Jason Sudeikis’ Best TV And Movie Roles To Date
Jason Sudeikis has been on our screens for some time now, making his debut with a small role in a Roger Corman movie called “Alien Avengers II” in 1997. His big breakthrough came with a writing job on “Saturday Night Live,” where he eventually became a recurring cast member, cracking up audiences with a wide range of characters and impersonations — and of course, his “What’s Up With That?” dance.
Sudeikis has since navigated career twists and turns via lead and supporting roles on screens both big and small. Born in Fairfax, Virginia, the nephew of George Wendt is imbued with natural charm and charisma, and never seems to take himself too seriously. For over two decades, he was a familiar face in living rooms, albeit rarely one that would be considered an A-lister.
That is, until recently. With 2020’s “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+ giving him a considerable image boost and his first Emmys, it seems like he has entered a new phase of his career. With that in mind, let’s take a look at all the TV and film work that turned him into an overnight sensation.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut “Booksmart” may have underperformed at the box office, but it’s one of those films that everyone who sees seemingly can’t stop recommending. Starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as two teens looking to unwind as their high school years come to a close, the cast also featured Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, and Sudeikis — who, at the time of filming had been dating Wilde for some time. In fact, she joked in an interview at the time that their entire relationship had been his audition for the role, and he nailed it.
The bearded Sudeikis made a solid showcase in the film of how he can make the most out of mere few minutes on screen. Cast as the girls’ principal in what appears to be a brief cameo, it turned into something more when the lead characters got into a Lyft, only to discover that Principal Brown was their driver. Or, as he would rather be called … Jordan.
The ensuing scene turned out to be one of the funniest scenes in the film, anchored by the formidable charm and warmth of Sudeikis that “Lasso” would soon come to harness. Principal Brown’s wide-eyed innocence, and a slowly-turned head to deliver the line “Was that Cardi B?,” resulted in what Entertainment Weekly called “Sudeikis’ funniest work in years.”
What would you do if you discovered you could manifest an enormous creature that would wreak havoc on Seoul, South Korea? In fairness, this is likely something you’ve never encountered — but it’s apparently something writer-director Nacho Vigalondo has mulled over, as it became the subject of his beguiling, bizarre “Colossal.” Starring Anne Hathaway as a recently unemployed alcoholic and Sudeikis as her childhood best friend, the flick gave the actor an opportunity to show a new side, as a character far more sinister than what he is typically offered.
While “Colossal” might not be for all tastes, it’s worth watching for Sudeikis fans, who have never seen a side of him like this anywhere else. The role starts as friendly and charming — qualities many would associate with Sudeikis — but then the character starts to unravel, transforming himself into something far nastier. Outlets like Bloody Disgusting appreciated the performance, writing that Sudeikis nailed “Oscar’s evolution from nice guy to a–hole.” What was especially impressive was how Sudeikis portrayed Oscar’s character changes with impressive subtleties, as highlighted by Collider.
“As these new parts of Oscar become apparent, Sudeikis makes several exceptionally thoughtful acting choices that unleash a whole new side of him as a performer,” reads the article. “For one, Oscar doesn’t change drastically in his demeanor once it’s made thoroughly apparent that he’s an abuser. He’s a little more short-tempered now but Sudeikis keeps everything from Oscar’s voice to his body language to his relaxed style all consistent with his earlier scenes in ‘Colossal.’ Personality traits that once suggested Oscar could be a potentially calm presence in Gloria’s life now capture just how nonchalant he is about treating her like an object.”
For fans of Sudeikis, “Colossal” is not only a thrilling and singular film — it’s an impressive showcase for the actor to hone in on some rarely-viewed, menacing qualities that other filmmakers should encourage him to further develop.
Saturday Night Live (2003 – 2013)
After starting at “SNL” as a writer, Sudeikis began gracing TV screens on this weekend staple, making a name for himself. Sudeikis became a fan favorite with memorable recurring roles as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Joe Biden (for which he returned to play in 2019-2020), as well as original characters like Ocean Billy, Gil, one of the Two A-Holes (alongside Kristen Wiig), and Ed Mahoney.
As one of the more popular alumni over the last couple decades, Sudeikis has regularly returned since departing the show, standing out in sketches like “New Girlfriend,” which showcased his chemistry with Fred Armisen. He returned to host again in October 2021, starring in memorable sketches that included “Mellen,” a masculine version of Ellen Degeneres. Overall, his time occupying the “Saturday Night Live” airwaves provided Sudeikis a tremendous opportunity to grow and showcase his unique comedic persona and nice-guy-with-an-edge charm, across various characters allowing him to play a range of both fictional and real-life personalities.
“I didn’t want to work on SNL,” told GQ (which described him as having “a specialty in playing jocular blowhards and loud, self-impressed white men”) in 2021. “[Not wanting to be on the show] was like having a crush on the prettiest girl at school and being like, ‘She seems like a jerk.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, really? ‘Cause she said she liked you.’ ‘She what?!'”
