The star player of the AFC Richmond team in Ted Lasso is Jamie Tartt, a young, talented footballer who knows all too well just how good he is. Actor Phil Dunster, who plays Jamie, is also one of the best reasons to watch the Apple TV Plus comedy, which is currently filming its second season, set to debut on July 23rd.
Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Dunster about the differences between him and his character, working with the other talent, and reveling in the unexpected popularity of the show.
Q: I spoke to casting director Theo Park, who said that originally the character of Dani Rojas was supposed to be the arrogant star player, but when they saw you and Cristo Fernandez, they created a new character of Jamie Tartt. How did you come onto this show and what part did you think you were you auditioning for?
A: Well, I originally did a terrible Spanish accent for Dani Rojas. They were like, we liked you, but that accent has to go. There was a bit of a shift-around in that the character that is now Jamie Tartt was originally called Dani Rojas, then they saw Cristo and he is just so perfectly Dani Rojas that they went, well, we’ll make the character fit around him. I had originally gone for the Jamie Tartt role with a Spanish accent and then they were like, cool, but let’s just try a different accent. So I came in with the Manchester accent.
Q: Jamie doesn’t seem to care about making friends, he just wants to be admired. How do you see him and do you think he’s a good guy underneath it all?
A: I think that I see him as someone who is really struggling to be emotionally vulnerable. As you go through the series, we find out about the relationship he has with his dad. As a young footballer who is exposed to that level of fame, as well as being so rich that young, as these footballers are, it’s such a strange world. I don’t know if they can be prepared for it. It made it a whole lot easier to approach the part because there’s such a rich frame that the writers presented us with. If nothing else, I really hoped that I could stand up and be like, well, he’s responding that way because of something that happened to him in his childhood. I think that goes for everybody. No matter how nice and good people are trying to be, they will respond to whatever because they’re a product of their environment and the experiences that they’ve had. I think that Jamie is no different, it’s just that he’s responding in quite a Jamie way.
Q: Will we see more of his relationship with his father in season two?
A: I’m afraid that there is currently a gun to my head now that you’ve asked about season two, the alert’s gone up. I’m sworn to secrecy on that, I’m afraid.
Q: Well, I have plenty of questions about season one, so that’s fine. Jamie and Roy have such a contentious relationship on the show. How do you and Brett Goldstein get along in real life?
A: Okay, well look, no one knows this, but I have a Moped Vespa, and Brett saw me on the Moped, on this Vespa, and he said, oh obviously we need to make a Moped gag. Soon, we are both joining an exclusive club, the two members of the Vespa boys. I love Brett very much and I find it very difficult to do scenes with him. It’s something about his face, I don’t know what it is, but it just makes me laugh so much. For example, there’s this scene later on in series one where they’re both sat opposite each other at a table at Keeley’s house. It’s just this one little moment where Brett does this thing where he’s locking his mouth, my lips are sealed, and then threw the fake key at me. I found it so funny, what a stupid little moment that he made, but I found it so funny. It just cracked me up every time and I couldn’t stop. I don’t even think they had any shots where I wasn’t laughing. I think you can even see my lips curl up at the sides. But no, I’m very lucky that I met Brett because I think he’s great.
Q: You share a lot of scenes with Juno Temple, who is really wonderful. What can you say about working with her?
A: She is so sick. She’s so good. She’s an incredibly generous scene partner, and she’s also a great person to hang around with on set because she’s got so many stories, so many anecdotes that make her a joy to hang out with. Juno comes from a grittier film background and so what you need in that is to truly understand what the story beats are. This is me pontificating, I’m sure she could tell you what she thinks. Having come from those sorts of stories, understanding what the scene, what the story, what the character is about is the most important thing. And there’s no difference between that and comedy. She’s just made the leap so well, and it’s a testament to how well she’s done it. She emanates light and joy, and you can see that in Keeley.
Q: And then, of course, there’s Ted, who doesn’t seem to see eye-to-eye with Jamie on anything. What is it like acting opposite Jason Sudeikis?
A: Man, it’s tricky to say. Because I feel like saying this is a cliché and actors just patting themselves on each other’s backs. He’s just a joy. He’s so energetic that he can just keep going and going. He would hate for anybody to say this about him, but I think he’s a bit of a genius. He’s incredibly good. As a scene partner, he’s incredibly generous but as a creator, he’s incredibly good at getting you to a place where you understand what his intention was with the character so that you understand who the character is, so that when you’re in that scene, you’ve been talking to Jason for the last hour and a half while you’ve been setting up the scene, and he’s been offering up all that energy and giving it to you when he’s a busy, busy guy. Yet here he is making sure that you feel comfortable and that you’re ready to perform in the best possible way you can. It just speaks volumes. He probably doesn’t need to do that but he does because he cares. He said that when he used to work on Saturday Night Live, there were so many people that came on the show that he would learn from, and he called them uncle, his showbiz uncles. What I’m trying to do is just watch him and learn from him because he’s brilliant. You’ve seen the show, you know what he’s like.
