Source: Courtesy of Apple TV+

Declan Lowney

Set things up with a good script and get out of the way to let the actors work their magic. It’s one of the most important plays available to a director of comedy, according to Irish film and television director Declan Lowney.

His work on Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso season three, specifically the final episode ‘So Long, Farewell’, has landed him an outstanding directing for a comedy series Primetime Emmy 2023 nomination. It’s one of two episodes he directed in season three and marks a hat trick of Emmy nominations for Lowney. In total he has directed eight episodes across the three seasons of the US sports comedy-drama television series, and was Emmy-nominated for the episode ‘Make Rebecca Great Again’ in the first season. He was also a supervising producer in season two for which he won an Emmy for best comedy series. 

Developed by Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly, Lasso streams on Apple TV+ and details the story of an American football coach who heads to London to manage AFC Richmond, a struggling English football team. Sudeikis stars as coach Lasso in an ensemble cast including Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple and Phil Dunster.

The film shoots on location in the real south-west London suburb of Richmond.

“By the time we came to shoot the end of Ted Lasso, the producers had pushed the beginning of the shoot, they’d had a couple of setbacks as they went, Covid and stuff like that,” Lowney says. “We were meant to finish in September, and we were running into late October, so it was getting dark much earlier and we still had football action to shoot. Our football shooting days, instead of being from 730am to 6pm were shrinking down to 9pm to 3pm because of the daylight. The pressures were more about getting it done rather than worrying about the fact that it was the last two episodes.”

Lowney explains it was the writers who carried the bulk of the stress. “They delivered it beautifully, the script,” Lowney says. “In terms of trying to wrap everything up neatly was more a writing task, ours on production was about pushing this huge machine over the finish line.”

Lowney has built a glittering directing roster of comedic gems including Father Ted, Chris O’Dowd’s Emmy winning –comedy Moone Boy and Steve Coogan’s big screen outing for Coogan’s famous comic creation Alan Partridge - Alpha Papa. He says capturing the funny is what his job is all about.

Ted Lasso looks great, but it’s not necessarily a show about how it looks. Your job as director is to fit in and to make your episodes look like everybody else’s. But within that, if you have an idea for a moment or there’s a thing or something you want to bring then Jason [Sudeikis] is all up for that,” Lowney says. “But if you suddenly say ‘let’s shoot every scene in one shot’, that would jar everybody.”

One Lowney touch in his Emmy-nominated final episode was when the script called for coach Beard, played by Brendan Hunt, to deliver a line about his girlfriend shredding his passport. It hit harder when Lowney directed Hunt to search in his kitbag and pull out a shredded dummy passport.

“When you get your scripts, you try to look at things that might make it more funny, make it more visual, not just tell,” Lowney says.

While he has no particular rituals that he brings to his sets, Lowney prepares for weeks ahead of starting. “You’ve got about two or three weeks to prepare your block. You make sure you see every location, you talk to your DP and your first AD, then you go back in three weeks and you do all that with 300 people.”

It is all about being very, very organised.

“Before every shoot day, the night before, it’s two or three hours of just going through the script again. Often it’s about, how can I squeeze 12 hours working 10 hours? How do you cut your cloth to make sure you get what you want? Here’s the (comedy) beat that’s really important that I’m going to concentrate on.”

For the Dubliner who guffawed aloud – an Irish trait he thinks – when watching US sitcoms in his youth such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie in the 1970s and 1980s, Lasso is all about the funny.

“With comedy, somebody can add a word to make it funnier, because that’s what we’re about, we’re about laughs. There’s more of that when you work with the creator, performer of a show,” he smiles.