Let’s get lost now! Those are the words of wisdom that Higgins (Jeremy Swift) sings into the night in “Sunflowers,” the latest Ted Lasso episode, set entirely within the confines of Amsterdam. As the various members of the Greyhounds clubhouse head into the night in search of a good time, Higgins is joined by kitman Will in the Red Light District, but it soon becomes clear that the duo aren’t making a pilgrimage to see a “live sex show,” as one of the Richmond players tries to make a case for. Instead, Higgins introduces his younger pal to the joys of live jazz and the artistry of Chet Baker, which culminates in the communications director crushing a bass solo at the packed club. The outing may have started out as a way to pay respects to a legend, but the catharsis of Higgins slapping the bass and playing beautiful music, Swift says, was a needed reset for the character.
I found it interesting that the first person to question Ted’s competency as a coach this season is Higgins.
It was with difficulty that he expressed himself. He’s made such a bond with Ted and he owes Ted such a lot. But at the same time, his major objective is the team’s success. That’s what he reluctantly has to work with. All he can do is intimate his concerns.
I liked this quote from Zava when he first met Higgins: “You are the glue.” He spouted a lot of nonsense, but this rang true to me. Do you agree?
How he knew that is something else. I really loved that moment. Max Osinski — what a performance there. I had to watch that episode twice for his entrance into the locker room. I loved that appraisal by Zava and believe it. Maybe he is the glue. He’s responsible for some major things. He doesn’t necessarily acknowledge that he brings Dr. Sharon onto the team in the second season. I think Colin is the first person who goes to see Dr. Sharon and he doesn’t talk about it until the Amsterdam episode. These are all domino effects that Higgins, in particular, has on everyone.
We’re now halfway through the season, and “Sunflowers” acted as a reset of sorts for the characters and the paths they’re taking. How was that idea reflected with Higgins’s big night out?
It was great for Higgins to not be in “work mode” and instead share his passion and be on a pilgrimage to a very important piece of history. I remember when Chet Baker died. I was working with one of my favorite British actors, Ian Hart, and he talked about Chet all the time. I remember he came screaming to me in his Liverpool accent, He’s dead! He’s actually dead! And then you hear the stories around his death. Was it a Turkish drug gang? Did someone push him? I got really into Chet Baker, so it meant a lot to me on a personal level to honor his work. It was so clever of Brendan Hunt to work that story in. It’s purposeful because it’s a reset and literally a rethink about the relationships within the team. They walk away refreshed and recalibrated. Without giving away spoilers, of course it’s going to have an effect.
Did you walk away from this episode with a different perspective on Higgins?
Surely. There are small indicators on his love of jazz — there are a few odd posters in the background of his office and we saw him last season briefly play the bass. But you don’t get to appreciate where he’s coming from. His whole history, love, and passion for it. There’s an improvisatory aspect of sport to a certain extent, because there are always elements that are fighting with each other. Early on in the bebop days, they had battle of the bands. Who could perform the most florid and extemporary? There’s a connection there. What the hell, I’ve gone completely off track here.
No, please, tell me more about jazz.
Higgins isn’t always appreciated or acknowledged. So for him to stand upon a stage and have people cheer and clap for him, it’s an extraordinary life event. The character will never forget it and always relish that night. It’s a special moment.
I’m assuming that you’ve pitched this bass moment for years now.
I pitched stuff that doesn’t necessarily work its way in. I was very happy when Brendan texted me and said, “Do you think you could lead a band?” Before we even began shooting season three. And I was like, “Maybe, it depends what the song is.” I then went to my bass teacher and we worked on it a lot. Although I am a musician and have a new album out, I don’t get to play live much with people. I never know what’s going to come up, so it’s difficult to commit to a gig without possibly losing a major acting job.
How did you land on that particular Chet number?
Brendan chose that one specifically. The song is about forgetting the norm and doing something crazy. It’ll wake us up and we’ll be refreshed. That’s what happens to most of the characters in the episode. It encapsulates all of the story lines.
Given our last conversation, I expected you to break into your own take on “Love Is the Drug.”
That also would’ve been appropriate for the setting!
Did you cry like I did when you saw Roxy Music’s farewell tour?
Listen, I saw their last-ever concert at the O2. I’m gonna well up if I start talking about it too much. It was emotional.
Like Higgins, do you constantly encourage everyone around you to listen to jazz?
People take down jazz as a joke genre. I’m not happy about that. I suggest certain albums and certain tracks. Go on and listen to this and tell me how you feel about it. Just try it. I’m at an age where I can pull that off.
Why do you think it made sense to pair up Higgins with Will? What insight did you gather from their shared experience?
I’m not exactly sure why that was Brendan’s choice, but for me, what works is the possibility of somebody older corrupting somebody who’s younger. But the opposite happens. It’s a great choice. Charlie Hiscock has many of the same comedy quirks that I do. We make the same noises and punctuations. That was a delight. It’s almost as if I was his dad and had a sense of pride.
Higgins said that there’s nothing more punk rock than Chet Baker’s life story. What’s the last punk rock thing you did?
I’m so boring.
There could be something punk rock in the mundane.
Because I’m a dad, I don’t get as crazy as I should. I’m really into a punk-rock band from Vermont called Thus Love. You know, I go to gigs where I’m quite often 30 years older than people. I went to see one of my favorite bands, Dutch Uncles, on Friday night. I punked out a little bit to them. If my kids were there, they would’ve had their faces in their hands. Thankfully they weren’t there, so I could be wild. Venues haven’t improved since I was a teenager. You know gigs where you’re forced to get your hand stamped? I’m clearly over 18. I don’t need a stamp. A woman went to stamp me and I was like, “No, I don’t want you to do that.” She looked very frightened and responded, “You have to!” And I said, “No, I don’t. Make me.” She didn’t make me. I guess that was a little bit punk rock.