Sam Obisanya didn’t laugh at Ted Lasso. Instead, it’s likely the level of his involvement in season 2 (activism, leadership, love) that earned him his first Emmy nomination for the actor playing him, 25-year-old Toheeb Jimoh. If Coach Nate’s (Nick Mohamed) dark evolution from sweet milquetoast to budding supervillain has cooled the acceptance of the series’ second appearance, Sam’s evolution could be the show’s new hope.
Despite a stellar 2018 graduating from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the actor doesn’t take his success for granted: “In 2019, I quickly found a lot of work. I had ‘Ted Lasso’, There’s ‘Anthony’, and there’s ‘The Power’, it’s not out yet, but yeah – I’m just relying on luck.”
Toheeb JimohBrandon Michael Young / For The Times
Jimoh was born in London but spent his early childhood in Nigeria before returning to London around the age of seven.
“The whole thing is very interesting in terms of identity, figuring out where I call home. I think I mix everything up. There’s a really cool emerging idea of being a black Brit. It’s been a tough fight, But…you see Glastonbury’s [rapper] Stormzy wearing a Banksy jacket with a Union Jack and it feels like owning. [rapper] Dave and Daniel Kaluuya make what he does Cool. It feels like I’ve found my home in these guys.”
That multifaceted identity served the young graduate when auditioning for “Ted Lasso.”
“Sam and Ted’s relationship is kind of like me and Jason,” says co-creator and star Jason Sudeikis’ Jimmo. “He really helped me stand on my own two feet as an artist, just like Ted helped Sam stand on my own two feet as a player and a person. It was silly.”
Sam starts out as a quiet Nigerian who isn’t superstar Jamie (Phil Dunst) or veteran defender hero Roy (Brett Goldstein) – under Coach Ted, he Is growing into the ideal player leader. Like Ted, Sam is placed in an environment where he is constantly suspected and bullied and will not respond with confrontation.
“The fact that Sam leads with love is almost revolutionary,” Jimoh says, as his thoughts flow through his natural London accent. “When you come to a new country, especially the UK, you feel like there’s a vulnerable front and you have to survive. I think it’s really cool that he doesn’t.”