'Ted Lasso' Star Phil Dunster on Jamie's Return to Richmond and His Time on Fake 'Love Island' (Exclusive)
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven't watched Ted Lasso season 2, episode 2, "Lavender."
They say you can't go home again, but if you're a football superstar, you might get a second chance with the club you helped send into relegation.
That's the lesson Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) learns the hard way in the second episode of Ted Lassoseason 2, as he finds himself unemployed after getting kicked off the Love Island-esque reality dating show, Lust Conquers All.
Having walked away from his Manchester City contract -- and proven himself to be even more of a selfish cad on the show -- Jamie quickly finds that no major European club is willing to take him on, and so he returns, little plastic army man in hand, to ask Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) for another shot on AFC Richmond.
Initially, Ted turns him down -- noting the bridges he's burnt and lingering hurt feelings over the club's relegation -- but, ever the caring father figure to his young soccer stars, he also inquires about why Jamie threw away a future with one of England's biggest clubs for a few dips in what one can only hope is a heavily chlorinated hot tub.
"I did it to piss off me dad," Jamie eventually admits. "He was just on me after every match. How I played, how many minutes I played, how I sat on the bench when I didn't play. It just drove me f**kin' mad."
Ted Lasso answers as only Ted Lasso can: "I've noticed that sometimes having a tough dad is exactly what drives certain fellas to become great at what they do. I hear Bono's father was a real piece of work, but then again, so is Joshua Tree."
However, as fans of the show know, the specter of Jamie's relationship with his father has loomed large over his football career from the very start, and this latest reactionary move has some major consequences.
"It's interesting," Dunster told ET this week about his character's decision to ditch an opportunity most footballers would dream of. "They didn't write him going to a different club. They didn't write him playing a different sport. It's a different career. It's a different thing... He's having a quarter-life crisis."
"[Football] is all he knows. He's learned how to interact with people and he's also learned his value to other people to football... it's the best and worst thing in his life," he added. "And I think that a lot of people in their 20s go through that thing of, this life that I think that I was about to lead, is that actually nonsense? Is that actually something I want to do?... And so they go traveling, or they have a mad relationship, or they dye their hair or whatever. It's just that in Jamie Tartt's world, he goes into a sort of Love Island."
So, was there any part of Dunster that hoped that we got to see a little more of Jamie's time on Lust Conquers All?
"Every single atom of my being wishes that we got to see more of Jamie on the show," he joked. "It was very fun to do, but what was also very funny was, the poor grips and the whole design team did such a good job because that was in a pool in the hotel next to Heathrow airport. So they really made it feel like an exotic location."
On a more serious note, the actor said that Jamie's humbled return kicks off a season 2 arc that he's excited for fans to see, as his cocky character learns what it's like to no longer be at the top of the food chain -- and, of course, gets some tough love from his good-hearted coach.
"For so much of the first season, he was just an arrogant or selfish young man," he noted. "But I think that the more and more that we see those moments [with Ted]... we can see these little chinks in the armor, and the light just starts to creep through."
"I think Jason has known from the get-go -- and [co-creators] Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt, but this show runs through Jason's blood -- he knows that there will be payoff for all of the character's shortcomings throughout," Dunster added.
Ultimately, Ted realizes that Jamie needs the club as much as they need him to help shake them out of their tied-up funk, and agrees to bring him back. However, as the ace takes the pitch at episode's end, the reception from his former Richmond teammates is downright frosty -- and not just because it's snowing.
"It's interesting, because I think that Jamie's probably never really been an outcast," Dunster noted. "He's probably always seen himself as maybe an outsider, but he's always had his talents and his bravado to hide behind and he knows that will get him anywhere he wants to, up until that point."
"Seeing him with his tail between his legs in start of season 2, we see the beginning of that evolution of, maybe that's not enough, maybe [it's time to] step away from this toxic masculinity," he added. "I think that we see, very clearly, that he needs to really put in the hard yards with people like Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), with Colin Hughes (Billy Harris), with Ted of course. So I think that he is coming to terms with this different perception that people have of him, which, it's probably the first time he's really ever listened to what anybody else thinks."
As for what else he's excited for fans to see this season, Dunster teased a "brilliant" storyline for newly promoted Coach Nate (Nick Mohammed) and "a certain haircut involving Isaac McAdoo (Kola Bokinni)."
"That's really special," he previewed. "I certainly feel like there's a brilliant progression in [everyone's storylines], and it's been sticking to that Ted Lasso way that I think people really responded to in season 1."
Ted Lasso season 2 is streaming now on Apple TV+.
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