Ted Lasso Keeley is queer

‘Ted Lasso’ lacks queer characters, but the show may be hiding them in plain sight

There’s no doubt that Ted Lasso, the runaway Apple TV+ smash hit starring Jason Sudeikis as an American football coach who moves to London to coach real football, contains some of the greatest writing and most carefully crafted characters to grace our screens in years, if not decades. It’s also a complete and utter desert when it comes to LGBTQIA+ representation. A veritable wasteland.

Or is it? It’s entirely possible that Ted Lasso has a number of queer characters tucked up its sleeve, and is waiting for season 3 to reveal them. We’ve got six possible options about who, among the existing cast, could fit the bill.

It’s fair to say that the world of Ted Lasso, both onscreen and off, is an ethical and socially progressive place. No one behind the scenes is conservative, and that’s clear in the writing. The jokes that the show makes and the issues that it raises make it abundantly clear where both the creators and characters stand. It’s on the right side of history.

So where the fuck are all the queer people?

The dearth of them is really noticeable and strange in an otherwise extremely richly cast and welcoming show. Ted Lasso feels like an inclusive show on a purely emotional level — everyone at Richmond is safe and loved. The show’s leads are largely white, but an international football team is by nature racially mixed and we have quite a few characters of colour among the series regulars in Nate, Sam, Sharon, Isaac and Dani. In general the characters feel like a fairly realistic representation of the environment surrounding a Premier League football team sits in — ownership and management is largely white, team rosters and London itself are incredibly diverse, but there is one kind of diversity lacking. Ted Lasso, the show, is incredibly straight. 

Almost unbelievably so, actually. It’s so straight that I’ve become convinced it’s a long con. My opinion is that queer Ted Lasso characters have been in the mix the whole time, and season 3 will show them to us, that a number of major stories will be landed that involve explicitly labelled queerness as either an incidental part of the person’s makeup, or as a massive turning point for the character’s arc.

This is a show about professional sports, so the hidden element is understandable in certain ways. If a player (or a coach!) is queer, that is never going to be an incidental “just happens to be” kind of story and I would not want it to be. Ted Lasso isn’t afraid of looking hard things in the face. I would not want the story of a queer footballer coming out to be portrayed as a glossy and unrealistic fantasy, because I know what it’s going to look like when that happens in real life, and it won’t be easy. While the player’s club, the Premier League and the FA would not condone homophobic abuse from fans, it continues to persist, particularly online, every single time any organisation having anything to do with men’s professional football ever mentions anything at all to do with queerness in any way. On paper, football is trying to move in the right direction. In reality, fans are reluctant to let it. Ted Lasso doing a footballer’s coming out story that’s a little bit aspirational, a best case scenario, a guide, maybe, for how the industry should respond, could be nice, but not a “let’s pretend this isn’t an issue at all” fairytale.

I trust Ted Lasso to do that kind of story well, but what surprises me is that the show does have space for there to be incidental queer people along the way — not players, but other characters — and yet, we just don’t have that either. Maybe the show thinks that they have done this, but if so, it is very subtle — subtle enough to argue away, which is generally the marker for “not good enough.” It is honestly very odd to me that Ted Lasso has not found a way to include any significant queer characters at all — at all! — but I’m holding out hope that this is because season 3 will show us that what we are missing has been there all along. 

These are the six Ted Lasso characters that I want to be revealed as queer in season 3, ranked from the most likely to happen on the show, to least.

Colin Hughes

If you think that “casual” comment about the correct spelling of Grindr was actually casual, or the show’s idea of a meaningless throwaway joke, I don’t know what to tell you other than a) you’re probably straight and do not share the experience of spending your entire life consuming media with one eye constantly on the lookout for markers of potential queerness b) you are probably watching the wrong show, because this is exactly is the kind of thing that Lasso sets up in advance, in exactly this kind of way.

There is no question to me about whether or not Colin is gay. He is. The real question is what Ted Lasso is going to do with it, and how they’ll confirm it more directly. If season 3 sees Colin choosing to publicly come out, he would be the first player to do so while playing in the Premier League, and it would immediately elevate him to being probably the most high profile gay male athlete in the entire world, in terms of being openly gay while currently competing in the top level of their sport. 

There are only a handful of publicly queer professional footballers in the men’s game. In October 2021, Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo became the only male footballer in the world to come out while competing in the top flight of the sport in his country, and in May 2022, the 17 year old Jake Daniels made the choice to share his sexuality a week after his first senior call up for Blackpool, a Championship side (the league Richmond played in after relegation.) Wherever Daniels goes next in his career is yet to be seen, and he will go on that journey as an openly gay footballer, but the fact is, very few people knew who he was before he did it, and he hasn’t played another first team match since coming out, instead returning to Blackpool’s development squad. The reception from the terraces at a Championship-level match is yet to be seen.

