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Ted Lasso’s Phil Dunster on Remaking Jamie Tartt

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As Ted Lasso’s resident bad boy, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) has, perhaps, the most to gain from Ted’s particular brand of coaching. Though he failed to shake off his toxic machismo in season one, the cocky footballer’s grown up over the course of the new season, morphing from a Love Island–esque, ahem, tart to a team player willing to share the spotlight. And after Richmond’s dramatic loss at Wembley in episode eight, “Man City,” Jamie finally puts his grandstanding father (Kieran O’Brien) and, in some ways, his past self, in his place.

“When he hits his dad and turns to Roy and embraces him, I think in that moment, he becomes part of that [Richmond] family,” Dunster tells Vulture, in an accent much softer than Jamie’s Manchester brogue. But don’t expect Jamie to become Ted Lasso Jr. — at least, not until he lets his eyebrow racing stripe grow out. Here, Dunster discusses that particular character detail, what it’s like to embrace Roy Kent, and what the self-proclaimed “soppy guy” finds so meaningful about working on a show like Ted Lasso.

How does it feel to be on a show that everyone is so thoroughly obsessed with?
Well, I certainly haven’t been on a show before where people got tattoos of the show. It’s incredible to think there are so many people online talking about it. It doesn’t feel like it had quite the same response [in the U.K.] that it’s had in America with you crazy cats over there. But it’s funny, when we went back to film season two, I think we all had that thing of, Wow, it’s had such a wonderful response, how lucky are we to be making this show at a time when it’s difficult for people to come together in one place? But also, like, Wow, I can hang out with Ted Lasso and Coach Beard and Roy Kent. Roy Kent not so much for me, but Brett Goldstein 100 percent.

Can we talk about Jamie’s eyebrows? I’m sort of obsessed.
[Laughs] I’m living out my teenage dream in that hairstyle and the eyebrow. The eyebrow was cooked up between Nicky Austin, the makeup designer, and myself. It’s a sort of hallmark of what you have when you’re young — it’s a cool, cool thing, like a bad-boy thing to have. I always asked my mom if I could have it but she was like, “No,” and I was like, “Can I have frosted tips?” She was like, “No,” and I was like, “Well, I need to rebel now.” I think it’s quite a ubiquitous thing for a lot of footballers in the U.K. and across the world — it’s like a “go faster” stripe.

It’s a perfect character detail.
There are lots of little things. Jacky Levy, the costume designer, goes toe to toe with the writers in the sense that the finite details throughout are so clever. There is such a strange microculture to footballers’ fashion and style and the design that goes around it. It’s a very rich vein, and I think that Nicky and Jacky — hair/makeup and costume, respectively — have really hit the nail on the head with it.

The show also lets men feel their feelings, and depicts men supporting one another in their emotional growth — a level of vulnerability not often seen on TV.
I think that’s a really wonderful thing to get to talk about. Currently, I’m looking at two Brené Brown books, an Alain de Botton book, and Michelle Obama’s book; they’re all in my room right now. So for a soppy guy like me, I think it is sadly unique. We need to see it reflected in the things we’re watching and the art we’re taking in. We need to see kindness and we need to see empathy and compassion. That’s something we need to see in leadership as well. One of the alchemies that makes the show great is that you’ve got this person who is trying to redefine what leadership looks like. It’s not about the wins and losses, it’s about making these gentlemen the best men they can be. But it’s incredibly important, and to be able to do it from a place where Jamie starts, where Roy starts, where Isaac McAdoo starts — these these sort of archetypal, grunting men — and have artistic license to be able to go, Look, it’s possible, and it’s okay to have feelings and feel them and talk about them. Vulnerability is not a bad word, it’s not a weak word. It is strong. Leaning into that, I think, is something that this show champions, and I feel very, very honored and privileged that I can be a part of that.

That really feels embodied by Jamie’s moment with his father in episode eight.
Being able to do that, by the way, at Wembley, will always be one of the coolest things I’ll ever get to do. Wembley is the mecca! But I was very aware of painting all the gaps we don’t see in the show, of what Jamie’s story is, and the conversations he would have had with his dad. It was the most focused I felt on set because I really wanted to stay there in that headspace, and everyone was so giving with that. And Matt Lipsey, the director of the episode, was so perfectly balanced when he was directing — he would just let me do my thing. Kieran O’Brien made it a far easier job because he’s so wonderful as an actor; he is always prowling when he’s playing James Tartt. [In the Tartt Manchester accent] He’ll come up to me, and he’s talking to me, he’s like, getting in my face and he’s blasting me in the chest. He’s real good at playing an asshole, and he’s not that at all. He’s been cast very well, their department did a very good job.

And Jamie, in particular, is going through such a transformation thanks to Ted.
Yeah, he’s sort of like Obi-Wan Kenobi, I think. And enough praise can’t be heaped on Jason for this. And all the creators — Joe [Kelly] and Bill [Lawrence] and Brendan [Hunt], and the writers as well — but this show lives in Jason’s blood, really. He knows all of the character arcs; he has a very clear idea of where they’ve been, what’s happened to them, and where they’re going. And there’s things that are going to be in season three that will have been mapped out by Jason years ago. I go back now and watch season one and I’m like, Oh, my God, that’s mad, because later on in season two, those seeds are sown. And we see the progression in Jamie’s relationships, [especially] how he views his relationship with his father. He talks about how his dad was always trying to take the credit for him. He’s even there at Wembley, this sort of temple of footballers of England, trying to steal Jamie’s thunder and take the limelight off his son and [put it] onto him[self]. I think we see him learning the lessons in season one, and we see him try to put them into practice in season two.

And then there was, of course, the Roy Kent hug.
With Brett, we have been very fortunate in that we’ve become very good friends, and he knew this was a big scene for me and for Jamie. And so he behaved himself very much. It means a lot that I got to hug Brett as well in that moment, because it was like, I know that he’s got me. And it made for a change for us. There’s symbolism in that whole scene. We see Jamie’s old life, who he was, encapsulated in his dad, his namesake, turning up. He is so much of what Jamie used to be: angry and arrogant and showboating and Man City–affiliated, no grace, coming in to jeer at these men who are sad. And then we see Jamie, feeling with these other guys, feeling with this new group of people. And when he hits his dad and turns to Roy and embraces him, I think in that moment, he becomes part of that family. He embraced that family. I think he tried to shake off his past demons. Jamie will always be antagonistic and arrogant — I think that that’s what makes him a good footballer — but in that moment, maybe that was Roy Kent adopting Jamie Tartt. Maybe it’s not like a legal thing, but maybe a hug is enough to say that he’s now a dad.

I hope Jamie gets some more time with Dr. Sharon soon. I feel as though he might need it.
Freud would have an absolute field day with him.

Ted Lasso’s Phil Dunster on the Reeducation of Jamie Tartt