James Lance spoke with us extensively about starring in the new Oscar Wilde adaptation The Canterville Ghost last month, but there were a lot of Ted Lasso-specific topics touched upon that didn’t make the final copy of those articles. I’m pretty sure Trent Crimm fans are going to want to read the rest, though, so without further ado, this is James Lance: Part Three.
Journalist Trent Crimm, enigmatically portrayed by James Lance, has been a character people have paid attention to since pretty much his first appearance in the pilot of Ted Lasso. I mean, how could you not? The hair, the glasses, the voice, the comments – he pulls focus right from the start, and I think he’s meant to.
But it was season 1’s third episode – the one literally named after him, “Trent Crimm: The Independent” – that cemented him as a full-on fan-favorite character, as, somewhat against his will, he’s won over by Ted’s approach when sent to cover him for a profile intended to humiliate the Kansas transplant. Trent Crimm becomes an ally to Ted, a welcome face who takes our coach in good faith in the press room.
They have a special connection, they’re basically constantly vibing off one another, and so when season 2 started to place Trent in a position to, excuse my Kentishness, fuck Ted over, I was worried that one of my favorite Ted Lasso friendships would hit the rocks. Not so. Yes, Trent ended up having to run a story about Ted’s panic attacks once he was tipped off by an anonymous source. (If you read the close ups of the article on the screen, it’s actually done in a really respectful way that advocates for mental health in sports to be taken seriously.)
Trent Crimm, legend that he is, then promptly burns his source. He not only warns Ted in advance about the article, but he also tells Ted who betrayed him – Nate, whose season 2 downfall was telegraphed a long way off, but clapped in irons when we saw Rupert cosy up to him suggestively at the funeral. In the week between episode 11 and the Ted Lasso season 2 finale, the online uproar about Trent’s actions – mostly from other journalists – was extreme to say the least, questioning the show’s judgment, perception of reality, and any number of things.
College level American Football coach being brought in to head up a professional Association Football team they could handle, but suspending their disbelief to accept the goodness of a decent man doing a decent personal thing for a friend instead of cleaving to the rules of his profession (I won’t even get into the fact that the UK has different rules for that kind of reporting to the USA) is a step too far.
But no matter. In the Ted Lasso season 2 finale, we learned that Trent had left his job – quit or been fired or both simultaneously – because he himself admitted what he did to his bosses at The Independent. He tells Ted this with a zen sort of pride, saying he’s looking to do something deeper. It was almost immediately confirmed by the show’s EP Bill Lawrence that Trent will be back with a significant role in season 3.
Last month, I spoke with actor James Lance for an extended interview, nominally for another project, The Canterville Ghost – a four part miniseries that’s a present-day adaptation of the Oscar Wilde short story. Lance played Hiram Otis, the American millionaire who buys up a haunted castle. Another Ted Lasso cast member, Anthony Head – who is a beloved actor, for his iconic career, but who’s currently playing the most hated man on television, Rupert Mannion – plays the eponymous ghost, and he also granted me a long interview for The Canterville Ghost.
You can read that coverage – two articles per actor – right here, and each piece also contains a fair few Ted Lasso tidbits, including the fact that Lance was told by Jason Sudeikis about Ted’s specific trauma incredibly early on, and also that the way he makes Trent look at Ted, like he’s the most fascinating and appealing thing in the world, is worth paying attention to. (“There’s a truth that you’ve hit on there and until it gets revealed — I wouldn’t be laughing like this unless there was something there.”)
But when all was said and done with Canterville coverage, I still had a lot of content from James Lance regarding Ted Lasso and Trent Crimm specifically. Lance loves this show and he loves this character, and between that and our mutual intense love for Oscar Wilde, our conversation was long and impassioned, concluding with a request from Lance for me to follow up next season to learn more about Trent and talk more about the things he wasn’t allowed to say.
Just a dream of an interview, and I’ll be putting the audio out as a podcast soon, but here’s the most significant remaining part of the interview, which includes discussion of the online journalistic backlash against Trent Crimm, why Trent was ready to leave his career behind, Lance’s favorite scenes so far, who he hopes to work with in season 3, and who we think should be getting awards for their season 2 performance (spoiler: it’s Phil Dunster.) Also, might we ever see Trent Crimm’s child?
