledgment of how important it is for individuals to work on themselves for the good of the team, Sudeikis has said in interviews.

Fans have thanked him, other cast members and the show’s writers for “opening their eyes” to what going to therapy looks like and destigmatizing it.

In the first season, Lasso himself doesn’t believe in therapy, at first. But he needs professional help after suffering debilitating panic attacks — one after receiving divorce papers. The pressure of coaching sets him back, too.

But as the new, third season opens, the team’s therapist is the first person he calls because he’s depressed over having to send his son home to Kansas from London.

Jason Sudeikis as “Ted Lasso” and British actress Sarah Niles as therapist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone.
Jason Sudeikis as “Ted Lasso” and British actress Sarah Niles as therapist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone.

“Ted Lasso” shows how even people as relentlessly cheerful as the coach himself can live with debilitating shadows.

In the second season he reveals to the therapist that he was 16 when his father died by suicide. That episode has become one of the most memorable of the series for fans. Their reactions moved Sudeikis.

“Now I’ve had people literally tell me how it saved their lives in deeply moving ways, emotional ways of decisions that they wanted to make for their lives similar to Ted’s father,” Sudeikis recently told The Star. “That this kind of talked them out of it because of the kids that they have and the people they’d be leaving behind.

“That can move me to tears if I really sit and think with it.”

“In regard to the mental health stuff, it was just there. It’s been there forever, but it’s really come up a lot in just knowing where the characters were headed and how important it is to work on yourself to help your team,” Sudeikis told Us Weekly in 2021. “And I think that we were trying to explore that and personify it in a way and kind of Trojan horse that there’s bigger issues in this fun, silly little comedy show.”

Biden teased the visit Sunday with a tweet showing a sign that said “Believe” above an Oval Office door, just like the sign taped above Lasso’s office door.

McClatchy congressional reporter Gillian Brassil contributed reporting.