Sam Richardson’s profile has grown in recent years, with roles including “Veep” eager aide Richard Splitter and the star and co-creator of the hit “Detroit” (with Tim Robinson), and even starred in the sadly underrated series “Champaign ILL,” in which he teamed up with Adam Pally.
But it was Apple TV+’s “The Afterparty” that cemented Richardson’s status as not just a star, but a romantic protagonist, as opposed to Zoë Chao.
That’s why Richardson’s Emmy nominations this year are extra sweet. When he was filming season 2 of “The Afterparty” with Chao, Richardson…wait a minute. sorry. Correction: “Party” should Have been nominated for an Emmy Award.
But instead, Richardson was nominated for an Emmy for an entirely different standout role: as a comedy guest on a different Apple TV+ show and as Ghanaian billionaire Edwin Ahn in season 2 of Ted Lasso. Kufu.
It’s a big moment for Richardson to celebrate his first Emmy nomination. But it’s also a bit bittersweet: The actor happened to be on the set of “The Afterparty” when he learned of his Emmy.
“It’s a weird push and pulls,” he said. “This is my first Emmy nomination and I’m ecstatic. But I’m a guest there [on “Ted Lasso”]. And then with my family, getting nominated and finding out that “Afterparty” didn’t get any nominations, I was a little dismayed. But the cast and crew of “Afterparty” and the producers are very congratulated and celebrated my nomination. It just goes to show that they are all great good people. ”
“I’m watching season 1 and I love texting [“Ted Lasso” exec producer] Joe Kelly, I thought, ‘Hey, should Sam be me? He was like, ‘Sure, obviously!’ So in season 2, it was a weird complete cycle to go to the show and play opposite Toheeb,” Richardson said. “I was playing a character that was inspired by me personally. Then I became Ghanaian. It’s like a weird Inception-style exercise in knowing yourself! ”
Jimoh’s character was even supposed to be Ghanaian. Richardson is of Ghanaian descent. But because Jimoh is Nigerian, they also made the character Nigerian.
So what did Richardson learn about himself through this process? “Oh, I think I’m too good,” he joked.
But there’s no denying that Richardson has mostly played the likable good guy in his most high-profile projects. “I think it’s easier to be kind in general, because being kind feels good,” he said. “Who doesn’t like to laugh and not be angry all the time? Driving, singing, and laughing at podcasts, feels better than driving with road rage and anger at someone cutting you off. So I think, applied to life, this is my hard work.”
“I feel like anyone who knows any of my previous work might see it and think it’s going to be a little hot soup on a rainy day,” he said. “Then it was their turn,” Edwin went heavy as he tried to snatch Sam for his team. “I think if you know me from other perspectives, the twist hits harder. It’s really fun to play, it’s just really dark.”
Offscreen, Richardson and Jimmour became good friends — and had a good time laughing at each other about their backgrounds.
“We just giggled between takes,” he said. “We both have natural accents – my American accent, his British accent. Then we act, he’s Nigerian and I’m Ghanaian. We also have to share the rivalry that exists between Ghanaians and Nigerians. ”
Richardson said his family, especially his mom, were excited to see him play a Ghanaian role. “It’s not my accent, so I kind of imitated them and I understood it when I got older,” he said.
Richardson grew up in Detroit, where he studied theater and soon became a member of the Second City Theater Company—first in Detroit, then in Chicago. There he met people including Jason Sudeikis and Kelly. Later, Sudeikis was instrumental in convincing Richardson, Robinson, Kelly, and Zach Kanin to create “Detroiters.”
“Jason put me in a lot of movies and a lot of things,” he said. “My first real movie credit came from Jason and it was ‘We Are Millers,’ it’s just that he said, ‘I know Sam can do this.’ ‘The Terrible Bosses 2,’ Jason told me Got this. Jason’s the guy, “You and Tim should do a show together!” “So I’m forever grateful for that relationship, especially to Jason. This thing about Jason got me my first Emmy nomination.”
Richardson also appears frequently on “I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson,” which also happens to be nominated this year.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Richardson said of his best friend. “From Second City 20 years ago to now, it’s been amazing.”
Friends even plan to go to the Emmys together: “My girlfriend Nicole and I will be going, and I’m trying to make sure I can be on a panel with Tim and his wife Heather,” Richardson said. “That’s the plan now – party as much as you can and enjoy the moment.”
Win or lose, Richardson is at a point in his career where friends tell him the casting requirements are “Sam Richardson type.”
“Let’s not let too many of these people out because then I’d be out of a job,” he said with a laugh.
Now, he’s trying to be more strategic in his career rather than just saying “yes” to any project he comes across. “I have to think about what the right moves are so they can shape my career. So not 15 minutes, but 50 years. I’m so honored and happy to be here, but I have to make sure I recognize I’m here because I worked hard to get here.
One upcoming role that might get Richardson more attention is the long-awaited “Hocus Pocus 2,” which stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimi, and Betty Midler.
“It was amazing to have the opportunity to work with them. I grew up watching that movie. I’m obsessed with Christmas, I’m obsessed with Halloween. So on the next ‘Hocus Pocus’, I’m pinching myself in the scene .”
Richardson added: “I play a character named Gilbert, who is the bookstore owner of this world. It’s a bookstore, and it’s a magic shop.”
Yes, it was the kind of shop that would have a spellbook somewhere…and that’s all he could say.
So, what about the ‘Vice’ sequel series? The ending revealed that Richard Split would eventually become president, and Richardson would revisit the role.
“I still want to do it. I want Richard to be president, even if it’s a miniseries,” he said.
Given the kind of momentum Richardson is experiencing, maybe it does happen. “It’s a ‘pinch yourself’ life, and I’m very happy and grateful for that,” he said.
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