Phil Dunster doesn’t have children, but seeing “Ted Lasso” off into its third and final season sort of feels like watching an eldest child leave the nest.
“You love them so dearly and you’re like, ‘I’m excited for you to go out to the world and for me to go out into the world and I can watch you with pride, but also I’m going to retire, or I’m going to move and do some fun things now as well,’” the 30-year-old actor says.
Dunster is known for his portrayal of bad boy soccer star Jamie Tartt on the hit Apple+ show, which airs its second episode of Season Three Wednesday night. Saying goodbye to “Ted Lasso” is sad, sure, but also a rewarding experience for the actor.
“As much as everything has changed around it, there’s a kind of integrity and a through-line that I think reads in Season Three,” Dunster says. “It’s a really satisfying through-line that their character arcs are all seen through to their logical end.”
“Ted Lasso” debuted in the summer of 2020, deep in the pandemic, and took off rather immediately as a feel-good must-watch.
“To be honest, when we all first started, I don’t think that we had a specific projection that was given to us about where our characters were going,” Dunster says. “And I think that’s one of the magic things about acting on the show is that nobody knows where they’re going. Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. I think that it means that we are all playing what’s in front of us. And I think for my experience with Jamie, it’s meant that I don’t need to try to preempt things. I can just be playing what’s in front of me.”
What’s in front of him — slash Jamie — is often a life lesson that takes him by surprise, opening him up and turning him into a softer person.
“It’s a really satisfying thing when I feel like Jamie has learned a lesson,” Dunster says. “And it doesn’t mean that he’s then better at it, necessarily. He tries to be better and he fails and then he tries again, and then he gets a little bit better each time.”
In his own life, Dunster is still able to take the bus in London, a huge relief for him, but he’s not above feeling tickled by the fact he can play his own character on FIFA 23.
“There’s a few surreal moments that have happened, I suppose, which are the things that feel like something has shifted. But in terms of my own personal life, not particularly. I’ve kept the same people around me, much to their frustration, no doubt, which I’m just desperate to hang out with all the time,” Dunster says. “The show has grown in a way that I think nobody really expected. And alongside that comes wonderful things: going to the Emmys for two years in a row has been an incredible sort of out-of-body experience in the times that we’ve been. And also, I’ve been acting for nine years now since I left drama school. And you spend a lot of that time pounding the pavement and going to auditions and not getting things. And that still happens plenty of the time, but it’s just a little bit more like you’re knocking on a door and someone’s opening it a little bit wider now.”
That includes the opportunity to see his own work brought to fruition. He’s about to direct his first film that he wrote, which he describes as somewhere between “500 Days of Summer,” “Uncut Gems” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
“It’s terrifying. Totally terrifying,” he says of making his writing and directing debut. “I love acting and acting will always be my first love — don’t tell my childhood sweetheart that. But I also have really watched people making things, watched these amazing directors come in on ‘Ted Lasso’ and it sort of felt like it’s a really great way to be able to tell a story.”