Juno Temple has come a long way.
She originally broke into the acting scene with her first feature film performance in Richard Eyre’s Notes on a Scandal (2006). Temple has always been a dramatic actress, finding herself in roles in films such as Atonement (2007) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). While still working in various films, Temple started a journey into dramatic television by starring in the HBO series Vinyl in 2016 and then Dirty John a couple years later in 2018.
Temple found herself wanting to play in a comedy, Ted Lasso, after receiving a text message from creator/star Jason Sudeikis. Having never been in a comedy, Temple says she thought the comedian had texted the wrong number. He assured her he did not, asking her to read the script for the pilot, which Temple loved. It seems a matter of fate, as Temple has since garnered an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Keeley Jones, a woman who describes herself as being “sort of famous for almost being famous”, who eventually finds herself in a relationship with Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and, by the end of season 2, has the opportunity to grow her career.
I had a conversation with Temple recently and after a brief discussion of the weather in our respective places (Temple being in London, me being in Alabama) and Temple saying “I didn’t expect you to say that” about my location (then after another sentence, saying she recognized my accent), we dove into the two roles she’s played this past year in The Offer and Ted Lasso. We discussed her enjoyment of playing Bettye McCartt in The Offer, how she ended up on Ted Lasso, and what she’s learned playing Keeley Jones.
Tyler Doster: How did you hear about The Offer?
Juno Temple: I had this moment where I was shooting season two of Ted Lasso and I got a phone call from my whole team that I work with. I call them my guardian angels, and when the whole team calls, I’m always, for some reason, just trained to believe that I’m about to be told some bad news (laughs). And one of my agents was like, “Why do you think that? Every time we all call you it’s good news.” I was like, “Okay. Okay.” They were like, “Well, you’ve been offered this thing called The Offer.” I was like, “What? I don’t understand. What do you mean? Explain this to me.” And this was how I first heard about it. I had been offered apart in The Offer, which I was completely dumbfounded by when they explained to me what the project was and the team of people that were making it and the cast that they’d accumulated for it. And the fact that I didn’t have to audition for it, my boyfriend remembers me being on the sidewalk in London kind of squealing. And he wasn’t quite sure whether it was good stuff or bad stuff because I was completely dumbfounded that this extraordinary offer had landed in my lap. And also because the first three or four, I think three scripts, actually I got first and reading the beginning of the journey that became this kind of extraordinary adventure of making The Godfather was something I knew nothing about. So I was kind of not only thrilled to be asked to be a part of it, but also the learning that came from just the first three episodes; they send you the first three episodes being like, “Do you want to do this?” You’re like, “What do you mean? I’d pay you to be in this.” Like, yeah.
TD: So what made you say yes to playing Bettye? Was it the scripts?
JT: Definitely. And the people that were making it. I think [creator] Michael Tolkin initially was somebody that I’m a huge fan of his writing. And so to get to read scripts that had come from his penmanship, or typemanship, and I had this incredibly gorgeous FaceTime with [director] Dexter Fletcher and [executive producer] Nikki Toscano, that was, I mean, again, two extraordinary creatives that I honored I got work with and I would do anything for them ever time they ask. So initially kind of that, yeah. The people behind it and then yeah, scripts themselves and what kind of madness it was to make one of the greatest films of all time and Bettye McCartt, a tour de force of a woman in a world that was a masculine oriented Hollywood and yet she was kind of the quiet brains and kind of encyclopedia and book of knowledge behind a lot of it she knew so much and kind of even, I always say some of the best things that are said quietly. And I feel like Bettye was somebody that quietly was a very, very important wingman for Al Ruddy in making The Godfather happen.
TD: Speaking of that, based on what I’ve read, Bettye’s role was largely overlooked in the making of The Godfather before this series. How does it feel to play her and be able to show audiences her role in the making of The Godfather?
JT: Again, what an honor. I think it was at first it was kind of nerve wracking when I went to do some research into who she was and how she got involved in all of it. And there really is no information about her on the internet at all. And I actually, I have enormous respect for that because it’s pretty hard to be, whether you’re somebody that’s famous and in the world where people are Googling you or if you’re somebody that isn’t, you are Googleable somehow because your social media world takes you somewhere. And all this is to have a person that you know existed. And there is a tiny bit of information about her, but for her privacy to have been kept and respected was something that I was also kind of in awe of and meant that I very much kind of trusted the writers and the directors I was working with for the information that they knew to be true about her. But then the rest of it was about creating chemistry, I think, with Miles [Teller] playing Al you know, and having this relationship between the two of them that I’m really proud to put out there, because it’s one that isn’t sexual. It isn’t derogatory. It’s a real, they’re real comrades, they’re real friends. And also they really, I think, help each other to be braver and really kind of have each other’s back in a way that makes them able to put themselves in situations that maybe would be scarier if they didn’t have each other and that’s a relationship that I think I found very inspiring reading it. And so I hope people are inspired by seeing it because it is cool to play a woman in that time whose boss respected her as much as he did Bob Evans, as much as he did Francis Ford Coppola and who cared about her like a family member and wasn’t just trying to fuck her.
