Meet Phil Dunster, the next big Brit in Hollywood
The striking star of ‘Ted Lasso’ on his new Amazon drama ‘The Devil’s Hour’, playing himself at FIFA and why he loves Soho House
Friday 28 October 2022 By Andy Morris Photography by Sela Shiloni Styling by Jenny Ricker Grooming by Christine Nellie
A football show about kindness and vulnerability has become an unlikely championship contender. One of the key reasons for Ted Lasso’s global success is that the title character is only part of the charm. Despite the obvious appeal of one moustachioed, tea-averse, darts-playing, wisdom-sporting maverick divorcee from Wichita, it is, in fact, a genuine ensemble piece. Every member of Lasso’s team, AFC Richmond, is fully realised. There’s Brett Goldstein’s brooding Roy Kent, Cristo Fernández’s philosophical dog murderer Dani Rojas, Juno Temple’s marketing WAG Keeley Jones, and Hannah Waddingham’s brittle-but-brilliant club owner Rebecca Welton. Everyone shares their moment in the spotlight effortlessly and graciously.
Well, almost everyone. One of the most delightful characters is Jamie Tartt: a vainglorious showboater of a striker, saddled with an overbearing father and the conviction that appearing on a reality show called Lust Conquers All is a good idea. Tartt clearly goes to the same barber as Jack Grealish, has Aitch on his workout playlist, and Beckham circa 1999 on his vision board. Tartt is played by Phil Dunster, a charming, self-deprecating 30-year-old British actor born in Reading. He manages the easy task of making a talented footballer seem misguided, but also the more difficult one of ensuring the audience root for him regardless.
Recently, Dunster enjoyed a surreal moment with his castmates. Despite being a fictional team, the actors and creators were invited to EA Sports headquarters to play the new FIFA 23 game, featuring AFC Richmond taking on genuine Premier League players. Naturally, the cast decided to play as AFC Richmond tackling AFC Richmond. Jamie Tartt was the top goal scorer for both sides. ‘It is the weirdest ego driver, dude,’ says Dunster with a smile. ‘If you’re not a footballer, there’s no part of you that goes, “My dream one day is to be on FIFA”. It blindsided all of us. I think it’s the closest thing that I’ve experienced to simulation theory – that this is all a dream.’
There have been other moments like that, particularly this year’s Emmys. He walked the red carpet with Goldstein, at one moment resting his head playfully on his shoulder (‘I can give all the credit to Brett because he’s just so hunky. He makes it so easy with his meaty, meaty shoulders.’). The cast were on the same table as Lizzo, one of the night’s winners for her reality show, Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls. ‘That was super cool. I spoke a lot to her sister. Has Lizzo watched Lasso? I think she’s been too busy breaking bloody boundaries.’
What’s clear is that Dunster is far more than simply Richmond’s number nine. This month, he plays a key role in The Devil’s Hour, a deeply unsettling new show on Amazon Prime. ‘I remember Tom Moran, the writer, saying, “OK, it’s basically a thriller in time continuums.” He didn’t want it to be horror.’ Compared by Dunster’s co-star Peter Capaldi as akin to Seven, The Leftovers or 12 Monkeys, The Devil’s Hour manages the difficult balancing act of being genuinely creepy and surprisingly funny. For instance, when was the last time you saw someone in a serious supernatural drama start singing along to Bonnie Langford on the radio? Dunster plays Mike, a feckless lunk who struggles to deal with the responsibility of his ex-partner (Jessica Raine) and their autistic son; ‘Jess has to go through the ringer on the whole show. But she was so much fun to hang around with.’ The actor playing his Omen-esque son is also unsurprisingly nothing like his character. ‘Benji is such a good actor, and anything but creepy and quiet. He was weirdly professional. Just brilliant and always on the button.’
Dunster first got to experience Soho House in London as a guest, his long-term agent was a member. ‘The first thing I was struck by was the furniture, because I think I’ve never been in a place where everything felt unique.’ For Dunster, who recently visited Soho House West Hollywood, the appeal lies in a combination of factors. ‘There’s such a brilliant mesh of artistry and design, but also conversation – the food is wicked good food. My younger friends, I just go with them on the Mondays because it’s cheaper!’ Not only does he relish the menu options, but also a chance to enjoy himself without being constantly asked about season three and for a selfie, which can happen in the weirdest of places…‘The worst was when I was at the gym the other day and someone came up to me and goes, ‘One question: Ted Lasso? Can I get a photo?’ And so, I just said, “Yeah… I was just about to go get into the shower…”’
The Devil’s Hour is out now on Prime Video. Ted Lasso will return to Apple TV in 2023.