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This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance: Sarah Niles

August 29-September 4
“Headspace” | Ted Lasso
Sarah Niles

Sarah Niles as Dr. Sharon Fieldstone in Ted Lasso's "Headspace"
Source: Apple TV+

The stars of Ted Lasso continue to be the best performers on our screens right now and while it’s unsurprising given the series’ range, it’s still a delightful thrill week after week to see the opportunities they’re each given to shine. There is imaginably a lot more in store for Sarah Niles’ Dr. Fieldstone, but the subtle work that was brought to the surface in “Headspace” deserves commending.

Niles had the difficult job of keeping it together while expressing everything needed that was brewing within through utmost subtlety. And at any moment, when you see visible pain in someone’s expression without them vocalizing it, the actress has done an exemplary job of delivering what was necessary. Sure, we could imagine that Ted’s statement would hurt her (it’d hurt anyone with a heart), but Niles held her own so brilliantly alongside Sudeikis by revealing to the audience just how much it’s actually getting to her.

But what I’m most in awe of, is the innate warmth Sarah Niles is able to bring to the surface even while she’s quietly keeping it together as a therapist probably should. But there’s a relationship that needs to be established here and Ted Lasso has always done a great job of allowing characters opportunities to grow by being called out.

When Sharon tells Ted that she was quite offended by what he said about her profession, Niles is brilliant in the nuances she conveys. She doesn’t let her guard down entirely, she doesn’t necessarily change her tone too much, but she is vulnerable enough where it’s clear just how much the comment stung. She’s vulnerable just enough where we could see that the words are going to have an impact, and rather painfully, we could see just how hard she is trying with Ted.

And that’s the thing that Niles does best—she conveys patience in physical form. She shows the audience through subtle shifts in her physicality, her expressions, and her tone that this isn’t easy for Sharon either because she does care about helping people. She cares and she knows it’s going to be difficult getting through to Ted. She knows, perhaps closely even, that self-care is scary no matter who you are.

The brilliant thing about Sarah Niles’ work is that she’s showing a significant amount of emotions even when she says very little. She is playing off each of the other actors with the right amount of emotions, and more importantly, she is revealing just how difficult Sharon’s job is as a professional and as a human being. Whatever is in store for Sharon, I’m sure we’d be in awe of Niles’ work, but these moments of subtle exhibition are worth noticing today.

Honorable Mention:
“Headspace” | Ted Lasso
Juno Temple

Keeley Jones had a lot on her plate this week, and we’d be in the wrong if we didn’t also commend Juno Temple revealing it to us through a full range of emotions. From the moment she spoke in the episode to her final reaction by the end, Temple was exhibiting everything we needed to see concerning the character’s headspace. Where she said very little, we could see the wheels within were turning, something was brewing, and when she cracks, she does so through an organic performance that never once feels overdone.

Every reaction, every emotional beat, whatever Temple put on display, it gave us more insight to the character we adore, and she did so by fully showcasing that there’s so much more that meets the eye.

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