My worst moment: ‘Ted Lasso’ star Jeremy Swift missed his cue for a nude entrance

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On “Ted Lasso,” Jeremy Swift plays the team’s delightfully offbeat director of operations, Leslie Higgins. A lover of jazz, he is a man who might be more beaten down if he didn’t have the quiet self-confidence of a person who has his personal life figured out.

“I know some of the other actors had a trajectory planned out at the beginning,” said Swift, “but I didn’t. I didn’t really know where he was going. I’m not sure the writers did, either. The first season was very much about divorce for two of the central characters, and they needed a contrast. So they went with a relatively harmonious family for Higgins.” Summing up his experience on the show over the last three seasons: “I just have to pinch myself that I’m in it.”

Swift’s resume includes roles in “Mary Poppins Returns,” “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Downton Abbey,” among many others. When asked about a worst moment in his career, he started off with a disclaimer: “I’m not sure at all what I learned from this experience.”

But the cringiest moments in an actor’s career, he said, “are the things that happen in live theater.”

My worst moment …

“I’ve done a lot of theater, but this was my first job at the National Theatre, which wasn’t until I was 29. It was a production of Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ and it had a big ensemble and a really dynamic, award-winning director. It ran from 1989 to 1990.

“And in one scene, the title character goes to an asylum. I can’t remember how, it’s a very strange script. And I played a nude asylum person. I had not been nude on stage before and it’s not something I would inflict on the public ever again.

“Basically the inmates of the asylum would come out from beneath the stage. There was a two-hander scene going on before our entrance and it was very philosophical. But when you’re underneath the stage, you can’t really hear properly. It’s like being underwater.

“And even though you have a light — a red light and then a green light for your entrance — I somehow didn’t take any notice of that. And I thought someone said, ‘Go! Go! Go!’

“So I went on stage. And I was about four minutes early into the scene.

“I came out from the trap door and was making these throaty sounds. And I realized, as I heard 25 people laughing underneath me, they weren’t going to follow me. One girl did, and suddenly there we were, looking confused.

“If you were a theater aficionado, you’d think: Something’s not quite right here.

“The two actors who were on stage were looking a bit dumbfounded at our arrival. So I whispered to the other actress: ‘Chase me!’ (Laughs) I don’t know if that made it worse. It probably made it worse, really.

“She didn’t chase me off stage — we should have done that — but I thought, well, we’re on here now. So we just ran about.

“All this is happening while Peer Gynt is talking to the head of the asylum, who turns out to be mad himself — but you don’t know that during that scene — so they just carried on until the rest of this very chaotic company of actors made their entrance from underneath the stage.

“I was able to laugh about it pretty quick. It became this legendary story, really.

“In fact, I told it to Joe Kelly, who is one of the writers and creators of ‘Ted Lasso,’ and (laughs) I came onto set one day and he was telling somebody else the story and he said, ‘I’m sorry, Jeremy, I have told this story to everybody!’ And I went, ‘Ah, OK. Yup.’”

What was going through Swift’s mind when he realized he misjudged his cue?

“Who said ‘Go! Go! Go!’? That is what I thought.

“But I had to keep it together and not look as though I was corpsing. I don’t know if you know that term, it means laughing at myself, at my own mistake.

“Just a sidebar story to that: Because there are breaks (in the run) at the National Theatre, I went to Greece for two weeks and got a really nice suntan. But of course I was wearing shorts the whole time. I hadn’t thought about it at all — at all — so when I came back, it looked like one of the inmates had escaped and had a really nice holiday (laughs). I had a very white bottom-middle area.”

What was Swift’s initial response when he learned the role involved nudity?

“Once I was asked to do it, I thought I would do it in rehearsal, so I did it almost every time. And a couple of the actors went, ‘Oh my god, you did it again?’ But it was because I didn’t want it to build up to be this huge pressure when we finally had to do it in performance. So I got used to it.

“And I presume that’s what happens with naturism: You think (makes uncomfortable sounds) and then you do it and then eventually you think, oh, it’s nothing.”

The takeaway …

“Look at the stage entrance light before going on stage (laughs). If it’s red, don’t go on stage.

“I was very diligent about when I made my entrance after that. And also, there were a lot of costume changes in that show and sometimes that would be time for a little gossip. But after that performance, I was like, ‘Shhhh!’ Be quiet so I can look at the light!’”