Exclusive interview with Nick Mohammed of Intelligence and Ted Lasso

Nick Mohammed
Nick Mohammed (L) stars in two of summer’s best comedies for two separate streaming giants, Peacock and Apple. Pic credit: Peacock

Nick Mohammed is one of those great talents you never see coming. That is until he dominates the landscape with his memorable characters and subtle wit that creates monster hit TV series.

Case in point, today Peacock rolls out season two of Intelligence, a wildly funny, whip-smart workplace pas de deux that shows off Nick’s writing, producing, and acting skills. Later in July, he brings the delightful “Nate the Great” back to the breakout hit series for Apple+, Ted Lasso, where his softspoken team manager role, we found out, has a big journey in season two.

It’s terrific to be Nick Mohammed these days. Academically, he was trained to be a seismologist but was lured by the performance bug apparently instilled early. He’s been acting for a spell, but his level of fame and reach—now thanks to the streaming giants and these two particular projects—has cemented his presence on both sides of the Atlantic.

Not just the English-speaking worlds either, as Nick’s clever comedy series Intelligence, starring David Schwimmer as the brash American intelligence officer, has been picked up in Sweden and other parts of Europe and beyond.

What is Intelligence about?

The workplace comedic series resonates and takes a big poke at human failings and foibles inside a very serious office scenario where world peace and safety are at stake.

Produced by Sky Studios in the UK, Mohammed’s series is set in the UK Government Communications Headquarters, where a team of all-sorts tackles international and domestic Cyber Crime. David Schwimmer, who Nick tells us he met by chance and was able to fashion a role David would later snap up, is the handsome and slightly pompous Jerry Bernstein.

Bernstein is the loquacious NSA agent from Maryland who has a bit of a messy personal backstory. Mohammed also plays Joseph, his sweet and slightly introverted computer analyst sidekick. Rounding out their cast is the delightfully imperious British boss-lady Christine, played by Sylvestra Le Touzel, and her slightly intimidated daughter Evelyn, played by Eliot Salt.

Created, written, and executive produced by Nick Mohammed, Schwimmer also serves as executive producer alongside Nerys Evans and Morwenna Gordon for Expectation.

Exclusive interview with Nick Mohammed

Monsters & Critics spoke to Nick about his breakout summer where not just one but two amazing and critically acclaimed comedies are streaming.

Monsters & Critics: First of all, congratulations on the success of these two comedies. Are you delighted that American audiences love your work?

Nick Mohammed: I’m really grateful for it. It wasn’t really by design as such. It just so happened that both these shows, Intelligence and Ted Lasso, were both in progress. It’s quite surreal. I’ve done a fair bit of acting, particularly over here (UK), less, so that would have been present in the United States.

But suddenly, doing Intelligence and Ted Lasso, both shows have done well, and Ted, in particular, feels completely surreal. I feel very grateful to have worked particularly with the year that everyone has experienced and what has happened.

The industry has been turned on its head a little bit. But I am bowled over by the whole thing, and I am still getting used to it. And I guess now that we’re sort of on season two of both of those shows, there is a degree of responsibility and feeling that well, season one has landed and they’ve found their audiences, now you really want to deliver even more than on the first season.

I couldn’t be more proud of the shows, and the work we’ve done on season two [for both series] is very exciting

M&C: Specifically with Intelligence, there’s so much alchemy with comedians and comedy and ensemble. How did you know the David Schwimmer was your guy for Jerry?

Nick Mohammed: Yes. They [the cast] are just the best of these people. David and I had met a few years ago, I had to co-brand a pilot for Channel Four, and David had seen it, and he said, ‘Oh, I’m in the UK. I’d love to do some improv workshops with you guys,’ to which I was quite obviously quite star-struck and excited by.

So we met and off the back of that, and we got on really well. If there’s ever a show where you think you could find Americans coming over and being in a UK comedy, David said to me, then let me know. We’d stayed in touch.

About a year later, I’d had the script commissioned for Intelligence, and I wrote the pilot and sent it to him, obviously, not thinking that he’s necessarily doing it or whatever.

But he got on board, and we then collaborated ever since. He was perfect at playing the brash American with me as the shy British guy when we’ve been doing some improv stuff. So I knew that it worked really well.