Colin Hughes coming out would be a whole different story. For all Nate’s comments about being a Holiday Inn painting, he’s still an incredibly successful and high profile footballer. He’s a regular starter for Richmond, and they are back playing in the Premier League. I’m actually not sure if I’d prefer the show attempting to tackle what that story would have the potential to look like in real football, or just leave us with Colin still deciding on his future after a smaller and more private coming out coming out and finding acceptance in the AFC Richmond dressing room (apparently something already happening with unnamed players in unnamed clubs across the league,) but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that season 3 of Ted Lasso will be taking that “throwaway” Grindr comment and making into a huge and likely moving story about Colin’s sexuality. I just pray it isn’t something that Nate uses for ammunition.

Trent Crimm

We don’t know anything about Trent’s personal life aside from the fact he has a small daughter and his father is still alive, but he has been on my radar for a long time. It’s “the hair, and the whole vibe,” sure. His clothes. He’s a bit camp and he has pinged a LOT of radars. But there’s also the fact that in season 2, episode 7 “Headspace,” we see him on a date with a man. When Ted is at the Crown and Anchor and Trent comes over to see if Ted will comment about the fish pie panic attack, he’s about to leave the pub with an equally “whole vibe” kind of dude, who he gently asks to bear with him while holding the guy’s arm affectionately with both hands before going over to chat with Ted. It could be a friend, sure, but I just don’t think it fits the body language, and I have no interest in trying to explain away potential queerness when this article is all about finding reasons to support it.

For this character, there’s certainly potential to reveal his queerness incidentally, and there’s nothing at all to say that he’s in the closet, either. There’s a level of understanding I have for why he might not be openly queer in his career as a sportswriter, because football, as mentioned, is so fucking homophobic, but there’s also no real reason why he couldn’t be open about it and we just haven’t happened to see a conversation referencing it yet. It could be as simple as that, a passing mention confirming it, or it could be a part of a much bigger plot, because I’ve said it before and I will likely say it again, it feels like that man is in love with Ted. I don’t think it’ll be requited, but I also don’t think this is in any way an outlandish take on the way Trent behaves around Ted, in particular the way he looks at him like he’s the most fascinating thing he has ever seen, and also the fact that Trent chose to tank his entire career for Ted. Yes, Ted Lasso is a show about the way Ted as a person becomes a catalyst for change for all those around him, but even taking that into account, it still seems like a move driven by Trent’s personal feelings, and something akin to a very classic romcom gesture.

Related: James Lance of ‘Ted Lasso’ has seen the backlash from journalists, and says Trent Crimm was ‘happy to pull the pin’ on his career

“I think a lot is actually happening there and that’s really funny to hear you say that, that you pick up on that and and if other people are picking up on that,” was James Lance’s response when I asked him what was going in Trent’s mind, in terms of how he looks at Jason Sudeikis so intensely during their scenes. “People are like ‘Look at how he looks at him. Like he’s constantly studying him and finding something really appealing,” I told the actor, to which he replied. “Oh dear, well that really makes me laugh. That just makes me laugh and I guess the reason that makes me laugh is because 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. I love that. I could talk loads about it but there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot going on, is what really is the truth of the matter.”

I did also directly ask Lance, elsewhere in our interview, if Trent was supposed to be gay, based on the vibe, and the date, and all — if this was a matter of the show just totally normalising his queerness in the background. The fact that he became flustered about answering THAT question rather than with an easy yes or no, and the implication that I’d hit on something that was all wrapped up in a massive spoiler for the future plot, makes me feel pretty strongly about the fact that what’s going on is that he’s gay and in love with Ted. Or maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s just a dude who happens to be gay, happily partnered with a small daughter, and also just really captivated and perhaps professionally enamoured by all that Ted is and stands for.

Keeley Jones

In my book, Keeley is already basically confirmed as queer in a similar way to how The Good Place casually baked in Eleanor’s bisexuality without ever spelling it out on a Post-It. Keeley is not quiet with her openly flirtatious admiration of Rebecca, from their first meeting when Keeley mentions Rebecca making her sweat just by looking at her, to the way she admits she feels like a teenage boy when she can’t stop staring at Rebecca’s nudes. She’s constantly telling Rebecca how stunning and sexy she is in every conceivable way, which sure, is a lovely quality of female friendship anyway, but Keeley’s tone is always way less “You are a goddess, let me lift you up!” and more “You are a goddess, let me climb you.” Sometimes she’s downright lecherous, or otherwise totally overwhelmed — I mean, just look at her face when she breathlessly says “Let’s invade France.” If you can’t recall it, I’ve helpfully made it the header picture of this article. That woman is — to quote from my favourite play in the world, The History Boys by national treasure Alan Bennett — cuntstruck.

