Phil Dunster

Season 3 of Ted Lasso is currently airing each week on Apple TV+ and Phil Dunster is one of the many talented cast members at the centre of it all. He plays the role of star footballer Mancunian Jamie Tartt, a striker for the AFC Richmond team. Our first impression of Jamie is that he’s a bit of a cocky dick who knows he’s the dog’s bollocks. Unsurprisingly, his attitude turns off many other players, and clashes ensue. As the seasons progressed, viewers learned about Jamie’s backstory and they have come to understand that many times his actions are not intended to bring harm. Despite some of Jamie’s early faults, viewers still had a soft spot for the overly confident yet loveable bad boy.

PHOTOGRAPHY Jack Alexander

STYLING James Yardley @ The Only Agency

GROOMING Emma White-Turle @ The Wall Group


BTS VIDEO David Evans

SPECIAL THANKS The Bentley Hotel London

Suit Thom Sweeney / Boots Louboutin 

Upon meeting the 31-year-old at a photo shoot at The Bentley Hotel in London, Dunster is somewhat the complete opposite of that character description. For starters, he doesn’t have that strong Northern accent some fans are surprised isn’t real. “My initial touchpoint was the Gallagher brothers,” Dunstar tells Principle about his process of trying to project a persuasive accent. “And then I think as I moved forward, I love Aitch the rapper and his attitude is amazing for Jamie as well as Jack Grealish.” That said, even though he has viewers fooled, Dunster can’t help but be critical of himself from time to time. “When I watch back some of the moments in Season One, I’m like, ‘Oh, I didn’t quite nail it there.’ But yeah, I feel like he sort of has it now,” he adds.

The calm and collected actor in real life has what is often referred to as the standard, some may posh, British accent. That’s because he was born in Northampton located in the East Midlands area. Though, he doesn’t recall much of the city as he relocated roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes away to the large Southern town of Reading at a young age and remained there until his late teens. “It isn’t the sexiest way of growing up but I loved it,” he says. Dunstar attended a co-educational private school, Leighton Park School, which is one of eight Quaker schools in the country. “I was really lucky to go there. I didn’t really enjoy it at the time because it was school but there was so much to be able to do there and I appreciated that,” he adds. 

Even with a great education, Dunster still faced a number of setbacks before finding his calling as a promising, talented actor. When he was 16, he had initial plans to become a rugby player, but his dreams were quickly shattered when he was told that wouldn’t be possible. “They said I was too small and too shit to play rugby professionally,” he recalls. “I was so unimaginative and so shit at anything academic. I was like, ‘This feels like it’s the only kind of option I have.’ At the time, I loved rugby and I played it a lot at school and sports was the only thing that I felt like I was good enough at where someone would actually pay me money to do it. Also, I was fucking lazy so I could never write anything properly.”

When that plan of action failed, Dunster considered following in the footsteps of his father by joining the military. Little did he know, that wouldn’t work out either. “My dad was in the army many years ago and my brother is in the army still and I thought that I was gonna do that. But again, the army was like, ‘This probably isn’t for you,’” he says. “It wasn’t a lifelong ambition of mine. It was always something that I thought I could maybe do. I went for an interview for a junior officer’s training corps with my dad and I can’t remember what I said, but it clearly just wasn’t the sort of thing that they needed. I probably told them that I enjoyed being the centre of attention, dancing around, and doing plays and stuff.”

If you were to take a deep dive into the net, you might come across footage of Dunster performing covers of Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5 during an acoustic gig at a Cafe Nero in Wokingham. Does that mean Dunster also considered a career in music? “Oh my god, not as a career,” he says. “Anyone who goes and looks at those themselves will probably see why.” Once again, he’s just being critical of himself. Dunster’s crave to wanting to play the guitar was purely because he “wanted to get off with girls” and assumed that it would probably be “the most feasible way” to attract their attention. “I used to do covers with this guy called Hugh and we recorded an EP and I look back and I’m like, ‘Oh, I hope this never comes out.’”

His desire to take acting seriously didn’t officially come into the picture until he met “a wonderful Welsh” teacher named Mr. Geraint Thomas, who he states helped “kick everything off” and to this day, still gives full credit for helping him find his feet during an uncertain time. He introduced Dunster to Dylan Thomas’ radio play Under Milk Wood, which was an unexpected game changer. “It was pretty boring,” he says while laughing. “But, it was beautiful and it was really incredible for the fact that nothing really happened in the play. People loved it and I loved it. It was like, ‘Oh, well there’s something that you can do here where we can all be in this imaginary little world and create this thing together.’” It was then that Dunster discovered a love and connection for acting in a way that he hadn’t done with any of his other interests. Following a gap year and turning 19, Geraint influenced him to try out for Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and helped him prepare for his audition speeches. “I don’t really know how I got to drama school because I’d probably seen four plays at the time,” Dunster confesses. Nevertheless, his application got accepted, and he packed his things for Bristol and never looked back. 

