'Ted Lasso' Episode 8: Phil Dunster on Jamie and Roy's Emotional Breakthrough (Exclusive)
By Meredith B. Kile
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven't watched Ted Lasso season 2, episode 8, "Man City."
Friday's Ted Lasso ended with a romantic shocker -- as Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) realized, and eventually consummated, their secret app romance -- but it was an unexpected hug earlier in the episode that may be one of the most pivotal moments in the series so far.
After a devastating rout by Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinal, the Richmond team was licking their wounds in the locker room when they got an unwelcome visitor: Jamie Tartt's father, James (Kieran O'Brien), a foul-mouthed Man City fan who came to berate his son on the loss, while still asking for his credentials so he and his fellow Berties could get on the field for a few photos.
Jamie (Phil Dunster) refused, ultimately punching his dad in the face when he began taunting his teammates about their loss. After Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) forcefully escorted the elder Tartt from the locker room, Jamie broke down in tears, receiving comfort from the most unlikely source: Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein).
Dunster spoke with ET about the powerful moment in a recent interview, noting, "Depending on which psychoanalyst speaks, I feel like that's probably pretty universal, that [people] get some bad habits or perhaps traumas from their parents. As well-meaning and brilliant as their parents may well be, I think it's something that for every single human that's ever lived, that's how we learn."
"I spend a lot of time thinking about how I feel about these things -- a little too much, at times," he added. "I think for me, there's this sort of archetypal, emotionally-closed individual who doesn't know how to emote and actually feels like emoting and sharing that is weak, [that] being vulnerable is synonymous with being weak."
At the start of the series, Jamie is certainly the product of his father's influence -- the prototypically macho, emotionally-stunted star player of AFC Richmond. "He's had to put walls up because his dad beats that out of him, beats the weakness out of him," Dunster observed. "The vulnerability is what is seen as weakness."
However, the football ace is certainly one of the players most influenced by Richmond's hiring of the show's titular coach (played by Jason Sudeikis). After a failed stint with Man City -- which Jamie admitted to Ted that he torpedoed in part to piss off his father -- he returned to his old club at the start of the second season with a new passion for being a team player, an arc that lead him to the emotional moment with his gruff rival-turned-coach, Roy.
"I think what we see in episode 8, in that scene that they've brilliantly written, is this symbol of his family in the past, his dad coming along, and him dismissing that and fighting against it and embracing his new family, and embracing this new life," Dunster said. "I think that it's a really brilliant combination. It's a very symbolic combination that they showed."
The actor added that he was "fascinated" by the moment as a performer, and how it speaks to a larger Ted Lasso theme about toxic masculinity and the ways in which it has shaped generations of men.
"I really hope that there are more young men coming to terms with the fact that they feel things and it's OK to feel things and to talk about how they feel about things," he added. "That's not weak. It's brave and strong and good."
Dunster even admitted that, while filming the scene, he was initially hesitant to have Jamie cry, but felt that embracing his emotional response was an important part of the journey for both him and his character.
"I think there was maybe a thing in my head of being like, 'How far do I go with this?' Because I know that I would cry here," he recalled. "I've been playing this part for a year now. I've been with Jamie Tartt for a year now. I was just like, well, just trust your gut... It's hopefully an honest sort of response."
That moving scene, and the one that follows -- in which Ted confesses to the Richmond's sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) that his father died by suicide when Ted was 16 -- are capped off with one of the series' most poignant needle drops yet: "Don't Look Back in Anger," by Oasis, which Dunster revealed was a special bit of serendipity.
"Jamie is partially based off of Liam Gallagher," he shared, noting that the Oasis rocker also happens to be a massive Man City fan. "And so I thought that's a really wonderful thing... I don't think that anything ever happens by accident."
So with Goldstein's character as the Noel to his Liam, does Dunster think the hug will permanently thaw the tensions between Jamie and Roy? "I hope not," he said with a laugh.
"There's got to be an element of antagonism throughout, because that's what I think that I enjoy seeing," the actor noted. "I love this sort of sparring between the two of us, because also it's totally antithetical to what Brett and I are actually like. I'm totally in love with him. And whenever we have to do these scenes where we're nose to nose, telling each other we hate each other. It is impossible to keep a straight face."
"So I hope that they keep hating each other. But in a way that only family and close friends can really hate each other," he added.