Sleeping with Other People (2015)
In the excellent, underseen “Sleeping with Other People,” we meet Sudeikis at a sex addicts meeting, which he attends out of a deeply entrenched fear of commitment. It’s there that his character Jake finds Lainey (Alison Brie), with whom he had a one-night stand years earlier. The two have an undeniable attraction, but both are unable to stop sleeping with other people. Jake and Lainey decide to stay friends without sex which, perhaps unsurprisingly, makes their relationship rather complicated. A refreshing take on modern romantic comedies, the flick features great comedic supporting performers doing memorable work, including Jason Montzoukas, Adam Scott, and Natasha Lyonne.
But it is the performance of Sudeikis that really stands out, as the film examines the notion of what a leading man can be.
“[The film shows off] a new kind of leading man, one that Sudeikis fits neatly into with his motormouth charm,” wrote Nick Allen in his review for RogerEbert.com. “He’s quick with flirty repartee, but doesn’t have an overbearing or slimy nature. And when the story needs it, he can be the hero, becoming a stereotypical macho man that will fight on behalf of a girl.”
In this film from writer/director Leslye Headland, Sudeikis harnesses his persona to challenge the masculine ideal, resulting in an engaging, humorous, unique performance worth tracking down.
Eastbound and Down (2012 – 2013)
Now considered something of a classic, believe it or not the abrasive sports comedy “Eastbound and Down” was not all that well-received in its first season. Beginning with Season 2, however, the show began getting better reviews and more attention, finding its footing — and as a result, the second, third, and fourth seasons of “Eastbound” all have a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sudeikis joined Danny McBride for Season 3 as Shane Gerald, Kenny Powers’ catcher on the Myrtle Beach Mermen. A deeply inappropriate, offensive, and bullish drunk, Shane hit it off with Powers, becoming something of an enabler. Attempting to steer his pitcher off the right track at every opportunity, Shane was bad news — and a one way ticket to continued minor league mediocrity.
Sudeikis was so memorable in the part that he eventually earned a second role on “Eastbound,” appearing as Shane’s brother Cole in later episodes. If you had to describe Shane in a single word, that word might be “gross” — the fact that Sudeikis could make the character so reprehensible shows that if given the right material, he can be so much more than another former “SNL” funnyman.
We're the Millers (2013)
Arguably the most notable non-“SNL” role for Sudeikis prior to “Ted Lasso,” this edgy family comedy took in $270 million worldwide at the box office, ranking as the most successful live-action film of the actor’s career so far. It also introduced the phrase “no ragrets” into the pop culture hall of fame.
At the beginning of the film, the Sudeikis character is anything but lovable. Playing a low-level drug dealer whose overwhelming debt forces him to participate in a scheme to smuggle marijuana across the border from Mexico, his character enlists a group of ne’er-do-wells (including Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts) to travel with him so they can pose as a charming, sweet family and avoid suspicion.
“Sudeikis and Aniston are likable in such similar ways — their self-deprecating charm, understated comic delivery, girl- and guy-next-door good looks, fundamental decency,” wrote the LA Times, praising the actors but panning the film’s poor casting decisions. “It’s as if the actors actually came from the same, stable, sweet, heartland family. But they are definitely not the Millers.”
Although “Millers” still retains just a 49% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film seems to be remembered fondly by many; in 2021, Slash Film named it one of the best ten comedies of the last ten years.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
Who out there hasn’t had difficulties at work? “Horrible Bosses” told the relatable tale of three employees (Sudeikis, joined by Jason Bateman and Charlie Day) whose problems with their supervisors ran much deeper than typical frustrations over late TPS reports; when they banded together to hire a hitman to kill their bosses, however, they may have been taking things a bit too far. The end resulting was a surprising hit, one that even warranted a completely-unnecessary sequel.
Regardless, the “Bosses” films showcased Sudeikis alongside two other peers who had similarly made their names as comedy-stars-with-an-edge. The trio formed a winning team.
“The best reason by far to watch ‘Horrible Bosses’ is the main cast,” wrote Slash Film in its review. “As a trio of best buds, Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis have an irresistible, lived-in chemistry that’s more than the sum of its parts. You get the sense that these guys actually have known each other for ages, whether they’re finishing each other’s sentences or slapping each other silly. It’s their camaraderie that makes the movie when it’s excellent, and carries it when it’s not.”
30 Rock (2007 – 2010)
Few comedies in the 21st century have earned as much critical acclaim as “30 Rock,” as evidenced by more than 100 Emmy nominations over seven years (it won 16). The Tina Fey-driven series cast Sudeikis as a potential love interest for her Liz Lemon, starting with the show’s second season — and if you’ve witnessed any of the scenes they shared together on the show, it’s obvious Fey was a big fan of Sudeikis from the start.
Crafting a charming, quick-witted character, it was easy to see why Lemon fell hard for his Floyd. Unfortunately for Lemon, Floyd’s endless love of Cleveland (and also, maybe his problems with alcohol) proved too much for them to be together. It did, however, give viewers a brand new look (and song) about the oft-maligned Ohio city. As one of the funnyman’s first major roles, at a time when he was still finding his footing on “SNL,” Floyd provided a great opportunity for Sudeikis to build his persona in front of a massive audience, providing an unforgettable character with an endless array of memorable moments.
