This story about Phil Dunster and “Ted Lasso” first appeared in the Down to the Wire: Comedy issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Over the course of the three seasons of “Ted Lasso,” 14 different actors have been nominated for Emmys for the Apple TV+ comedy about a down-on-his-luck American football coach who somehow ends up managing an English soccer team. But until this year, one key member of the original cast was missing from that list: Phil Dunster, who plays the egotistical, brash star Jamie Tartt, has watched co-stars like series co-creator Jason Sudeikis and castmates Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple, Nick Mohammed, Brendan Hunt and Jeremy Swift land nominations, while Emmy voters have never quite found room for him in the slate of nominees.
But in the third (and presumably final) season, Jamie Tartt had a touching storyline in which he bonded with former nemesis Roy Kent (Goldstein), and Dunster wound up with his first nomination. The nomination puts “Ted Lasso” in the rare position of having all the members of its original main cast nominated for Emmys, a distinction it shares with “All in the Family,” “The Golden Girls,” “Will and Grace” and “Schitt’s Creek.”
In this case, that means Sudeikis, Waddingham, Goldstein and Temple, who have been nominated for all three seasons; Mohammed, who was nominated for the first and second seasons; and Hunt and Swift, who were nominated for Season 1.
“I finally caught up,” Dunster said, laughing. “These people have become very close friends, so you are happy for them. And now this is just an incredible cherry on top. What a cool thing that the show about kindness and people being nice to each other is recognized in that way.”
When Dunster signed on for the first season, Jamie Tartt was brilliant on the pitch, cocky on and off it and a little dumb in matters not related to football. (We could see why Juno Temple’s Keeley Jones would leave him for Roy Kent.) And while the show would begin to show other sides of Jamie by the end of that season, the actor had no idea that Jamie and Roy would end up in a bromance.
“It wasn’t quite stumbling in the dark, but we were playing what was in front of us,” he said of the first season. “It was something that I think the creators enjoyed. If we knew too far in advance about what was happening, then we would be playing those things. And it helped that we were acting on our toes, as it were.”
Over the years, he added, co-creator Jason Sudeikis would occasionally give him hints about where his character might be headed, with the Jamie-Roy relationship a particular delight when scripts arrived for what was presumably the final season.
“I think getting to work with (Brett Goldstein) more has been the biggest joy of the whole thing,” he said. “And to see a lot of Jamie’s character development happen on screen is a really nice thing. When the new scripts would come in, I would be like, ‘Oh, this is really exciting, but I want to make sure that I do it justice.’”
And in doing justice to the new Jamie, he had to preserve the old one. “I wanted to make sure that Jamie stayed that person, but was just trying to make different decisions,” he said. “He’s grown, but he’s still the same person. I think that if we suddenly made him into a different character who was really emotionally intelligent, the audience wouldn’t appreciate that.”
Sudeikis and co-creators Brendan Hunt and Bill Lawrence have said that they originally envisioned “Ted Lasso” as a three-season story — and while nobody has come out and admitted that the series will not be back, the cast treated it as the end when many of them gathered in Los Angeles to watch the final episode together.
“Some of us happened to be in L.A. at the same time, and it was a really lovely culmination to be together,” he said. “Hannah won the award for crying the most, for sure.”
And where did he finish on that list?
“I only made it for the second half of the show, so I was probably in the lower half,” he said. “But to be honest, I definitely placed. I was on the leaderboard, but lower down.”
In his post-Jamie Tartt career, Dunster admitted, things are now a little easier. “I was an actor for nearly 10 years before now, and you spend a lot of time knocking on doors asking people to let you into certain rooms,” he said. “And I suppose what has changed is maybe those doors are slightly more ajar now, and you don’t have to knock quite so hard.
“Obviously, there’s a lot up in the air at the moment, but I’m enjoying the potential of having some variety. We’re a very fickle bunch, us actors. We can’t really stay in one place for too long, so we’re looking for different people to try to inhabit.”
He paused and chuckled. “We won’t go much into the emotional and mental implications of people trying to be other people. That’s just actors.”
Of course, with Sudeikis and crew not exactly ruling out a return to “Ted Lasso,” there might be a chance of him trying to re-inhabit Jamie Tartt. “We don’t actually know if it’s the end of the show or not, to be fair,” he said. “I’m waiting with bated breath, because I’m still ready to party if, if they are.”