It’s clear from talking to him that Dunster’s move to Bristol was a massive turning point and a period of his life that continues to have a long-lasting impact on him. “Genuinely the best city in the world,” he declares. His face lights up. Despite the place having so much to offer an optimistic teenager, Dunster believes it was the people he was in the company of that made his experience one he will never forget. “I sort of found this little weird tribe of people who were all just as stupid or fun idiots as me. I learned to be like that through them,” Dunster recalls. “They were just the kindest people that I’d ever met and we just had a wonderful time. Being at drama school is great because it’s just a place where you can fuck about and get stuff wrong and that’s kind of now why I love rehearsals.”

“That whole experience was just figuring out who I was and being around these people who just were very accepting of the fact that you probably don’t know the answers yet. That’s why I loved it so much and forever wished that I was back there,” he continues.

Dunster graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Acting in 2014 and seemingly didn’t struggle to book work straight off the back of getting a degree. Looking in from the outside, 2015 was assumingly a busy year for him as he landed himself the role of Claudio in the Reading Theatre production of Williams Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, made his television debut in the Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe as well as appeared in the low-budget film The Rise of the Krays, a part he would reprise the following year for its sequel. “The life of any actor even when they are doing very well is still kind of in a weird way feast and famine,” he says. “When I left drama school, getting that film [The Rise of the Krays] was incredibly fortunate because there were great people that I still know today who were on it. It was just the experience of being on a set and learning what a gaffer is and a DoP, or a cinematographer is and what they do. It was just invaluable.”

And yes, while Dunster was picking up work quite quickly and learning the ropes firsthand following his time at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, that didn’t mean his days were jam-packed throughout the calendar year as his first few years pursuing life as a working actor consisted of small, one-off roles that still limited him to take on anything else. “Sometimes if you’re filming on something and you don’t have a big part in it, you can’t film on anything else and you’re only filming for two or three days. Some of those years can feel quite like you’re not doing a huge amount,” Dunster explains. It’s that exact reason why he loves theatre productions. “It keeps you kind of honest in a way as each day you are back in for it,” he says.  “I’ve been very lucky that I feel I have sort of worked fairly consistently and it’s something that I do not take for granted because it’s a really, really, really difficult and sometimes undignified industry to be in.”

By 2016, however, things were looking up. Dunster played Arthur in Pink Mist at the Bristol Old Vic and Bush Theatre in London, a role that essentially felt like fate and is considered a pivotal part of his journey. “It’s about young boys from Bristol who look for adventure and go and join the army and go to Afghanistan,” Dunster explains. To top it all off, it was written by a Welsh playwright named Owen Sheers, making everything feel full circle. Kinda crazy, right? That part would later become even more special when it landed him an Olivier nomination for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. “It kind of felt silly that it was even a thing because it was so not something that I expected. I didn’t know really what the Oliviers were,” he admits. “Now I look back and I’m like, ‘That’s so incredible!’ I look back on that and think, ‘Wow, that’s such a huge thing that I was very lucky to happen to me.’ But just the experience of it was the purest, creative experience I’ve had since leaving drama school.”

In the years that crept, Dunster started to become a regular face in the acting field, securing himself lead television roles in Strike Back, The Trouble with Maggie Cole, and The Devil’s Hour. Still, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that his portrayal of Jamie in Ted Lasso might always be referred to as his global breakthrough, and the accolades effortlessly prove why. Following its debut on Apple TV+ in 2020, it became the most-watched television series on the platform. The show also made Emmy Award history as the most nominated freshman comedy when it received 20 nominations at the 73rd ceremony. On top of that, the characters have joined the latest FIFA 23 game and a range of AFC Richmond merch has been endorsed through Nike. 

The show serving as one of Apple TV’s biggest success stories definitely isn’t much of a surprise to fans. It effortlessly touches on people’s emotions without trying too hard and each episode offers something refreshing. Even with those qualities, Dunster admits he could have never anticipated or predicted the show capturing the hearts of viewers in the way that it has during the making of it. “I don’t think anybody expected it to do this. Even Apple took a punt on it,” he says. “It has really captured the imagination of people. It’s got a very broad church, but it also feels very specific to people’s experiences because people can relate to it. I don’t really know what the alchemy is of that but it just seems to have done well in something that I don’t think we could have foreseen.” 