Executive Producer Bill Lawrence has said that that Trent Crimm is meant to have a significant role next year. We obviously have that fantastic plot of season 2 where he ends up quitting or being fired from his job and there’s a pretty good impression that he’s going to lean closer towards the team in his next move. You’re not very online — are you aware of the massive argument about journalistic ethics that happened regarding Trent in season 2? Are you aware of what happened?
I am, yeah. I am aware.
It was so funny to me. Obviously I’m a journalist, I’m not like a hard-hitting news journalist, but I was just like “This is a show about personal ethics! He chose personal ethics over journalistic ethics! How can you be against that?” People were like “I love everything about the show, except that Trent Crimm should be hung for what he did, for burning a source!” and I’m like “Guys…” but I was just wondering if you were aware of how many articles and things like that, or very angry discussions from news journalists that happened about that, because it was shocking to me honestly.
It was a surprise to me too. My wife is a journalist, an investigative journalist, and has been making programs about food for years on Channel 4 over here and comes from that background and she’s just naturally sort of journalistic, she’s just super curious and asks the right questions and so she’s online as well and [when this went down] she said to me “You need to know what’s going on here, because it is kicking off.”
She pointed me in the right direction of some of the articles that were happening with Trent. It was at episode 11 when when he’d when he’d got in touch with Ted to reveal his source, so everyone was saying “They’ve really stepped off the mark here,” and all this kind of stuff “He’d never, a journalist would never do that,” but I was just really excited because I was thinking “Oh, you don’t know what’s coming.”
That’s the thing as well, because I was like A) even if the repercussions had not happened in the next episode, it’s a show about people making good emotional choices when it counts to me in a lot of ways and here, the ethics of journalism versus the ethics of a human being, but then B) everyone was like “You would never do that, you would get fired,” and then the next episode you see well, yeah he did. It’s like “They know, guys.”
He was happy. He was happy to pull the plug, or pull the pin I should say. I think he knew he was going to pull the pin. I mean it’s interesting because he runs the story, you know, the story is run and that’s kind of the last piece of journalism he’s going to be doing on that level and I think that he just thought “Well…” As you say, it was his personal ethics that were more important. And I think Trent has been in that press room — he’s been bored in these press rooms for a long time, he’s got other stuff that he wants to be thinking about.
You touched on this, but what do you think was the impetus of him telling his bosses that he burned his source? You said that he was ready to pull the pin, so what do you think it was that made him feel the need to do that? First of all to tell Ted, but then to tell his bosses that he had burned his source and that he basically knew he was going to be fired.
In my mind, it’s because I think he just thought the whole affair is just pretty grubby and that’s kind of his clean exit out of that world, really, just to tell the truth, just to tell his truth, you know? And I think that’s what he’s kind of all about really, ultimately, because you know even in episode three, I think the last line says “I can’t help but root for the guy,” and that was going against the grain of the common, the general sort of reaction to this guy.
Because journalism is a bit combative as well.
Yeah and I think he really genuinely learned something, learns a lot, when he’s hanging out with Ted that day, and is a better person for it which is of course what Ted Lasso manages to do with lots of people. So it’s just more of the same, really, of just kind of telling the truth and being brave enough to just say it. Just say it. Fuck it.
I loved it, like I said, I loved the personal ethics winning out over the kind of harsh journalistic ethics.
There’s a lot of theories about what you’re going to be doing next year. Apparently one of the hosts of Sports Junkies podcast, John Feinstein, who wrote Season on the Brink, said that he’d got a research call from the Ted Lasso writers saying they want to have a journalist joining a team to write a deep dive book covering their season, which I’m assuming is going to be your plot line for season three. Other people think that you might be slipping into the PR position at the club that Keeley left behind. Without actually telling me what you’re doing, what can you say about maybe what “something deeper” for Trent means, or what you think might happen emotionally for him next year or anything like that?
I think honestly that the most satisfying thing for you and for anybody else will be to see it. That’s what I think and I’m gonna put a full stop there
No, that’s fine. People are very keen though — right off the bat, the day Ted Lasso season 2 ended, the reveal that Trent quit was one of the first things that people were asking. Like I said, one of the first things Bill Lawrence addressed in an interview was “Is Trent Crimm coming back? Does it mean he’s gonna be more present?” People were like “Is the symbolism of him locking his keys in his car that he’s now stuck with the team?” That level of analysis.
