In ‘Ted Lasso,’ Juno Temple Makes Nice
When Juno Temple first heard about Jason Sudeikis, she assumed he messaged the wrong actress.
For a decade and a half, Temple had played a parade of troubled and unsettling young women in films like “Atonement,” “Killer Joe” and “Afternoon Delight.” She had hardly ever done a comedy. So when Sudeikis texted her about a role in “Ted Lasso,” the extravagant, ultra-Emmy-nominated sitcom that begins its second season on Apple TV + on Friday, she suspected he had mistaken her for someone else.
“I was like, Oh my God, this is gonna be awkward,” Temple, 32, said, lounging against a furry pillow on the porch of his Los Angeles home during a recent video call.
Sudeikis was not mistaken. “Ted Lasso,” a sitcom about an American football coach sent to run an English Premier League football club, is a predominantly male show. Brendan Hunt, a creator of “Ted Lasso”, called it “very, very heavy.” But there are two great parts for women: Rebecca Walton, the team owner, and Keeley Jones, the girlfriend of a star player. The producers had struggled to cast Keeley.
Keeley is a glamorous girl and a casual topless model. “I’m sort of famous for being almost famous,” she explains in a first episode. The actresses the producers had auditioned for at that time had focused on the shimmering exterior of Keeley’s body, not the big brain and bigger heart underneath. Temple, a self-described “eccentric nutcase” who is not voluptuous, was not an obvious choice.
Brett Goldstein, a “Ted Lasso” actor and writer who plays Keeley’s Season 2 love interest, was remembered when Temple’s name appeared. “I thought, Wow, it’s a left field pick. Because of all this darkness, ”he said.
But Sudeikis had seen his work on “Vinyl,” Martin Scorsese’s short-lived series that starred his then-partner Olivia Wilde. He had a hunch that she would play Keeley differently.
And she did. A high ponytail and taller heels help Temple – 5ft 2in, barely – stand up straight like Keeley. An architectural push up bra and two sets of faux panties give that glamorous model look. But Temple lends Keeley something of her own, a generosity of spirit and an endless shimmer that eye makeup alone can’t explain.
” She is [expletive] amazing, ”said Goldstein, who tends to use colorful language on and off screen, of his co-star. ” She is [expletive] pure light. ”She’s also now an Emmy nominee, named Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her turn as Keeley – one of 20 nominations the show received for its first season.
For Temple, the daughter of experimental filmmaker Julien Temple and producer Amanda Pirie, playing the role had always seemed inevitable. She vividly remembers getting chickenpox when she was almost 4 years old, and finding solace only in a laser disc copy of Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast”.
“It’s the first memory I have of seeing a movie and believing in magic,” she said. “I remember thinking I wanted to be a part of it.”
When she was 14, she told her parents she just had to be an actress. “I can learn more about myself and all walks of life, all different perspectives and all different heartaches,” she explained to them. “They were both like, ‘Really? Are you sure? Please no. Oh my God no.'”
But her mother took her to an open call for the movie “Notes on a Scandal”. She reserved the role. A role in the film “Atonement” soon followed. In 2013, she won a BAFTA Rising Star award. Three years later, the Guardian called her “an English rose with rosy cheeks and bags of sexuality waiting to come out.” (Bags?)
On screen, Temple has a sulky, childish presence and a slightly wild quality, like a girl raised by wolves who are very available emotionally. His affect evokes words of yesteryear – naughty, scapegrace, minx. (Hunt described her as “a glitch.”) She also engages in a self-parody sequence. For the video call, she had adorned herself with a giant black bow, layered gold rings, a gold chain and luxury Chanel hoops, femininity as a celebration and a joke. A joke in which she is mostly involved.
His characters are often focused on self-discovery, and Temple makes that discovery imperative and risky. “I’ve never been afraid to play a character who’s going through a transition or going through something complicated, and something that even I don’t know the answers to,” she said. Each lost girl teaches her a little more about herself, even as she tries to keep them at bay.
People sometimes ask her if she is a method actress. She tells them no. “I would be dead 15 times now,” she said. “But I certainly learned a lot from these amazing female characters.”
Stacie Passon, who directed Temple in “Little Birds”, the Starz adaptation of Anaïs Nin’s erotic novels, noticed his deep interest in human behavior and a clear cinematic intelligence. She often told Temple that she would be a good director herself, but Temple never seemed interested.
“She would say, ‘I have so much more than I want to say to a camera,’” Passon said.
Since his first films, Temple has turned to sexualized roles. Or maybe those roles revolved around her. In interviews, she has occasionally kissed this character, telling this writer of “bags of sexuality” Guardian: Wow! She confessed to The Independent that she bought lingerie for every character she plays and in 2016 shot a campaign for the luxury lingerie brand Agent Provocateur. Last year, promoting “Little Birds,” she put a jaded tone to another Guardian writer: “I’m not really nervous for a sex scene. I’ve done quite a bit now.
Not all of the sex scenes felt entirely necessary, but she always treated sexuality as a staple of the character, never as a free addition. “She wants to explore desire,” Passon said.
Kathryn Hahn starred with her in the 2013 film “Afternoon Delight”. (Temple played McKenna, an exotic dancer, with Hahn as the not-so-exotic housewife welcoming him.) Hahn noticed how, as McKenna, Temple could show both a woman in full control of her sexuality and the vulnerable girl below. “She is a remarkable seeker of truth,” Hahn wrote in an email.
Temple is not ashamed of any sex scenes in any of the movies she’s made. “It’s a choice I wouldn’t change,” she said. ” I do not regret it. Part of me is less intimidated by the idea of undressing in my character and being filmed that way than I am in real life. “
Unlike many previous Temple characters, Keeley is already comfortable with her sexuality. (Her lingerie? A pink ensemble with iridescent heart patterns.) Although she’s become almost famous as a topless model, she now mostly keeps her tops on. “Ted Lasso” instead prompts Keeley to believe that she has value beyond her body, then rewards that belief. Whatever the opposite of troubled, it’s Keeley.
Because Temple has so rarely done comedy, she learned it on “Ted Lasso”, beat by beat, scene by scene. The cast have been patient with her, she said. And ready to answer questions like “How funny is that?” “
Because of her instincts and background, Temple tends to “play things as real as possible,” she said, rather than take the joke. Hunt said this approach works well for Keeley and the show. Usually.
“She’s just playing the truth about what the character is going through, and it’s just hilarious,” he said. “Although there are definitely times when we have to be like, ‘OK, great, Juno. Now try again. Without crying. ‘
She’s also shown an unexpected gift for physical comedy, like in a scene in Season 2 where she attacks a chocolate fountain, tongue first. “She is fully present and alive,” Goldstein said. “When you play with her, it’s really magical.”
Temple has never played a character as sweet as Keeley, nor one who enjoys the loving, straightforward female friendship the character develops with Rebecca (Hannah waddingham, also an Emmy nominee). Keeley helped Temple survive pandemic containment.
“It was a really good thing for my brain that I didn’t play a character who went through a lot of troubled transitions or felt self-loathing or a lot of other complicated things that I tried to put on screen. ” she said. “I had to be nicer to myself. “
This cuteness has an addictive quality. Temple wants to play more characters like Keeley, she said, but not just characters like her. The goal, she says, is to make women feel less alone, one role at a time.
“This is something the film has done for me, and I hope I can do it for other women,” she said. “Because sometimes being a woman is the greatest, the most beautiful and the most wonderful thing in the world. And sometimes it’s a tragedy.
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