So, what was it about the role of Jamie that sold it to Dunster in the first place? “Well, football,” he says. “I think the honest answer is it was a job and you know, any actor is always wanting a job,” he adds. “I don’t think that I read it thinking, ‘God isn’t this the most hopeful, wonderful, supportive thing,’ which I think some people have said about the show since.”

“It was just a funny thing to do and it was about footballers. I’ve grown up watching footballers, having read about and know the pop culture of it, I thought it would be fun to play a larger-than-life character,” he continues. Dunster enjoys the fact that the show isn’t cynical, which he uses to describe a lot of British comedy shows. His personal preference is to watch something sharper, referencing Parks and Recreation and The Office as American sitcoms that got it right. 

It’s been said many times and deserves to be mentioned again; Jamie’s character development becomes more impressive with each episode. Introduced to viewers as obnoxious, selfish, vain, and someone who thinks a little too highly of himself to the point of narcissism overload, we’ve seen as the episodes have gone on that he has learned to mature, better himself, and take accountability, finally realising that he really is 1 of 11 as opposed to one in a million (if you know, you know). “He’s very different to me in that he’s very straightforward and honest. I think that we all struggle sometimes to just be direct in what we think and feel about things, and he’s not that and that’s kind of amazing,” Dunster says about what sets him apart from his character. “He needs emotional support, which I can relate to for sure. He goes about it in a very different way than I think I do, but maybe in Season 3 he sort of has learned ways that are more conducive to better his mental health.”

The magic of Ted Lasso in general is that despite some of the characters’ faults, you still end up wishing them well, with the exception of Rupert, that’s probably never gonna happen. “I think that people want to like people,” Dunster says. “You see with Nate, that storyline has gotten to a place where people are so disappointed that he’s done what he’s done but they’re still rooting for him. They still want him to come out on the other side. There’s a choice that Nate has to make, whether he stays with the dark side or not.”

The unexpected bromance between Jamie and Roy Kent (played by Brett Goldstein who also serves as a writer and executive producer) has been one that has been a joy to watch each week during Season 3, specifically in episode six, “Sunflowers,” where the team embarked on a trip to Amsterdam. “I’m probably the person who is most excited about the stuff with Brett. I just love him but most of all because he’s been an amazing scene partner and he smells really good,” Dunster says. “It’s nice that I can do a thing and enjoy it as much as I did and then for people who watch it to also enjoy it as well.”

The biggest change in his life since the show’s runaway success? He gets to go to more football games more regularly. For free, of course. “It’s been an amazing platform for all of us and it’s changed all of our careers for the time being. That happens in lots of imperceptible ways that it’s quite hard to put your finger on sometimes,” Dunster says. “Whether that’s speaking to people such as yourself at Principle Magazine, getting to go to really mad events, or meeting the president of the United States.”

Despite the fancy red carpet events, free football matches, and being recognised on the street more often, Ted Lasso’s gradual rise to becoming a household name show has somewhat helped Dunster maintain the life he was satisfied with before. “When a show like this comes up, I think from the outside it looks like, ‘Oh, everything’s changed.’ I think I thought that that would be the case when it came out, but it was far more like a slow drip,” he says. “I feel good about that because the fundamentals in my life haven’t really changed. My friends are the same and the people that I love are the same and that’s the most important thing for me, really. Maybe now I’ve probably got slightly cooler trainers nowadays than I had before.”

As far as everyone is aware, the cast included, we are all led to believe that Season 3 of Ted Lasso will be the final instalment, for now. “It’s certainly the end of the story as it’s been written, but yeah, there’s a chance that it will be the last, but there’s no official thing of being over,” he says. Season 4 or not, Dunster by no means is going to be sitting on the couch waiting for the next job to arrive as his summer is already stacked with work. “I start filming on another Apple TV show called Surface, which is filming over the summer, which to be honest, it’s gonna be shooting in London and that’s sweet,” he announces. The psychological thriller premiered in July 2022 and Dunster will join the cast for Season 2. “I get to work with people like Gugu Mbatha-Raw and that’s pretty cool,” he adds.

That’s not all. With years of experience working in front of the camera, Dunster is ready to broaden his horizons outside of the acting field. He’s written his own short film, Idiomatic, which he will be directing this July too. “It’s terrifying, but also really exciting,” he admits. “I’m working with a brilliant production company who are very aware that it was my first thing and are great at taking me through it.” He gives a little insight into the premise of the film. “The film is about someone who can see metaphors and it’s ruining their life. It’s an offbeat silly comedy that has a lot of heart because we see someone who is basically struggling with intrusive thoughts, but imagine in the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” 

Dunster concludes with a simple, yet introspective, statement, saying, “I try to not take things too seriously.” And while the sentiment may seem light-hearted and candid, the truth is it’s not hard to see why his humble charm and humour have helped him succeed.

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