Ted Lasso Star on Trailblazing Role as Closeted Footballer Colin

billy harris, james lance, ted lasso
Ted Lasso Star on Trailblazing Gay FootballerApple TV+

With the third and what could possibly be the last season of Ted Lasso, they finally did it. After a disheartening dearth of queer representation in previous outings of the Apple TV+ hit, we now have not one, not two, but three LGBTQ+ characters in the orbit of AFC Richmond.

Show co-creator Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard, said that they had been close to introducing a gay character in Ted Lasso's second season, but thought hiring a new actor to do so would be ‘obvious’. He explained that the production then decided two things: ‘One, it's got to be someone we already have. Two, we should wait even longer so that when it happens, you get the full impact of how long this person has been in hiding.’

The product of that decision starts in the third episode in this season, when Colin (Billy Harris) shares a kiss with show newcomer Michael (Sam Liu) and leads us to his intimate Amsterdam conversation with journalist Trent Crimm (James Lance) in the small hours in the latest sixth episode.

Colin finds a confiding ear in the most unexpected of places, as Trent tells him he was once also in the closet and leading a double life, albeit not in the pressurised cylinder that is men's professional football.

With moist eyes sparkling in the Amsterdam lights, Colin describes having ‘two lives’ and how therapy sessions with the team's sport psychologist Dr Sharon helped him to recognise the ‘ache’ it has created. ‘I don't want to be a spokesperson. I don't want a bunch of apologies,’ he tells Trent. ‘All I want is for when we win a match, to be able to kiss my fella the same way the guys get to kiss their girls.’

Digital Spy spoke with Billy Harris about taking on this trailblazing storyline as a closeted footballer and what life at AFC Richmond looks like for Colin for the rest of the season.

billy harris, ted lasso
Apple TV+

We understand you were told about the storyline ahead of the season and did research into gay players in the sport ahead of filming. What was your takeaway from your research?

I was very familiar, being a football fan myself, with Josh Cavallo when he released that video [Adelaide United player Cavallo came out in a social media video in 2021, becoming the only openly gay top-flight male pro footballer at the time] and it seems in the past couple of years, there has been a move forward in a sense of awareness for gay footballers coming out. But of course, there is still a long way to go.

It's been noted in previous seasons that the show didn't have any LGBTQ+ characters. Why do you think this was the right time for this big storyline?

You're sort of seeing Colin's life outside of AFC Richmond in season three. I think what's so almost heartbreaking in a way is that we've seen Colin since season one. Roy Kent says that Colin is a "chameleon", he can adapt to any situation.

I think that's what you've really seen his character do since season one. You haven't really seen the real side of him. So, I think although it wasn't tackled at the beginning, it's always something – a show like this tackles so many issues – so this was one that they had to do. Of course.

Juno Temple's character Keeley has a queer storyline this season, so could we see some overlap with Colin at some point?

Not to give any spoilers away – Juno's character is now kind of outside the world of AFC Richmond. I think it's just about making sure that those stories get told and focused. They're as delicate and as well written as possible, really.

In the most recent episode, you had some really lovely scenes with Trent Crimm and that's a new friendship. What do you think it's going to be like going forward for Colin, being able to share this secret with someone else in the club?

I think that it really helps. I think Colin has never had anyone in the football industry or the football world to really talk to. I do believe that in season two, you saw him going into therapy to talk to Dr Sharon and I think that, although the camera didn't see it, the storyline for me was that he was going in there and he was talking about his struggles with being a gay footballer, but now the audience are going to see Colin navigate through the world of AFC Richmond with his friend Trent Crimm.

cristo fernández, kola bokinni, toheeb jimoh and billy harris, ted lasso, ted lasso season 3
Apple TV+

In that conversation with Trent, Colin looks like he's actually relieved someone knows. Do you think that's opening the door to him being able to share his sexuality with the teammates or Ted?

I think when you see him come out of the bar, he runs out, you see a bit of a panic from him. But then with Trent's words – I've known for months, I haven't told anyone – it was very good to put Colin at ease.

I think the way the show has done it is, of course, there was always a bit of people thinking, Oh, is Trent going to go to the press, is he going to report this? And I think what's been so good is the way the writers have dealt with this is that this shouldn't be scandalous, it's normal, it exists.

I think the way that you saw that was, you saw two people talking and Trent was allowing Colin to just basically speak about his lived experience. So, that was really great to do.

When we saw your love interest Michael earlier in the season, you introduced him to the team later in the episode and described him as your "wingman". Is that an agreement that Colin has with Michael?

Yes. You're seeing the signs that Colin is still not fully comfortable coming out to the team yet. There's definitely an agreement there with Michael. We hope that that will change at some point throughout the series.

There are certain microaggressions with the team, like the line where Isaac described something as "gay" in a derogatory way. It's not something that Colin reacts to. Why do you think that is?

I think, in workplaces especially, there is a lot of toxic masculinity around. I think that Colin has, I guess, hardened himself in that sense, and I think that's one of the reasons why I think that scene was in there is just to show that these words do get bandied around.

I think that people need to be careful with what they say and when they're in a workplace because they don't really know anyone's sexuality. I think that was just a kind of mirror of society and how people talk really.

Your character has been a bit of a punching bag in previous seasons, particularly with Nate (Nick Mohammed). We were wondering if that links to the fact that he's having to hide a part of himself, whether he was put in more of a vulnerable situation as a result?

Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head there. Because he's living his two lives, I think that he's not complete. So I think that when he goes into his workplace, he's anxious and he's vulnerable and I don't think he is allowed to be his true self.

So, I think that he can sometimes be the quietest guy in the room. I think that lends to people thinking maybe he's weak, maybe he doesn't have a say. I think that for him, it's just that he is really struggling with the fact that he's not living both his lives as one.

cristo fernaandez, david elsendoorn, billy harris, stephen manas, kola bokinni toheeb jimoh, ted lasso
Apple TV+

You talked about being a football fan and one of the main issues around having barely any openly gay players in the sport is to do with the concern that they will unfortunately receive abuse. Is that something that the production was bearing in mind with the storyline?

Yeah, of course. I do believe a lot of the fans would be in support, but you're right, there is a select group of fans that would have an issue with it. Twitter is such a toxic place at times.

If a player loses or doesn't play well, they'll use anything against them. Obviously, I'm not a footballer but I have extreme respect and my sympathies go out to them because their job is so front facing. It's like [a fan's] team loses, it ruins their whole weekend and then they want to just target these players in any way that they can.

So, of course, that was something that we all spoke about when we were on set.

We understand that you get the scripts weekly and so we were wondering what you were thinking about Colin's storyline from this point in the series. Where were you thinking it would go?

That's the exciting thing about being on Ted Lasso is that things do change and we do get the scripts pretty much weekly. So, you kind of have to be really in it and just as soon as you get that script, you have to just go with it. Of course, after episode six, I really didn't want Colin's journey to end and I can safely say that it isn't ended and there's some really great stuff coming up.

What has the response from fans of Ted Lasso been like to Colin's storyline?

It's been so amazing. It's just been so supportive. I think from the Grindr line [Colin clarified the spelling of Grindr to his teammates in season two] to now, there's been people that got that line and they were like, 'Oh, wow, Colin could be gay', and I think it's been amazing for people to feel represented in one of their favourite TV shows. That's amazing to me.

Ted Lasso season 3 streams on Apple TV+, with new episodes every Wednesday.

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