Son of Zorn (2016 – 2017)
You’ve likely seen plenty of sitcoms before, but none like “Son of Zorn.” Sure, the show was your classic fish-out-of-water story, but with a twist: Zorn (Jason Sudeikis) was animated, but everyone and everything around him was live-action. There was a reason for this, of course: Zorn hails from the kingdom of Zephyria, and he decided to leave his warrior lifestyle behind for a phone sales job in Orange County, all in the aid of reconnecting with his ex-wife Edie (Cheryl Hines) and son Alangulon (or Alan, played by Johnny Pemberton). However, upon his return, Zorn was stunned to discover that Edie had a new fiancé named Craig (Tim Meadows) and, perhaps most egregious of all, Alan was now a vegetarian.
As Zorn, Sudeikis “provides the ultimate action figure voice,” according to critic Amber Dowling of The Wrap in her 2016 review. His persona was undeniably masculine, as Zorn himself was heavily inspired by He-Man. Sudeikis was wise to inject Zorn with plenty of humanity, offering surprising moments of vulnerability. As observed by Maureen Ryan in her Variety review, Sudeikis “injects the right amounts of gravity, heedlessness, and befuddlement into the character, whose inability to remember or respect social norms — like, say, wearing pants — inspires many of the show’s jokes.” Exemplifying some of his best instincts as an actor, Sudeikis added a serious dimension to Zorn, providing a key leadership role in a creative, clever sitcom that didn’t get nearly enough episodes to fully develop what was an intriguing concept.
The Angry Birds Movie (2016)
It’s difficult to find something that the majority of the entire world has experienced, but when it comes to the mobile game “Angry Birds,” that might be as close to a multi-cultural touchstone as one can get. The original bird-flipping phone game boasts over 500 million downloads, has spawned endless merchandise, a tv show, game sequels and “The Angry Birds Movie,” which took in over $350 million worldwide.
Jason Sudeikis starred in the film (which would get a sequel in 2019) as Red, a bird marked by his bushy black eyebrows and remarkably short temper. After getting into trouble, he would be forced to go to anger management, meeting Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) and beginning an adventure that would see them facing off against the mysterious green pigs who start arriving on Bird Island.
With its 43% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Angry Birds” isn’t exactly considered a landmark achievement in the cinema. Nevertheless, Sudeikis turned in a winning performance as Red; in a weird way, it’s the opposite of “Colossal,” where the Sudeikis character goes from unlikable to a character whose motivations and responses seem somewhat reasonable.
The Last Man on Earth (2015 – 2018)
Will Forte’s refreshingly goofy post-apocalyptic comedy cast the star as a man who believed himself to be the only human survivor of a global apocalyptic event. In almost every ensuing episode, however, he seemed to stumble upon someone else who would change everything he thought he knew about the end of the world — and more often than not, he wouldn’t be thrilled about it.
Sudeikis offered a great twist at the end of Season 1, as viewers got a brief peek at the main character’s much-despised brother, an astronaut in orbit wondering why everybody on Earth had suddenly stopped talking to him. In Season 2, the Sudeikis character returned to Earth (hilariously employing a 3-wheel paddle boat to survive), ruining his brother’s vision of re-building humanity with himself as the lead.
Finding the humanity in his character, Sudeikis could frequently be seen talking to his pet worms out of sheer, unrelenting loneliness in the void of space — and when he rejoined his brother on Earth, their relationship felt not only hilarious, but genuine. Cancelled after four seasons, leaving audiences with plenty of questions, there was nevertheless plenty to enjoy in “Last Man,” and that certainly included a warm, memorable performance from Sudeikis.
Ted Lasso (2020 – 2022)
Capping things off with what many would consider the role he was born to play, Sudeikis and “Ted Lasso” became a winning combination as soon as the show debuted on Apple TV+, becoming a sensation whose first season would receive 20 Emmy Nominations, winning 7, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor for Sudeikis.
The series has a remarkably bizarre origin story, as the character Ted Lasso actually came from a commercial featuring Sudeikis where he played the titular character to promote their broadcasts of English Premier League soccer. Who could have predicted that it would have led to an international sensation?
Sudeikis plays the titular Lasso, a college football coach recruited by Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), the owner of English soccer team AFC Richmond, to coach the team. While Lasso’s earnest, unyielding optimism allows him to believe he’ll be able to succeed, he’s actually hired by Welton in the hopes he’ll destroy her ex-husband’s beloved team. Sudeikis is a revelation in the show — or, at least for those who haven’t been paying closer attention to his career.
Employing a lot of the charm and charisma fans have been watching him hone over the last two decades, he gives Lasso a tremendously rich, deep sense of humanity and unbridled optimism. This is certainly the’ meatiest role to date for Sudeikis, and while the entire cast of the beloved show is pitch-perfect, it’s the former “SNL” funnyman who provides its heart and soul.