Why Brett Goldstein’s Roy Kent is the MVP of ‘Ted Lasso’

Apple+TV%2B

Colin Hutton

Apple TV+

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Every great television show needs at least one excellent character in it. A character who can show up and make a mediocre episode shine brighter or just make the entire story appear more cohesive. Somebody who can shake things up in a good way and keep the other characters on their toes. For Apple TV Plus’ “Ted Lasso,” that person is Brett Goldstein’s Roy Kent.

****MILD SHOW SPOILERS AHEAD***

The foul-mouthed and revered veteran soccer player is the locker room presence that you may be scared of, but one you also depend on to drive the morale of the clubhouse in the right direction and say the right thing.

A fierce leader in his own way, Kent has no patience for journalist hacks, interviews, extended speeches from coaches, or anyone who crosses him. But he also has a secret heart of gold who cares for his niece and can be an old school romantic to his girlfriend (Juno Temple’s Keeley) while caring more about his team, Richmond, than his teammates would dare think.

Goldstein, who was born to a British Jewish family, is also a writer on the show in addition to playing Kent, so he peppers Kent’s language and dialect with signature phrases and dialogue readings that aid both his performance and the show.

Throughout my binge of the vastly popular television series, which has two seasons and 22 episodes under its belt, I never wanted Goldstein to leave the screen.  Everything got better about the show, which promotes belief in yourself and spreading positivity.

The epitome of a slow-boiling timebomb, Kent turns the F-word into a vocal ballet session and can go from 0-to-60 when it comes to overall tone and level of voice. More than merely balancing out some of the other characters on the show, such as Jason Sudeikis’ eternal optimist head coach, Goldstein’s arc on the series mirrored the show’s clear-cut message: breaking the old way of finding success and instead looking for it in unexpected corners.

When we first meet Kent, he’s just another aging great player increasingly sitting more on the outside of an illustrious career, as opposed to still being in it. In order for the Richmond soccer team to stay in their league and be successful, Kent has to change his ways.

But it doesn’t just happen over a couple episodes or get forced into the viewer’s need for plot points to happen; Goldstein’s electrifying grumpy leader moves through it on his own terms. The audience doesn’t start to lose their fondness for this old lion as he softens up a bit, but instead grows even closer to him. When Kent reluctantly agrees to participate in Lasso’s “Diamond Dogs” meeting — something he blasted earlier in the series for being phony and useless — the viewers pump their fist right along with the coaching staff.

This isn’t a common thing. Usually when show writers try to humanize an analog world rage monster in a comedy series like this, the effects can be fleeting or short-lasted. But the writing is so good on “Ted Lasso” that it enables-instead of short circuiting-the performances of the cast, specifically Goldstein’s Kent. A lot of actors could have played an angry older player season upon season and gotten some laughs and nods, but why not develop that persona and make it bigger? That’s what Goldstein and the rest of the writers do here, and it helps that the actor also happens to write some too.

That way, Goldstein knows exactly how Kent should talk and how he will grow into a dual-sided character. In addition to that, the rest of the writing team-including Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, Phoebe Walsh, and Bill Lawrence-can create scenarios, scenes, and interactions that slowly bolster and promote what Goldstein does as Kent. It’s a well-oiled machine that produced one of the finest seasons-the first season-in recent entertainment memory. It’s not just having a great idea for a character — but actually doing something with his growth and evolution as a character.

Two scenes in Season 2 show off the growth in Kent’s slow maturing process. Early on in the second season, Kent, retired from the sport and reluctantly working as a TV color analyst, berates his former team for their lack of effort and execution on the field. In classic Kent fashion, where he can go from normal talk to verbal evisceration in seconds, Goldstein fires off a short monologue that is hilarious yet true.

Later on in the season, he has a different take away from a Richmond loss, noting the human frailty with players and how they are really trying out there. Instead of being schmaltzy and manipulative, it comes off as perfect and comically rousing.

All the while, Goldstein’s whip smart comic timing and his ability to see behind the dialogue carries the torch for a show that is impressively multifaceted in its own right. But as much as the other themes and characters hit it off with the audience, we always keep waiting for Mad Man Roy Kent to show back up and surprise us with his newfound yet hardened humility. There may be about six curse words stuffed into his glory speech, but Goldstein makes it all sing.

He’s not just the MVP of “Ted Lasso,” but one of the better characters to be created in the last decade of television. What looks like a type at first glance developed into something else, delivering several quotable moments and an indelible character that delivers the goods we come to expect from him, as well as a few solid surprises.

A third season of “Ted Lasso” is on the way and I suggest all TV show fans give it a look. There’s something there for everyone. Just be happy to know that Brett Goldstein’s Roy Kent is indeed for everyone to enjoy. But if you don’t happen to not like him, just do yourself a favor and don’t tell Roy about it.

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