I know! I was aware, I read some stuff, again, when my wife said “check it out, we’ll see what’s happening,” we looked through the comments and the level of forensic detail that people were going into about the keys in the car was just so much fun for me to read. People are really looking very closely, aren’t they? They really are.
What’s it like to be under that level of scrutiny?
It’s unusual. It’s unusual for me. I remember when social media came in, whenever that was — when was that? When did social media come in? A long time ago now.
I don’t know, 2009?
Well, this is how my finger is so not on the pulse, I remember thinking “Ah, that’s not gonna last. That’s not a thing.”
Look, it’s hell, so you’re lucky to not have any impulse to be involved, but yeah, lots of people close-watch TV shows, but I think that one of the things that Ted Lasso has done really successfully is that it hasn’t tried to be unpredictable, in a way. The good thing about it is actually that it is predictable, that they are laying the seeds for you to kind of follow and analyze and say “Hey, I got that right,” and it’s actually more interesting than shows trying to do a shock twist, if you know what I mean.
It’s always believable, isn’t it. I think for me, when I was reading the scripts in season two and Nate’s descent or slide to the dark side was so exciting because it was… I could believe it, yeah.
When it started happening, in the first couple of season 2 episodes, just the first couple of bits of nastiness… I hadn’t thought about it in season 1, but as soon as he did something that was objectively bad, I realized I actually could believe it from the very first episode of Ted Lasso, like “Oh I see this, I see the bitterness from day one, I see the power issues from day one, I get this.”
I have to say that when Nick Mohammed did that speech as Nate in the final episode, to Ted, my heart was in my mouth. It was just powerful.
It’s interesting because this is a comedy, it’s a quote unquote comedy, and I want Nick to get an award for episode 12. I want Phil Dunster to get an award for episode 8. But not in a comedy category! In a drama category! Basically midway through the second season, it’s shifted from a 30 minute comedy to a 50 minute drama and it’s just incredible really.
I think Phil Dunster should have got an award for the way that he told Keeley that he was still in love with her at the funeral. That scene and the way that Keeley responded to that — she’s amazing. Juno [Temple] is incredible, I mean she’s just incredible, it’s so 360° alive in that character and so was Phil as Jamie Tartt. The way that he just… I believed him so much, I thought it was amazing. I mean episodes 11 and 12 were phenomenal I thought, but then you know they’re all incredible.
You said that you’ve had all of these thoughts about Trent Crimm’s backstory and how he is the way he is, so are we going to learn more about his daughter? Because it’s mentioned in passing by Ted that Trent has a kid.
Yeah! I don’t know, I think I laugh because I have a three-year-old and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life and so when I found out that Trent had a child, I was so happy for him. I was just so happy for him. I would love to see Trent with his kid and see what that’s like. I just find him endlessly fascinating, I adore him, I really really really love Trent Crimm, because I guess I understand them in a way that I can’t even explain. I actually don’t know the answer though.
This is such a popular show, unbelievably popular, unbelievable amount of engagement online and you are really not online, so aside from the journalistic chaos issue that happened, have you been made aware of how interested people are, not just in the show, but in you? Do you get stopped on the street? Phil Dunster has said a couple of times that he feels like it isn’t quite as big in the UK as it is in America.
I mean, all I know is that — so I live in the countryside, I’m in the middle of nowhere — and when I was in London the other day, I came home and I was like “I’m so glad I live in the middle of the countryside.”
You were recognized a lot?
Loads, yeah. Loads, and I was doing kind of like — I would do a little message from Trent for people, to send to people on the phone, which was actually really good fun and people… I mean the reaction was amazing, it was just crazy, a huge amount of love for the show, and for Trent and it was pretty wild.
What was your favorite moment that you were a part of in each season, for Trent Crimm in season 1 and 2?
