It’s hard to think of a character on Ted Lasso who’s more relentlessly optimistic than the former-football-coach-turned-futbol-coach brought to life by Jason Sudeikis on the Apple TV+ original series.
But if we were playing that game, we’d be naming Juno Temple’s WAG-ish PR maven as runner-up.
Temple’s Keeley Jones started out a pinup prototype – young, beautiful, and blonde, saddled with an immature, egocentric footballer. But she quickly evolved into one of the show’s standout players, bubbling with positivity and a wry, British sense of humor that was both charming and refreshingly sincere. In many ways, Keeley was proof that even a male-dominated sports comedy could craft female characters that were authentic, dynamic, and bloody hilarious.
That might be a daunting bar to set, but Temple more than meets it in the show’s second season as the character takes on more responsibility with the club and navigates a new dynamic in her relationship with Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein).
Uproxx chatted with Temple about how the show has helped her cope this past year, taking a risk with comedy, and where her fan-favorite ship is going in season two.
This show had a hell of a first season. Did you have that feeling when you were shooting season one that this could be something?
I learned very early in my career that you can’t predict anything when it comes to being a part of this mad, brilliant, wild industry. All you can do is step into any character that you get the privilege of playing with passion and empathy and go forth from that. With Keeley, Jason reached out to me personally about her. I’d known him loosely over the years and it meant a lot that the whole project came from him texting me, ‘Listen, I have this pilot. I’d love you to read it. It’s very precious to me. So if you don’t get… if it’s not for you, that’s cool, but if it is, I would love to sit down, talk to you more about it.’
And immediately that struck me. When something is that personal to somebody and really means that much that they wanted to do it that way; the initial ask felt very personal and special. I read the pilot and it was unlike anything I’d read before. Then I called him back and said, ‘I think this is going to be amazing. Are you sure you want me?’ Because I’m not known for being a part of comedy stuff really at all. I’m known for really embracing characters that are going through things that are darker, but I guess what do we do as humans when we go through dark shit? Try and laugh, right? And so I sat down with Jason and from the minute go of hearing him talk about this in person, it just became clearer and clearer how much this meant to him, and how the universe was mapped out in his brain, and how excited I was that he thought I could breathe life into Keeley.
The timing of season one was serendipitous. It came in the middle of a global lockdown when the world really needed some positivity. Do you think season two will hit the same?
I think even before the pandemic, the world needed some hope and positivity. It’s been needing it for a long time. I think the pandemic meant that people couldn’t busy themselves with their everyday lives anymore. They had to pause, and everybody had to sit with themselves. For some people that was a really insightful and important time, for some people, it was deeply painful, and all of the emotions in between. I think what Ted Lasso did that I’m really proud of, is genuinely surprises people. People thought it was going to be one thing and it ended up being something completely different.
What did returning to the show and this character during the pandemic mean for you?
Playing Keeley has really helped with my mental health, with my ability to be very harsh towards myself, and difficult with myself at times. She has been a ray of light for me. And to have a fan base for the show now that, not just love the show, but it actually means something to them too, feels profound. It feels like a connection that I didn’t know I was ever going to have in my career, you know?
One of the best relationships to come from the show is Keeley’s friendship with Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham). What do they give to each other and does that bond grow stronger in season two?
She’s guided Keeley into realizing that she’s more than just famous for being almost famous, for being somebody’s girlfriend. I think Rebecca really opens Keeley’s eyes to that in a way that no one has before. And I think Keeley is a girl with a beating pink heart and sees another girl with a beating pink heart and knows that they can connect. So this friendship was such a special one to build and such a beautiful one to put on camera. And what a blessing that is to get to play that kind of a relationship and dynamic in what you would imagine being an incredibly masculine-oriented world. I think we’re conditioned unfortunately into thinking like, ‘Oh, that means there’s going to be some competitiveness, there’s going to be some catfights,’ and there’s none of that. They just want each other to shine in their own existence and remind each other of things they may have forgotten about themselves. It’s the gift that keeps on giving — the relationship between Keeley and Rebecca.
Speaking of relationships, the other big relationship Keeley has is with Roy Kent. They seem to be on different paths when season one ends. How does their relationship evolve this season?
Yeah, it’s kind of like this bizarre earthquake that’s happening, creating these tectonic plates moving, right? His is going one way and hers is going another way yet they’re going to stop each other from falling into molten lava in between. I think the one thing that they are going through together is that they are finally allowing each other to be loved and to love one another. That’s a powerful thing. I think falling in love is the greatest adventure that you can have in life.
Brett means so much to me and creating this relationship with him, really talking about what this relationship means to us, and what we want to put out there in the world with it – it’s honesty. We want it to be real, which means sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it won’t be. You’ll have to watch the show to find out what their future is, but ultimately I think it’s very human, which means sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sexy, sometimes it’s sad …
Sometimes it’s sexy because it’s sad?
Yeah, what I think is cool about Keeley is what she finds really sexy in Roy in season two. I won’t give any spoilers, but it’s great. I love that.
Season two of ‘Ted Lasso’ is now streaming via AppleTV+.