'Ted Lasso' Star Kola Bokinni on Isaac's Finale Moment and What's to Come in Season 3 (Exclusive)
By Meredith B. Kile
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Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven't watched Ted Lasso season 2, episode 12, "Inverting the Pyramid of Success."
Ted Lasso concluded its stellar second season on Friday with a team triumph, as AFC Richmond won the pivotal match to promote themselves back into the Premier League.
While it didn't come without some heartbreak (WTF, Nate?!), the victory was a team effort, led by captain Isaac McAdoo, who rallied his teammates during halftime with a meaningful gesture, pointing them to the simple yellow "Believe" poster that Jason Sudeikis' titular coach hung in the locker room on his first day with the club.
For Kola Bokinni, who plays Isaac, the moment was a way to show the captain's "strong but caring" leadership, as well as his support of Ted, without having to say a word.
"I wanted him to not just [tap] the sign, as Jason has done. I wanted him just to caress the sign, ever so slightly, and then give everyone a look like, 'We got this,'" he told ET in a recent interview.
"It was all-in at that moment," the actor added. "We get promoted or we don't. So I wanted him to take some of that responsibility."
Having played football since he was a kid, first as a goalkeeper, then a striker -- "but Isaac plays centre-back" -- Bokinni thought he'd found himself a "dream job" when the casting for Ted Lasso came his way back in 2019.
"I read, 'Can play football and act.' And I was just like, 'Wait, hold on a second. Someone's made this up. Someone's just trying to trick me,'" he recalled. "Football was my life, before acting."
As luck would have it, the part was real, and the show has turned into something of a phenomenon. Ted Lasso almost instantly became one of Apple TV+'s most successful streamers -- earning seven wins for its first season at the 2021 Emmy Awards last month, including the night's big prize: Outstanding Comedy Series.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind," Bokinni admitted. "The feedback from the fans and everybody involved, like as a family, has been just overwhelming."
As for how he's handling the show's success, "I'm just kind of keeping it chill," the actor noted. "Just trying to feel my way around it, but it's crazy and I love it."
Just like Isaac leads Richmond on the pitch, Bokinni couldn't be happier to be playing alongside his tight-knit team of co-stars. The second season allowed fans to learn more about the cast of supporting stars that makes up the Richmond team, from the young Nigerian phenom Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), to the passionate Mexican forward Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernandez), to the blunt Dutch left back Jan Maas (David Elsendoorn), and everyone in between.
"It is a locker room vibe, because everybody there is football crazy. And some of the cast who weren't football crazy are now football crazy," Bokinni said with a laugh. "It's just the power of [football]... For everyone to come from different cultures and backgrounds and races, et cetera, and to all get along is something phenomenal."
For anyone who's ever played team sports, Isaac is a very specific locker room type. A man of few words, who, as fans saw in season 1, sometimes lets his emotions do the talking. (RIP to that locker room TV.) But he's the kind of teammate everyone loves to have when the game is on the line: loyal, focused, and single-minded about the goal at hand.
Bokinni explained that he gave a lot of thought to the character when he landed the role -- his motivations, his likes, his dislikes, and the way his mind worked, on and off the pitch.
"I came up with the construct that Isaac only thinks of one thought at a time. He only has space for one thought at a time," he noted. "If he's cutting your hair, or is if he's Santa Claus, or if he is doing whatever, he's doing that. And he's giving you 100% concentration in that department."
Taking over captain's duties from the equally gruff Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), Isaac had big spikes to fill in season 2, and an early episode saw him struggling. But after Roy took him back to his old inner-city pitch for a game of street ball, he was realigned and ready to lead Richmond to victory.
As impressive as Bokinni's well-honed soccer skills are, however, it's probably Isaac's off-the-field moments that have become the most beloved by fans. Season 2 saw him lording over the team's Secret Santa festivities with a perfectly festive 'fit -- "The costume department just smashed it out of the park with that one" -- and laying down the law with his teammates about proper funeral attire.
"He's tough, but he's fair," Bokinni said of the impromptu speech, in which he hilariously chastises his friend and keeper, Thierry Zoreaux (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) for planning to wear Yeezys to a memorial service. "He'll give you a chance to explain yourself... But if you say something stupid, I'm going to say no. I'm not even going to say no, I'm just going to give you a look. You know what that look's about."
The favorite scene of season 2 for Bokinni -- and many fans -- has to be the infamous haircut. Established as the team barber, Isaac breaks out the clippers to shape Sam up for a very important date, and the whole team gets in on the dramatic moment.
"The barber scene was one of my favorite scenes, where everybody was just in sync, and everybody gave 110%," he recalled. "It was just so much fun to film."
"It was the end of the day, everyone was tired, you know how it goes. And it was just wonderful to see a room full of people... just in unison like that, and me not having to say a word, because Isaac doesn't say a word," he continued. "It encapsulates the whole season for me. It was just a ride that was fun and nobody wanted to get off."
When it comes to Ted Lasso's upcoming third season, Bokinni seems content to go with the flow, leaving his hopes for Isaac up to the creative powers that be.
"I mean, the writers are fabulous. You got some heavyweights there, so I kind of leave it up to them," he raved. "I think they know what they're doing with Isaac, and I trust them completely. So I'm just more excited about what we can create in season 3 and where we go with it."
However, when asked how he'd feel if Richmond squares off against his real-life favorite club, Arsenal (also supported by Ted Lasso creator and star Brendan Hunt), Bokinni admitted he'd be "conflicted."
"I don't know how I'd feel," he said. "I mean, to go to Emirates, to touch the grass, would be a dream, for both me and Brendan, who are devout fans."