Awards Daily talks to Billy Harris of Ted Lasso about Isaac and Colin’s friendship, real-life locker room talk, and what Dr. Sharon might have talked to Colin about in therapy.
Ted Lasso’s Billy Harris is relieved he can finally talk about Colin’s secret out in the open now without giving away spoilers (because the last thing a TV fan wants is spoilers!).
“It’s just been everything and more, seeing the messages I get from people,” says Harris about the reception of his character coming out. “The conversation Isaac (Kola Bokinni) and I had, people were saying it was almost identical to the one they had with their best friend. The fear and the shame and the 1% of not knowing how your best friend is going to react. It’s touched a lot of people worldwide, not just athletes.”
Even though Ted Lasso is a very specific type of workplace comedy, Colin’s situation fits any scenario, whether it’s an office or a locker room. So when Isaac said, “That’s gay, bruv!” it’s a lesson for everyone to think before they speak, although Harris doesn’t believe such locker room talk ever truly hurt Colin.
“The way I played it was that he was so hardened in that environment for so long, he knows that Isaac is not aiming it at anyone. It just brushes over him, which is heartbreaking in a way, because it almost solidifies why he would have an issue about telling his teammate his truth. Those words get batted around anywhere. You don’t know your work colleagues or what they’re going through, so with those words, you have to be careful and just don’t say them.”
Something Colin wasn’t super careful about in Episode 3 “4-5-1” was his relationship with Michael (Sam Liu)—when Trent Crimm spots them making out right outside of Sam’s restaurant! Did Colin want to be caught?
“If he was going to be super careful, he would have never done something like that, but he hadn’t seen Michael in a while, and I think personally when you haven’t seen your partner in a long time and you’ve got to keep it secret, I think it was just an urge, and he didn’t care. What you saw with Colin, potentially from him going to therapy in Season 2—I think you have in these moments a stronger, more accepting Colin for himself. He still has a lot to go through and tackle, but that was something he wanted to do, and he did it.”
Fans might have gotten a hint of Colin’s secret in Season 2 when he comes out of Dr. Sharon’s office and tells Ted, “She’s amazing!” When Harris shot this scene, he asked the writers exactly what was going on with his character.
“That was my first question to the writers. ‘Can I know what Colin is talking about in therapy? I care for him!’ That was one of the main things they said. He’s struggling with his sexuality, being a footballer, and being unable to be his true self. That was not a clue or an Easter egg for the audience. People picked up more on the Grindr line [Keeley: “Bantr. B-A-N-T-R” Colin: “Like Grindr”]. But that [therapy scene] let us know that something is not all right with Colin, and he’s talking about who he is.”
While fans might have suspected Colin was gay, one person who didn’t was Isaac. When Isaac attacks a fan who calls him the F word, Harris sees it as a mixture of Isaac feeling personally attacked while also defending his friend.
“Isaac says, ‘What did you say to me?’ Then he says, ‘What if one of us is gay?’ I think everyone should be offended with that word, regardless of whether you’re gay or not. With the word being used so closely with him having issues with Colin, a lot of sports stars are just told to move on and get over it, but I think it got too much for Isaac. His friend wasn’t telling him the truth, but at that moment, it’s like, this is the reason why Colin is keeping it under wraps because they’re people out here saying these awful things. It’s Isaac going into protect mode.”
Isaac’s attack also incidentally gives Colin permission to come out to his team, when the team mistakenly assumes that Isaac might be gay.
“Colin didn’t want confusion in the mix as well. What I loved about that was that the audience didn’t see it [the scene cuts to Isaac and Roy]. It was a conversation between Colin and AFC Richmond because it was Colin’s choice. The way they’ve done it, and the way it happened, in my mind, it still was done on Colin’s terms. He did it when he wanted to.”
While it’s clearly a fictional television show, some have commented online that a professional sports team would never be as supportive of homosexuality in real life like AFC Richmond is. Harris tends to think more positively about society.
“Of course, this is the thing. I’m an actor first in total support for this to be the way that this gets tackled in the real world, but I know full well that athletes are under so much scrutiny when it comes to their performance. I was on a set doing a storyline where everyone was so supportive of it. That’s my world. I don’t know what it’s like to be an athlete, but I would think in terms of athletes and sports players and their teammates, I would think that would be fine. I think the issue is there’s a small community of fans [that wouldn’t be okay with it], which is why people find it potentially tough to come out. If you win, you’re a hero, but if you lose, they’ll aim anything at you.”
At the end of Episode 9 “La Locker Room Aux Follies,” Isaac and Colin become friends again and make up over video games. However, Isaac can’t tell his best friend that he loves him, not because of being homophobic, but just because he’s Isaac (“He needs therapy,” says Harris with a laugh), something that Colin chides him about. Not so in real life!
“Doing that storyline was so funny, because Kola and I really get along in real life, and we’d tell each other we love each other all the time. We’re in a show where we play this game, people call it ‘the beautiful game’ and they adore it, and you see these men and women on the sidelines crying and showing such passion, but then in real life, they can’t tell people they love them.”
Ted Lasso is streaming on Apple TV+.