When in February 2020 the British channel Sky One premiered the first season of the comedy Intelligence, its creator could not imagine that by the arrival of the second installment (which Cosmo broadcasts on Tuesdays at 10pm; also available on demand) he would be competing for media attention with David Schwimmer himself, the protagonist of a comedy for the first time since the end from Friends. On Intelligence, Schwimmer plays an agent of the American National Security Agency (NSA) who lands in the cybercrime department of the British secret service (GCHQ). The personality of the arrogant American analyst Jerry contrasts there with the chaotic and peculiar team of which Joseph is part, played by Nick Mohammed, also the creator, screenwriter and producer of the series.
What happened between the first and second seasons of Intelligence for Mohammed (Leeds, UK, age 41) to gain media attention is the success of Ted Lasso, winner of the Emmy for the best comedy and one of the great television winners of the pandemic thanks to the contagious optimism and kindness of its protagonist, an atmosphere of happiness that in the second season tarnished, precisely, the character of Mohammed, the prop turned in coach Nate. “I’m not really interested in fame, it’s not why I do this job or what David does it. [Schwimmer]”Says Mohammed. “I accept it, I’m in an industry where, if you do it right, you get attention. I love that the jobs I’m involved in connect with people and make them laugh, cry or whatever, that means you’ve done your job well. But there has been a slight change in interest in my work ”.
British with a mother of Cypriot origin and a father from Trinidad and Tobago, he soon knew that show business was his thing. Since he was a child he practiced magic as a hobby, and in college he already felt the call of comedy when he joined a theater group. Meanwhile, he was studying a PhD in Geophysics and worked at an investment bank. “I guess having a bachelor’s degree was a way of ensuring that I could have a relatively normal job and then do these crazy comedy things, which also didn’t give me a lot of money at the time. In the end I left the rest and focused on acting and writing, ”says the actor in a video call interview from New Mexico, where he is now filming a movie with Jon Hamm and Tina Fey.
The link between Schwimmer and Mohammed dates back a few years, when a comedy centered on a morning television show, of which the second was a writer and which was never recorded, caught the attention of the actor from Friends. When Mohammed launched intelligence, wrote the title role for Schwimmer. To prepare the series, they met with GCHQ workers to try to authentically reflect the atmosphere of these offices. “But we have taken a lot of artistic licenses,” laughs the actor and screenwriter. “In no way did we want to make fun of their work or expose what they do in a spy drama. We were only interested in things like what they serve in their dining room, if there is a day when they wear casual clothes, things like that. We wanted to show it as a normal office that deals with very serious matters, but where in the end human beings work with social lives and relationships. For example, they told us that they have a choir and that they rehearse every week ”.
Of losers and heroes
Despite some similarities, Mohammed highlights the differences between his characters in Intelligence and Ted Lasso. “Joseph is a very happy and very lucky guy. He looks like me but he’s a bit thicker than me, he’s not very tactful and he doesn’t follow social norms, he might have more common sense. But I resemble him in that he is easy to get along with and he doesn’t take things too seriously. As for Nate, I don’t think he’s inspired by anyone in particular, but there are some brushstrokes of people who all of a sudden have a little bit of power and it goes to their heads. There are some cultural references, you know, soccer coaches, even actors who become stars and their personality changes. But it is not based on anyone in particular. Everyone thought they saw similarities with José Mourinho, but it’s only because of the change in hair color ”, which turned gray as the chapters progressed.
The evolution of Mohammed’s character in Ted Lasso took the actor to write a text on Twitter justifying his conversion into the villain of the series. “I felt people’s hatred for Nate, it was what the story was trying to do. Many people say that in the networks the actor is confused with the character, that he could receive threats and things like that. But not at all, people have been very respectful. Of course there are people who tell you ‘I hate Nate, I can’t wait for him to blab,’ but this is all against the character, not against me. It’s been a lot of fun because I’ve never been involved in a series with such a global and noisy group of fans. I believe that Ted Lasso It has taken very good advantage of something that has to do in part with the fact that the series appeared in the pandemic and transmitted a very positive message that managed to resonate with people. In the first season, Nate was one of the favorite characters for his plot, the rise from loser to hero. That has changed in the second season, and it’s great and a credit to the writers for being so brave “, he reviews, recalling the repercussion of the series.
Versus Ted Lasso, which qualifies as a “dramatic comedy,” Mohammed describes Intelligence “Like a very silly comedy that is deliberately almost like a live action cartoon. Each chapter is reset. The characters do not learn, they return again and again to the starting point, as The Simpson”. Of the series starring Jason Sudeikis, he especially admires its scripts: “The writers have been able to walk the fine line between making people laugh and making them feel very deep emotions. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one thing for the other, but they seem to walk that fine line without a problem, and that’s impressive ”, he ends.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.