The show has even mentioned Keeley’s previous experience with women — when Keeley is teasing Rebecca in “Make Rebecca Great Again,” she references dipping her toe “back into the lady pool,” so like… yeah. But given she follows that whole proposition with “I’m fucking with you,” there’s still room for those keen to erase or ignore queerness to claim that the whole concept of Keeley and other women was a joke, not just the way it’s directed at Rebecca. Hopefully, season 3 wipes away any doubt on the matter. I do feel like there’s enough to take Keeley’s queerness as a given, but I would like Ted Lasso to address it more directly as well.

When the show eventually returns, I have a hunch that season 3 may start with Keeley and Roy having split up. Filming pictures show that Keeley will be interacting with Jack, the venture capitalist played by Jodi Balfour. We can assume that this is to do with the funding of her company, but I’ll be honest, from the first look filming pictures, Jack’s whole vibe is looking extremely queer to me, and she’s played by Jodi Balfour, a queer actress. I do think that Keeley and Roy will end up together in the long run, but I would like to see her take the plunge into the lady pool once more before her ultimate romantic endgame.

Sharon Fieldstone

On the one hand, I feel like she’s a lesbian. On the other hand, I’ve always kind of liked the idea of her and Ted together? Once he’s no longer her patient, of course. Of course, she could still be bisexual and get together with Ted, but it would be somewhat less interesting to me if every queer character on Ted Lasso was theoretically bisexual but ended up in a straight-passing relationship. This article is not the right space for me to make a case for Ted and Sharon, but I watch that scene in the hospital where the doctor assumes Ted is her husband with a case of serious double-think. With one part of my brain, I see Sharon’s fierce denial of that, and her clarification that she does not have a husband, Ted-shaped or otherwise, as utter ship fodder, and with the other, I’m like, yeah, cause she’s a lesbian. 

Even when we overheard her talking over the phone about her Ted problems with a woman who, cerebrally, I know is 99.5% most likely her own therapist — and good for Ted Lasso for including that crucial element of therapy, that most therapists need therapy to handle being therapists — I’m still like, “What if it was her wife?” Either way, it makes a lot of sense that we don’t know anything about Sharon’s personal life yet. She is a psychologist with strong boundaries and even though getting through to Ted means lowering some of them — she says to him that he’s made her a better therapist by showing her that some patients benefit more from a therapist who is willing to express her own vulnerabilities — it doesn’t mean we have had a lot of scenes that deal with her life when she is NOT wearing the therapist hat. If Sharon was queer, I don’t think this would be the kind of story that was a plot point, more just an incidental, no-big-deal confirmation. 

Related: ‘Ted Lasso’ season 2 proves that predictable storytelling is more rewarding than shock

But in a show lacking any significant queer representation at all, if she was, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t just find a way to tell us about it from the get go, even though we don’t see much to do with her life? Like, when Ted is overcompensating to the doctor about Sharon not having a husband — “Yeah, but not in a sad way. You know, she’s just fiercely independent,” — she could have just replied “Also, because I am gay.” But maybe even that is too much personal information for her to share with Ted at this point. But then again, that angle would make it feel like it was something to hide, as opposed to just calmly correcting default heteronormativity, and that doesn’t feel in line with the character.

I’m really not sure what I think about it, at the end of the day, but the point I’m making is that if there is no future planned arc for Sharon that specifically involves a heterosexual romance, she would have been perfectly positioned to be a character who was incidentally confirmed as queer, just so Ted Lasso could, you know, include some queer people. Not a queer storyline, just a queer person existing in a workplace. One thing’s for sure, though. Sharon is already involved in a queer storyline, because I promise you she knows about Colin. Maybe in season 3, if Sharon eventually returns to Richmond, we’ll sit in on one of their therapy sessions. 

Coach Beard

I don’t have a big case to state here. He’s more plausible than Sharon in terms of how sure I feel about it, but probably less plausible for the show to actually go there with. But I mean, come on. That man is up for anything. Given all the stories we’ve heard about his various adventures, the idea that he’s been with men on occasion is practically boring. He’s got to be pansexual, and that fact does not need to be a plot point, just a detail included in yet another of his many anecdotes. I can understand why that would not be something he broadcast while coaching college football in the Midwestern United States and there are certainly no publicly queer coaches in the Premier League, but the Diamond Dogs are a safe space! 