TD: Like you just said, it’s wonderful to see a woman just be around a man and it’s not termed sexual.
JT: Yeah. And because you always hear people always say, “Oh, it’s not possible for men and women to be friends.” And you’re like, “Actually it is. You can totally do that.” And so yeah, it’s a relationship I’m definitely really proud of putting out there.
TD: Did any of the filming of The Offer overlap with your Ted Lasso schedule?
JT: No, actually, it was a quick turnaround, but we wrapped season two and then due to COVID and the fact that I’m actually not an American citizen, so visas and things, but that was more complicated with COVID. There was about a two week period of trying to make sure I could get back into America. And then I signed a contract on a Friday and started rehearsals on a Monday for The Offer (laughs). So it was pretty, yeah, it was a quick turnaround, but luckily no overlap.
TD: Do you have any specific techniques on how you get into certain characters?
JT: Techniques to say, I mean, I think I’m so about a collaboration, right? So it’s from the get go when you meet with their hair and makeup department and the wardrobe department and then set designers and your props department and then obviously your co-stars and the writers, it all comes together, I think in creating a character. I’m not somebody that walks into a room and is like, “Cool, I’ve got it all figured out.” I want to ask all the questions and I need all the help I can get. So I think I really, I love the moment of development coming in as Juno into a space and with department heads and creating a character, starting with the shoes up to the tip of hairs on your head and it really does help you transform into somebody. And for me, as a child, most of my childhood pictures, I’m in “fancy dress,” is what we call it here in the UK.
But I constantly dress up as different characters, whether I’m playing a queen, a fairy, or there was a character that I would play quite often who was a Russian refugee with a little baby that I would… My mum would play along and say I’m starving my child and my child needs me so I was always kind of transforming myself and creating characters. And that stage is a really important one for me. But then I think technique wise, it’s about kind of being, I don’t know, kind of being, having empathy and just really empathizing with whoever you are playing and understanding their choices and their journey and believing in it in a way where you empathize with everything they do. Even when people watch it, they may like things they do or they may not. But in that performance, you have to convince yourself as well as everybody else that you are that person.
TD: You had never really done a comedy before Ted Lasso but you are so naturally funny.
JT: That was also the writers. I can’t take credit fully for that, but thank you.
TD: Well, you have very natural comedic timing, I will say. So it definitely translates on screen. Were you nervous when you first signed on and when you’re still filming now, do those nerves still kick in?
JT: Definitely. I mean, Keeley came into my life. Jason Sudakis actually had reached out to me personally because I’d met him a few times socially in New York and LA and I genuinely thought he’d text the wrong actress. So I first got a message from him about Ted Lasso and I was like, “What? Oh no. This is a really brilliant comedian. I think he may have the wrong number,” but it wasn’t the wrong number. And he asked me if I would read the pilot and if I would sit down with him and talk about it, if I liked it and I read it and I laughed a lot and was like, “Yeah, man, I’d love to sit down and talk about Keeley’s journey.” And I was terrified of signing onto a job with really, really talented comedians, people who are known for their comedy. And I’m, like you said, I’ve been known for taking the overly dramatic roles, like the more drama, the better. And I think that when it comes to Ted Lasso and being cast in it, I think Jason was so patient with me during the filming of season one, because I was like, I’m not a comedy actress. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to make a breakup funny. I don’t know how to do, I just know how to do it from the heart. And he was like, “And that’s what matters. And that’s what it’s going to make it funny, you know?” Because that’s, yeah. And I think that’s kind of Keeley’s charm is that a lot of the time it’s not actually necessarily comedy. It’s just her, it’s just the way she is, the way she sees the world, there’s a real kind of element of it that tickles you innately. And I love that about her.
TD: What have you learned about comedy through Ted Lasso?
JT: That you have to feel vulnerable and safe in it at the same time? So you want to feel humble, like you can’t have an ego and, I’m not a fan of egos anyway, but you know, I think you have to be ready to fall flat on your face, but then know that your teammates around you aren’t going to shun you for that. They’re going to pick you up and be like, “Cool, let’s try again.” And that I think is a really important thing, but also that comedy, I think, genuinely comes from a place of dealing with life and being human and being sad or being frightened or being confused or being lost or elated or overwhelmed or excited or all of it. Comedy is a, it’s a way of healing I think. And so actually the similarities between a comedy and a tragedy is just that I think comedy is a way of getting through tragedy in some kind of strange parallel universe.
TD: Have you learned anything about yourself through playing Keeley?
JT: Yeah, that I didn’t realize how much I kind of needed a character like that in my life. Especially during season two when we were in lockdown. And I think a lot of the world learned a lot about themselves being kind of shut behind doors and in spaces where maybe your brain is left to do a lot of extra thinking about things. I can be pretty unkind to myself. And so I know that Keeley coming into my life was like, yeah, she was a real light that sort of when I get to play her, when I am living in her shoes, she definitely teaches me about being kinder to myself. So I definitely miss her when I’m not playing her.
Juno Temple is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for The Offer, currently streaming on Paramount+, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Ted Lasso, currently streaming on AppleTV+.
Photos: Nicole Wilder/Paramount; AppleTV+