Q: It’s nice to hear that he’s a little bit closer to his character than you are to yours.
A: [laughter] Don’t be so sure, man!
Q: You have a very international cast. Are there any entertaining cultural differences that manifest on set?
A: I think it’s really funny that Cristo, who plays Dani Rojas, doesn’t really understand Kola Bokinni, who plays Isaac. That I find really funny. One thing that just baffles me is that Brendan Hunt – Coach Beard, creator of the show –is obsessed with Robbie Williams. He’s like huge over here, and I guess I took Robbie Williams for granted, and I never will again. It’s interesting that Stephen, who plays Richard, the French footballer, he learned his English when he was traveling through India. I just find that really fascinating, he didn’t learn it in school, and not even in England, just from people traveling. Yeah, it’s an incredibly multicultural cast from all over the world. It’s super cool, and I feel very lucky that I get to live at home while it’s filmed. It’s a brilliantly international show and then I can come home and cook myself dinner.
Q: How much of the sports skill that Jamie has is you and how much of it is the camerawork or training?
A: The honest answer is that they’re very good at editing on the show. It’s all me, apart from one shot when Jamie got tackled. Other than that, I work with some really great people who had a lot of time and patience. A lot of the guys who make up the team are semiprofessionals or used to be a semiprofessional or real footballers. The generosity that they have with their time in terms of making you feel comfortable with the skills is amazing. Very humbling. And so, yeah, they also are very good at acting, like they can tackle me so they make me look good. They can dive around the pitch and make it look like I’m taking it around them. There’s a few moves to know, but it’s a team effort to make me look good.
Q: Are you a sports enthusiast in your real life?
A: I love it, love it. I don’t know anything about baseball, but I was given a Red Sox cap by Chip Hamilton, who is a big dog on the show. I love football – or soccer – I’m a big fan AFC Wimbledon fan. I like cricket, and people hate cricket, but I love cricket. I just love sports.
Q: I’m not very much into sports, but I am from the Boston area, so I get the Red Sox enthusiasm. I know I’m supposed to be happy when I see that, even though I lived in New York for a number of years, where that’s not cool.
A: To be honest, I do not get baseball. People here, they run, they shout. It’s fun. You have a hot dog. I don’t really understand it, but it’s fun. It’s great. It’s competition. I love it.
Q: Did you ever imagine that you’d be playing an athlete in a show like this?
A: No man, I tell everyone that I’m a professional footballer now because I have a job. I really milk that for all it’s worth.
Q: Preparing for this interview, I found myself singing that “Jamie Tartt, doo doo doo doo doo doo” song. Do you like that association, or does it drive you crazy?
A: Hell yeah, man. I love it. It’s great. We were trying to think of it, and it just sort of fit. I was like, it makes sense. Look, I just feel happy because I feel like that the original song wasn’t getting enough exposure, and people didn’t know enough about it. I’m really pleased that a small artist like the artist who made “Baby Shark” just gets that exposure. It’s great.
Q: Obviously the world isn’t really all that open yet – I don’t know what it’s like over there. I know a lot of things are still closed here. Do you think that Ted Lasso has become a big cultural phenomenon where you are, and is that something that goes over the same way in the UK as it does here in the US?
A: I think it’s partially difficult to say because of the pandemic. It’s hard to say because you haven’t been out and about in quite the same way that we would have been. But I think that there seems to have been a huge resonance with the show stateside across the pond. My mom’s friends tell her that they’ve seen it, and that to me is probably the epitome of the work that I’m doing, getting some traction. It is crazy to think that the show is picking up that kind of response. It’s wonderful and humbling and brilliant.
Q: What would you say is your favorite thing about you Jamie?
A: I think that he is absolutely honest and true to himself. There is no pretend or bravado. He says what he thinks and feels. Often what he feels is probably quite selfish and arrogant. He just communicates in a bad way. There’s an element to it that I like, and that if you can communicate in a good way, it’s a healthy thing.
Q: This won’t be published as a video interview, but I should note that you’re wearing a shirt. Do you think that Jamie’s fashion style, the shirtless suit, will catch on?
A: [laughter] I think I saw someone during the Oscars dressed in a suit without a shirt and I was like, how could you not have quoted or referenced that Ted Lasso did it first? Listen, I’m sure it’s been done before, but I think it should be a thing. For sure, yeah.
Q: What else is next for you? Do you have other projects you’re working on at the moment?
A: I am very happily filming season at the minute. That’s me.
Q: I know you’re not allowed to say anything, but is there anything cryptic that you can say about season two? Will Jamie still be in it? Is he just a guest star?
A: That guy with the gun’s back again. The best thing I can say is that the trailer is now out, and you can see that, and there’s some things in there that are teasing, as a trailer’s meant to do. I think it’s better than the first one.
Season one of Ted Lasso is available to watch anytime on Apple TV Plus. Season two premieres July 23rd.