Jamie Tartt

Ah, Jamie. The one I want the most, but probably the least likely to actually happen on screen. Look, I don’t know if this is just big Hayley Kiyoko energy (“Whether it was gay or not, I made it gay, because I’m gay,”) or because the only properly satisfying solution for the love triangle that’s still going on between Jamie, Roy and Keeley is a polyamorous threesome relationship, but Jamie has been pretty much immediately clocked as bisexual by every queer Ted Lasso fan I’ve ever met. I would argue that he’s more typically queer-coded than Colin (though neither of them can sit properly, case closed!) and that his storyline, of a boy protecting his soft centre while drenched in the trauma of toxic masculinity lends itself to that narrative too. Also, I don’t know how to explain this properly, but as a queer woman I am attracted to him in a queer way, the way I’m attracted to butch or androgynous women. I adore Jack Grealish, but Jamie’s whole vibe honestly feels more like Keira Knightly in Bend It Like Beckham. Jamie Tartt looks like something off of Autostraddle’s iconic Lesbian Ken list, and I am deeply into it.

Then there’s the fact that actor Phil Dunster would 100% be up for it. Whether it’s filming a post-episode interview for AFC Richmond’s social media which was nominally about leading into the “Beard After Hours,” episode but will forever be remembered for the fact that when Jamie mistakes the journalist’s questioning as an implication that he and Beard are hooking up, to which his scornful response is that Beard is not his type because he’s too scratchy — not, you know, that he’s straight — or liking and applauding an Instagram comment on his page from a fan suggesting that The Crown actor Josh O’Connor should play Jamie’s boyfriend in season 3 it’s easy to believe that there is plenty of scope to view the character as something other than straight, and it’s that it’s scope his actor recognises as well. I’ve always suspected the poster of Roy that we know on Jamie’s wall was something of a childhood crush, an idea bolstered, naturally, by Dunster and co-star Brett Goldstein straight up making cracks about Apple censoring the lovemaking scenes between Jamie and Roy — right for the story, apparently, but just too hardcore in the end.

Related: Phil Dunster of ‘Ted Lasso’ delivered one of 2021’s greatest TV performances, and Emmy voters need to remember that

Dunster is also the only cast member to have mentioned being aware of Roy/Jamie fanfiction and shipping, and while a good handful of people are into it, it’s not an idea that dominates the wider Ted Lasso fandom spaces by any means. In fact, Ted Lasso is not even a show whose audience particularly gears towards transformative works on the whole. (The show, as of October 2022, has around 3300 works on Archive of Our Own and less than 10% of those are Roy/Jamie stories. Those figures, in the grand scheme of both transformative fandoms or shipping culture, and also Lasso’s wider popularity and audience engagement, are not high.) More widely appreciated by the general audience is the relationship between the actors, whose affectionate bromance made a splash at the Emmys last month when Goldstein, who picked up another Best Supporting Actor trophy, brought Dunster, who unfortunately once again missed out on a nomination, as his date, and in media commitments leading up to the awards, Dunster has continued to enthusiastically fawn over Goldstein, which to date has included waxing lyrical about how hunky Goldstein’s body is, attributing their crackling chemistry to how good he smells, and declaring that he is in love with him. 

All very fun, but more importantly, he’s pointed out the fact that the real love story of Ted Lasso, specifically within the intricate under-one-another’s-skin-for-life triangle his character is locked in, is Jamie and Roy. He’s 100% correct, just in the sense of what those characters mean to one another. They belong together, in whatever way you’d like them to be, and they both belong with Keeley too. “It’s setting it up for where you want to keep the journey going with these three characters, because it’s almost never ending. They could be this kind of awesome family that keeps [twirling together motions] for eternity,” Juno Temple says of the connection between the group. Keeley pouring those two coffees the boys brought her into one cup during the season 1 finale is truly the perfect metaphor for the scenario.

I’m not putting Roy on this list overall, but by nature I guess he’s included here because Jamie is Jamie, and because it’s Jamie, Roy might go for it even if he’d never gone for it before. It’s very unlikely the show will go there, but it’s a credit to Ted Lasso that I feel as if it’s not absolutely impossible. That they’re forward-thinking enough and subversive to be in the small bracket of shows who just fucking go for it. Perhaps this is misguided faith. After all, the entire thrust of this article comes from the fact that Ted Lasso seems to not be aware that queer people exist. But if the show is, as I hope, a Trojan Horse situation, waiting to reveal what was there all along… Well in that case, anything is possible. To quote Dunster on his own Instagram stories a while back, huge if true, fam. Huge if true.

Both seasons of ‘Ted Lasso’ are now streaming on Apple TV+

This post was originally published on October 2, 2022.