And David really enjoyed that kind of play on the anti-Ross kind of figure too. I built that into the pilot script of Intelligence, and yet he responded so positively, and then we just collaborated on this for the next couple of years.

Jane Stanness [Mary, the Russian mole] is actually someone else I worked with beforehand on shows. I wrote that part with her in mind. So she absolutely was offered that.

But yes, everyone else, I remember particularly with Sylvestra Le Touzel as Christine Cranfield. I remember her casting when she came in, and David was there as well for those castings. I remember she started digging, and then she fluffed a line or something or and she kind of became Christine. And, we thought THAT is absolutely the character. She was sort of matronly and schoolish fussy about it and told us that she would read the line again and really put us in our place in a brilliant way.

The other thing to say about the cast is that we just chose the most wonderful people, almost irrespective of their brilliant talent. We just wanted to work with really good, nice people. And they truly were just the nicest bunch of people.

M&C: The storylines like the interpersonal strife with Clint, Melissa, and Jerry, and how Melissa is always off-camera. That “B” story is hilarious, talk about the balance of office banter and the backstory of Jerry.

Nick Mohammed: Yes. I think for me, when just writing in general, the thing that I love and what basically comes from The Office and so on, is the thing that really struck me. I want to do with Intelligence, too, focusing on this sort of minutia as the human relationships and those sort of awkward interactions.

They are working a place, but the backdrop of National Security couldn’t be bigger. They are distracted by these things that are going on in their own sort of personal lives. And that takes a sort of a great deal of importance. So for me, that sounded like a really fun baseline for the whole show to survive.

One where it was just about this bunch of misfits who alarmingly are in charge of these critical things. They have a lot of important consequences.

It is fun delving into Jerry’s backstory, partly because it feels so remote because all of those guys are back in the States, and we can really play on Jerry’s personal backstory, which we’ll never really see it. We can describe Melissa in a way, knowing that we’ll never really see her. It’s fun to sort of flesh it all out.

M&C: Regarding Ted Lasso, back for us in July. Nate, the Great, you’ve got your confidence, you got a little a wind in your sails, the “Diamond Dogs” are rocking! What can we expect from Nate in season two of Ted Lasso?

Nick Mohammed: Well, I can’t give anything away, but what I’ll say is, and it was an absolute joy to play that part.

And it’s not always that when you’re part of an ensemble, you get to have a character like Nate. And to grow and have that growing confidence and to have that little journey.

It was a really lovely one [role] to play, and audiences have absolutely responded so nicely. It’s lovely to see an underdog succeed in the way that Nate does by being promoted at the end of the season.

What’s actually really interesting about the coming season is Nate absolutely goes on another journey. And I won’t tell you what type of journey. You’ll have to see that for yourselves in July, but what is really interesting is that you’re obviously taking this guy who still has all the insecurities that Nate had – he’s not a different person. He’s just been empowered.

And, yet he does have this newfound confidence. It’s really interesting that obviously, the starting point for Nate in season two is that he’s exactly where we left him in season one, sort of, and he does feel like, ‘Hey, okay.’ It’s just a fascinating story with someone who has, before that, being the underdog, and now how he responds to this newfound attention, newfound responsibility, and so on. It is an interesting and exciting journey. I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

M&C: You’re an academic. You have a lot of energy and time invested in your education. How did your parents react when you decided not to follow your doctorate in seismology and go into comedy? What was their reaction?

Nick Mohammed: My mum, particularly, was incredibly alarmed, and yet, they both were hugely supportive. But yes, she absolutely did not bat an eyelid to let me know she was concerned that I would probably miss an opportunity where it ended up in some kind of gainful employment by choosing one [career] with zero guarantee success.

I think it was that my dad, on the other hand, he’s very laid back. Particularly when I used to do magic when I was growing up and performed at weddings and hotels and things, he was always really supportive of that.

I think he really saw that I enjoyed performing and maybe in a kind of proud dad kind of way. He took it all a lot more like, ‘Oh yeah, you just want to do that, follow your dreams, and all that.”

My mum has absolutely calmed down about her initial concerns. I think now that she can see me on TV, she’s sort of like, ‘Oh, okay, he’s fine.’.

Season 2 of the Peacock Original spy comedy series Intelligence is back Thursday, June 17, starring and created by British comedian Nick Mohammed (Ted Lasso).
And Ted Lasso Season Two premieres on Friday, July 23 on Apple+

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