Sweet Tartt: How ‘Ted Lasso’ Star Phil Dunster Became the Final Season’s MVP

TheWrap magazine: “It was always important to me and everybody else that Jamie didn’t just become nice,” Dunster says. “I think that becomes vapid and it’s not fun for the audience”

Phil Dunster
Phil Dunster (Portrait by Daniel Doperalski WWD via Contour)

This story about Phil Dunster and “Ted Lasso” first appeared in the Comedy Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Ask “Ted Lasso” fans to name their favorite storyline of the surprisingly super-sized Season 3 and you’ll likely get a unanimous answer: the burgeoning bromance between Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster). The relationship would have been unimaginable in Season 1, when the two alpha males openly despised each other. But the bad blood was wiped clean by Jamie’s transformation from AFC Richmond bad boy to team sweetheart.

“I made a petition that I signed 25,000 times myself and gave it to the writers every day so that they would start writing Roy and Jamie scenes, because it was sort of my raison d’etre for a while,” Dunster said, smiling. “Brett is a huge part of why people enjoy that story because you can see him fighting his better nature all the time, and that’s a really fun thing. I think that Jamie is the opposite of that. He’s desperately trying to find his better nature, and they’re kind of two sides of the same coin.

Jamie always had a certain rascally charm, even when he was being, as the show’s denizens would say, a right tosser. For Dunster, it was important not to dull the character’s edges. “It was always important to me and every body else that Jamie didn’t just become nice,” he said. “If he was the Teflon-coated version of himself, I think that becomes vapid and it’s not fun for the audience. It’s not fun to play. It was very conscious from the writers that he was just this same guy we knew but making slightly different decisions.”

Brett Goldstein and Phil Dunster in "Ted Lasso" Season 3 Episod 11
Apple TV+

“Ted Lasso” likes to use its actors’ real-life talents to the show’s advantage (Hannah Waddingham’s luscious singing voice, Brendan Hunt’s quirky, under-his-breath utterances), and Dunster was happy to oblige. He played rugby growing up in Southern England, so he enjoys the physicality of the role. “Jamie’s a bit of a class clown and I think I probably have that in common with him, being a bit of a show-off,” he said, citing the cartwheel he does in Season 3’s Amsterdam episode, in which Jamie teaches Roy to ride a bike.

One thing Dunster doesn’t share with his character is Jamie’s Mancunian accent, which can bend a word as simple as “me” into “mae.” “He couldn’t sound like me because footballers don’t sound like me,” Dunster said. “They tend to be Newcastle or Manchester or southeast London, so it was important to me that it was done with specificity and love rather than just caricaturing it. Jamie is a really heightened character, but I wanted all of his emotional journeys to come from a real place. Because otherwise you don’t care. My girlfriend’s family is half Mancunian, from Manchester, so it’s very important, both personally and vocationally, that it went well. And it’s also partially based on my British agent,” he added, laughing, “who’s very sassy.”

Dunster’s first TV role was opposite Sharon Horgan, playing a bloke in a bar on her beloved comedy “Catastrophe.” He’s been lucky enough to work several times with Kenneth Branagh, in the films “Murder on the Orient Express” and “All Is True” and in the Rob Ashford-directed London revival of John Osborne’s “The Entertainer.” Dunster considers those matchless experiences vital to what he does on “Lasso.” “As a company leader, (Kenneth) is not afraid of deferring to people who are experts,” Dunster said. “He encourages deep internalization of feeling and of thought. And that’s something I think about any great director or creator that I work with. And hopefully, directly or indirectly, I use what I learned in the future.”

Read more from the Comedy Series issue here.

Comedy Series Cover, Selena Gomez
Photographed by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap