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This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance: Brendan Hunt

September 12-18
“Beard After Hours” | Ted Lasso
Brendan Hunt

Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard in Ted Lasso's "Beard After Hours" now streaming exclusively on Apple TV+
Source: Apple TV+ | Via: Twitter

Don’t even dare act surprised—the Ted Lasso cast is rightfully owning this column, and we’re more than happy to constantly write about them. There’s a reason they are all nominated for an Emmy Award this year, and we already know they’ll dominate next year as well. This week’s episode “Beard After Hours” gave Brendan Hunt a whirlwind to work with, and he did so pristinely.

Before anyone else yells at me, no, I haven’t seen Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, which the episode is an homage to. I took the literary, stream of consciousness approach this week because that’s what spoke loudest to me.

However, more than that, Brendan Hunt’s performances demanded to be excavated. The episode’s nominal character isn’t one we know much of, his full name included thus, an episode that took him on an odyssey of sorts needed the actor to bring his A game in order for the audience to see more than what was said, even more than what was shown.

It demanded that we pay close attention and that’s always a detail worth appreciating.

“Beard After Hours” relied heavily on both the storytelling and the directing, but it would have been nothing without a strong performer like Hunt carrying the audience through the surplus hidden beneath the Coach’s stoic drollness. There are reasons behind the ambiguity, whether for comedic characterization or something deeper, darker, and Hunt shows the audience that whatever is brewing within the character, it’s a conundrum of sorts—eons of philosophical thoughts, quips, and even, bouts of heartache and self-doubt.

When Beard sits at the church pew, Hunt packs colossal heart into every word that’s spoken in that moment. His expression mirrors that of a man at wits’ end; he’s perplexed, broken, and seeking something more. But more importantly, there’s something that cannot be read—something concealed, intricately wielded to only come out if and when Beard wants it to.

And that’s what’s so fascinating about the character and the details—the intricate artwork that Brendan Hunt consistently paints through the character can be admired for days on end.

Coach Beard is a puzzle, he is a labyrinth of terrors and darkness and unbridled joy. It’s likely always a sublime opportunity when an actor is given the chance to take the character on the type of adventure that requires channeling a wide range of emotions, and that must have been the case for Hunt.

“Beard After Hours” is many things, but it’s especially a masterclass for performances. Brendan Hunt carried the episode’s heart and chaos so brilliantly, no matter how disconnecting the tonal shift might have felt, the emotions were always believable. We were deeply uncomfortable at times because Hunt’s performances were so nuanced, it was easy to worry for him. It was easy to feel utterly terrified for him while simultaneously cheering him on.

We worried about him physically and we were worried about his psyche, which up until this moment, he’d been the only character we hadn’t thought about in this way. He always kept his guard up, he kept his emotions in check, and then this one night (probably) challenged him more than the accidental high from mushrooms.

So much of Brendan Hunt’s performances are subdued marvels—he excels at subtlety, but simultaneously can take on explicit embodiment brilliantly. The faux Irish accent he dons at the club even works in his favor. The emotional beats, the terror, and even the exhaustion at the end was so methodically well executed, there wasn’t a single moment where Hunt wasn’t delivering a wide array of emotions.

Both the introspective narrative and Hunt’s performances worked hand in hand to bring the audience a smidge closer to learning more about the Coach who conceals more than he shows. We still might not know much, but we know enough to understand that Coach Beard feels deeply and that alone is a beautiful thing.

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