My favorite scene was probably the last scene in season two, for me to play. That was a lot of fun. I love acting opposite Jason, which is pretty much mainly what Trent does at the moment, so that was good fun, and [for season 1] let me think, oh, I know what scene I did really enjoy actually, because it was with Brett [Goldstein] as well, was when they’re talking about [the book,] and then Brett says, you know, “What even is A Wrinkle In Time?” and then Trent tells him what the book is about and he’s like “Am I supposed to be the little girl?” “I’d like you to be,” and all of that. I just love that scene, that was really fun to have a bit of bounce with Brett as well.
That episode, “Trent Crimm: The Independent,” is definitely — when people are like “Just start the show, watch it for three episodes…” that’s actually the episode that sells a lot of people onto the show as well — when they start it and if they’re not sure about it and they’re not sure what’s happening, that’s actually the episode that really hooks people. I wasn’t sure if you’re aware of that.
No I wasn’t aware of that, but that’s really cool. They’re very clever at how lightly they play things, I think, with the notes that they hit. It’s really clever stuff.
When do you go back to shooting for season 3, do you know?
As far as I know, we start at the end of January.
Who are you most looking forward to having scenes with, potentially? Not based on any scripts or anything, just like in theory — if Trent Crimm is going to have a bigger role, who do you want to play with?
Honestly, I would love to play with all of them. You know, when I watch the show and for instance when that team comes out, you’re like I love that guy, I love that one, I love him, he’s great, he’s great, he’s great — the way that they’ve kind of broadened the show out, is amazing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in a scene with Hannah [Waddingham] or Juno or Nick or Jeremy [Swift]…
Oh yeah, I want Trent and Higgins, that would be fantastic. Higgins is like the most well-balanced person on the show.
I love Higgins. He’s just so funny and you never know when he’s going to do that kind of like [comedy warble] little thing and I just think he’s hilarious, and you know, a scene with Jamie Tartt would be hilarious, a scene with Beard would be funny.
I mean, there isn’t there isn’t any of them that I wouldn’t want to.
There isn’t a dud.
There isn’t a dud in the pack, I don’t think so. I would be delighted with any of them. I mean a scene with Anthony? Trent and Rupert? That would be cool, that would be really cool.
I’ve got to assume that his [Anthony Head’s] role will be somewhat increased in season three too, given — I’m not asking you to tell me, just logically like plot-wise — given where we left off. It feels like that must be coming, he kind of has things brewing that’s going to come to the crisis point in season three.
Yeah it certainly looks like it, but again I genuinely don’t know, but yeah, and I’d love a scene with Nick as well.
I really want to know how the Nate thing went down. I’m curious, in retrospect, as to how that happened: whether Nate came to Trent, whether Trent was already digging, whether when he went to Ted in the bar and said “hey, what happened,” was that him giving Ted a chance to tell the truth when he already had Nate in his back pocket or did he not know yet?
Whether Trent ran the story because he knew that he would do it more kindly than the Sun reporter or something, like that he took the story because he knew that he would do it with respect for Ted as opposed to other people…
People have given a lot of thought to the why of this quote-unquote betrayal of the story and what it meant for Trent and Ted’s friendship or anything like that so it’s really intense, just be aware that every eye flicker is definitely looked at.
I just love it because obviously Trent Crimm is a character that started with so much initial antagonism and then you got a whole episode — basically the point of that episode was, you know, Trent coming over to Ted’s side, coming around to be like “actually, I’m an ally,” and it’s just Ted making allies left right and center.
Which is kind of what everybody else did, right? I mean when you first see him, you think this guy’s an idiot and then you go oh no he’s not he’s actually not that at all
Yes, and I think what Trent discovered in that episode when he did the profile was that Ted is acting very intentionally all the time — it’s not like this is someone bumbling and cheerful, it’s that his positivity is radical, it’s intentional, it’s meant for a purpose, to help people.
Absolutely. I mean in all seriousness, I think, like myself witnessing what’s happening with the show around the world, Trent witnesses that actually this guy is just spreading love and he’s spreading joy and he’s spreading inspiration and it’s a kind of a shock to Trent, you know? And it’s also incredibly heartwarming, just quite simply. It’s quite simply like “Wow, this guy’s kind of doing something amazing, and I had no idea.” The whole classic thing of “never judge a book by its cover” and all of that, and Trent knows not to judge a book by its cover, but he’s kind of got into that groove and then this guy comes along and yeah, it’s a different material inside.