Why Sarah Niles Thinks Ted Lasso Fans Were Wary of Her Character Dr. Sharon

·4 min read

Sarah Niles is challenging people's perceptions of therapists and other mental health professionals.

In season two of Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso, Niles plays the well-meaning but quiet sports therapist Dr. Sharon, who comes in to help the AFC Richmond players overcome their doubts. While her presence offers comfort to the team, it unsettles Ted (Jason Sudeikis).

But Ted wasn't alone in his feelings of mistrust. As Niles told E! News, she received mixed reviews from fans, who she suspects were wary of Sharon being "British, Black and very sure of herself."

Eventually, as the season went on and Ted began to trust Sharon, so did the viewers. "Everybody grew to love her," Niles said, "because she's bringing out the best in Ted."

This nuanced discussion of mental health earned season two of Ted Lasso 20 Emmy nominations overall, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Writing. What's more, Niles received a nod for Outstanding Supporting Actress, marking her first-ever Emmy nomination.

The actress, however, gave credit to Sudeikis and the other Ted Lasso writers for encouraging her to collaborate on Dr. Sharon's persona. To learn more about their process, keep reading below!

Where You've Seen the Ted Lasso Cast Before

E! News: How do you think being a Black woman impacted the viewers' perception of Dr. Sharon?

Sarah Niles: One of the things I thought was beautiful is wherever you go with this character, whatever your interpretation of the character, she is kind and she means well.

But you've got this Black female and we immediately think she's very tough. And with the British accent it seems like she's very dry. These elements come into play.

But we have to break those little stereotypes and little fears.

E!: How so?

SN: I said to Jason early on, "She speaks very well doesn't she? Do you think we should change the accent?" And he goes, "No, no, no."

In my head, I was like, "How do I soften her?" But it was the right decision to keep her speaking that way. Those little details makes the audience work harder.

Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis, Sarah Niles
Apple TV+

E!: Was there ever concern Dr. Sharon would be used as a storytelling device instead of a fully developed character?

SN: Absolutely. Around when I found out I got the job, I was reading an article about I May Destroy You, and there was a Black therapist in there. It was discussing how you introduce a person of color and they become the best friend or the person at work. They never really have these fulfilled stories, but they're always there to serve someone else's art. They don't have a life of their own. So I've always tried to make sure you create worlds for your character.

E!: How did Jason's performance as Ted influence your depiction of Dr. Sharon?

SN: When I played Dr. Sharon, there was a balance of power between myself and Jason. He's interested in the story being told well, and he's generous enough to offer up that space. So I tried to always push, push, push the space in terms of the storytelling.

[Black actors] have gone from being the cleaners in the household to moving in into positions of power, like doctors and detectives.

Sarah Niles, Ted Lasso
Apple TV+

E!: Did Jason have any feedback on your character?

SN: One of the first things Jason showed me was this video of [author] Brené Brown talking about how you can't talk about race without talking about shame. And I was like, "This is interesting that you brought this to me." Something about it just made me constantly put myself, as Dr. Sharon, in a place of value. So whatever she entered into, she truly believed that she's twice as good as anyone, and there's a reason for that.

E!: What do you hope viewers take away from this performance?

SN: I really hope that they offer up love for that character and they see her. The responses I've had, especially from some psychiatrists, have been, "Thank you for your portrayal. It's how we really see ourselves and the way you portrayed it is the truth."

That's the beauty of Ted Lasso. The characters start off one way and they're transformed into something else. Life takes them by surprise.

See if Sarah and her Ted Lasso co-stars take home top prizes at the 2022 Emmys when the awards show airs Sept. 12 on NBC.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.)

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

Don't miss E!'s live 2022 Emmys red carpet show Monday, Sept. 12, followed by the Emmy Awards ceremony at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on NBC and Peacock.