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James Lance Talked His Way Into More Ted Lasso

Photo: Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

Trent Crimm: The Independent is now Trent Crimm: The Author. Despite seemingly departing the Ted Lasso universe at the end of season two after revealing his sources for a bombshell story about Ted’s panic attacks, the follically gifted writer is now back in a big way: He’s shadowing AFC Richmond and everyone around them to write a book about the club’s season. (It’s also convenient, since, as Ted reminds him, there’s “a big old Ziploc bag full with your hair-ties down at lost and found.”) But Trent’s second chance at career fulfillment may not be so easy. A hostile reception from Roy Kent forces the duo to reckon with their past and their egos, which became entangled decades ago when Trent trashed Roy’s Premier League debut in an article Roy still carries in his wallet. “I thought I was being edgy,” Trent admits of his writing. “I was trying to make a name for myself. All I really did was look for the worst in people.”

James Lance, who was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for the role at last year’s Emmys, is still amazed by how significant Trent has become as a character. That wasn’t the original plan.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Trent’s return at the start of the episode, because his ending struck me as a definitive one. Were you also surprised to have a bigger role this season?
I found out that Trent would be featuring more in season three in between seasons one and two. You see, I had a really interesting thing happen with this role. After I finished my very first scene in the first season, I was walking through the car park and Jason stopped me and said, “Hey, it’s really good to have you onboard. I love what you’re doing with Trent.” And we had a three-minute conversation that changed the course of my career and Trent’s life.

Well, now I have to hear about this conversation.
I said to him that I felt the reason Trent was the way he was has to do with his father. He had a dad who really wanted him to be a manly man and be sporty, but Trent wasn’t that guy. So he hit the library and donned intellect as his shield and armor. Jason was looking at me sort of mystified, and he said, “Hey, I’m going to tell you something. This whole show is about bad dads.” And I said, “Really?” And he said, “Yeah. The reason Ted is the way he is is because his father committed suicide and he decided to embrace life and adopt that positive attitude.” And I was like, “Oh, wow. Well, this is really resonating with Trent as well.” And then I said, “I think he’s bored of sports journalism. There’s more in there. He’s not living the life he wants to live.” Jason just nodded and went, “Okay, yeah, great.” And that was it. It sparked something that was maybe already in Jason and it certainly fanned the flames for what’s going to happen in season three.

There’s a moment in the season-one episode “Trent Crimm: The Independent” when Trent is tasked with basically eviscerating Ted in the press. Of course, that’s not what happens at all because he realizes he’s dealing with somebody quite special and unique. During that scene in the Indian restaurant, Ted says something that blows Trent’s heart open: “It’s not about the winning and losing, it’s about these boys becoming the best versions of themselves both on and off the pitch, and it ain’t always easy, especially if they’ve had a tough childhood.” That spoke directly to me with Trent’s backstory. As a boy, he’d always wanted to hear something like that. He’s now looking at this extraordinary father figure, which really does change Trent’s perspective and sends him on a journey in the background.

Why do you think it makes sense that his new journey is writing a book about Richmond?
Because of his connection with Ted. He sees the effect that he’s actually having in the world of sport and in the locker room with these young men — he puts the human before the journalist. That’s why Trent blows the whistle in season two: because as far as he’s concerned, it’s now more important to be a decent human being. In the process, he loses his job, but he knew full well that could happen. He blew up his own career, and it was necessary.

Trent embeds himself in the club by insisting there’s a “story here worth telling.” What is that story?
His interest and curiosity were piqued: Will Ted manage to take this team all the way? If he can, that’s going to be fascinating in the book in terms of his philosophy. And if he can’t, what’s more important, the philosophy or the fact that the team loses? And if they lose, are they also in fact winning because of the philosophy and the culture that’s been created within the club? It was a really interesting story that appealed to the writer in Trent and also on a personal level: whether or not kindness and compassion can win. He’s specifically there to investigate and unpack the culture that’s created within the club.

Should we have any reason to doubt his intentions?
Absolutely. He’s Trent Crimm.

Trent and Roy were near the bottom of pairings I expected to see, but I left the episode believing they were some sort of kindred spirits. How do you view their relationship?
As a younger man, Trent wanted to be Roy Kent because Roy was everything Trent’s father wanted him to be. That’s partly why Trent does the takedown article for Roy’s debut on the pitch, because he’s lashing out and trying to minimize the idea of Roy. That was an interesting place to come into it.

I love that they address it so swiftly when Roy takes Trent into the shower to confront him. In regards to Trent’s personal journey, it’s an invitation to do the right thing. I believe he does that. He doesn’t have any beef with Roy and he would’ve been too embarrassed to bring it up with him. But as it comes to him, he deals with it. On a personal level, I absolutely love being in the scenes with Brett Goldstein. There’s something hilarious about Trent Crimm and Roy Kent in close proximity.

How much acting did you actually have to do when Brett screamed at you in the locker room?
I knew it was coming, but my job was to just let it occur. I can tell you that every single time, the jump I did was genuine. It was quite frightening. When Roy is like four inches away from your face and you can see the dilation of the pupils, it’s quite intimidating.

What did you want to ensure was being conveyed between them?
I knew the game was up for Trent. He was physically and mentally cornered. He knew there was always that possibility, and it’s better to get that out of the way now because Trent wanted to stick around and write this book. I think it was a case of two people being ready to deal with that moment.

The idea of redemption is central to Ted Lasso this season. How do you think that relates to Trent and his involvement with the club?
Trent has spent a lot of his life minimizing other people and lacerating them in the press — all to create a name for himself. It was to forge a career and create a voice that was going to be listened to. He wanted to be entertaining. It was going to pop in the world of journalism in a way that, say, Christopher Hitchens would do with a “hitchslap” or writers like Will Self. Trent Crimm was very inspired by those types of writers. He had a lot to prove.

Inevitably, he burned out. When we first meet him in season one, he’s in burnout mode, and there’s a lifeline that happens with the purity of heart and the ripple effect Ted creates in the world. Trent makes an about-turn and decides to follow the light. Or, as Jason says, “Think like Gandhi, follow your bliss” — he decides to follow his bliss. Making amends and becoming a more aware human is all part of Trent’s journey, and we see him coming to understand that for himself at the end of season two when he says, “I’m looking for something deeper. Something different.”

The Vulture TV department would like to give you an honorary award for Best Hair in a Comedy Series. Can you indulge us in your secrets?
First of all, it’s a huge honor. On my hair’s behalf, I’ll accept it. Unbeknownst to me, I’m in a double act. I didn’t realize my hair was listening to everything we’re saying right now, so I’ve got to be very careful because it doesn’t like to give away any secrets. All I know is it doesn’t like to be ignored. It doesn’t like to be overly washed. It just likes to do its own thing.

James Lance Talked His Way Into More Ted Lasso