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Sudeikis, ‘Ted Lasso’ castmates talk about mental health during White House visit

Actor Jason Sudeikis, who portrays Ted Lasso on the Apple TV Plus series, speaks Monday in the White House briefing room. (Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post)
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Actor Jason Sudeikis talked about the importance of tending to mental health needs as he and the cast of “Ted Lasso” joined the White House daily briefing on Monday — but only after enduring repeated outbursts from a reporter.

Sudeikis, who plays Lasso, an American football coach hired to run a soccer team in the United Kingdom despite his lack of experience in soccer, was invited to the White House to meet with President Biden about mental health, a subject that the popular Apple TV Plus show has tackled.

Shortly before the daily briefing was scheduled to begin, the White House announced that Sudeikis and several of his colleagues would be joining White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre ahead of their private meeting with Biden.

Jean-Pierre relayed that it was “truly an honor to have Coach Lasso here with us today” and turned the podium over to Sudeikis — and then things got ugly.

Simon Ateba, a correspondent for the website Today News Africa, chose the moment to repeatedly renew grievances about how infrequently Jean-Pierre calls on him to ask questions during the briefings.

In an email to members of the White House press corps, White House Correspondents’ Association President Tamara Keith reminded her colleagues to conduct themselves in a professional matter, noting that there was an “extreme breakdown of decorum” during Monday’s briefing that “created a hostile work environment for everyone in that room.”

“This isn’t my first note to the press corps imploring everyone to be respectful of each other and to conduct ourselves in a professional manner during these televised briefings,” she wrote. “You have told us that you are deeply frustrated with the outbursts and we share that frustration.”

Ateba, who was previously booted from the organization, eventually quieted down after several colleagues reprimanded him.

That allowed Sudeikis to get to the subject at hand: seeking help when needed for one’s mental health.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter who you voted for, we all — probably, I assume — we all know someone who has … struggled, that’s felt isolated, that’s felt anxious, that has felt alone,” Sudeikis said. “It’s actually one of the many things that, believe it or not, that we all have in common as human beings.”

Sudeikis noted that this is one of the key elements of “Ted Lasso,” which recently returned for its third season. Throughout the show, it is revealed that Lasso struggles with his mental health, and he slowly starts opening up about his experiences to his therapist, friends, team and family.

“So, please, you know, we encourage everyone and it’s a big theme of the show is like to check in with you know, your neighbor, your co-worker, your friends, your family and ask how they’re doing and listen sincerely,” Sudeikis said.

“And while it’s easier said than done, we also have to know that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help ourselves,” he added. “And that does take a lot, especially when it’s something that has such a negative stigma to it, such as mental health, and it doesn’t need to be that way.”

After wrapping up his remarks, Sudeikis said he would take one question. The fake soccer coach called on a fake journalist. James Lance, the actor who plays sports journalist Trent Crimm on the Emmy Award-winning show, got the nod and asked a question about … soccer.

After Sudeikis and the cast members left the podium, and Jean-Pierre took over, Zeke Miller of the Associated Press apologized on behalf of the press corps for the earlier disruption. Miller, a past president of the correspondents association, said it was the media’s responsibility to ask questions on behalf of all Americans. “But they can’t all be here. This isn’t about us,” he said.

Biden previewed the visit Sunday night on his Twitter account.

He tweeted a photo of a yellow sign taped above a door to the Oval Office bearing the word “believe” — a parallel to the sign above Lasso’s office door in the locker room of AFC Richmond, the fictional English soccer team he coaches.

“The President has made addressing the mental health crisis a core pillar of his Unity Agenda,” the White House said in a statement. “His strategy is focused on training more providers, making care more affordable and accessible, and creating healthier and safer communities, including online.”

Other cast members at the briefing were Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Toheeb Jimoh.