James Lance on Oscar Wilde’s heroism and the culture clash that ‘The Canterville Ghost’ and ‘Ted Lasso’ have in common

It’s more from James Lance as he stars in BYUtv’s new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost alongside his Ted Lasso co-star Anthony Head. This week, James shares his depth of feeling about Oscar Wilde, and unpacks a little about Trent Crimm’s fascination with Coach Lasso.

Welcome to week 3 of our coverage of the BBC/BYUtv production The Canterville Ghost, which is airing as a four part series, set in the present day, over Sundays in November. For episode 1, James Lance of Ted Lasso fame spoke to us to promote his starring role as the American buyer of Canterville Chase, inventor Hiram Otis, and last week Anthony Head also joined us to discuss his hilarious turn as the eponymous ghost, Sir Simon de Canterville.

Related: ‘The Canterville Ghost’ star Anthony Head sometimes doesn’t recognize himself on ‘Ted Lasso,’ and he likes it that way

For episode 3, we’ve got more from the lovely James Lance. The Canterville Ghost episode 3, “Autumn,” airs Sunday 14 November. Hiram’s hunt for Simeon Otis continues. Ginny and Cecil have grown closer, flirting via British English lessons, and Cecil’s marriage plans are looking more and more unstable. The twins make headway with their secret blueprints of the castle, and the story starts to twist away from the Wilde in terms of the complexity of the legend about Sir Simon killing his wife – the act that damned him to his eternal unrest. Devastating news from back in Boston means that the Otises to plan to leave – but not before they throw a grand and traditional costume ball for the community. And amidst the event, Ginny is finally called into the other realm to stand for Simon against the Angel of Death.

This new four-part adaptation of The Canterville Ghost is set in the present day. Written by Jude Tindall and directed by Paul Gibson and Suri Krishnamma, The Canterville Ghost was commissioned by BYUtv for United States broadcast, and produced by the BBC. It will be available for US viewers to stream for free on BYUtv, after the episodes air.

In part two of our interview with James Lance, we lightly examine the American/British culture clash at the heart of both Ted Lasso and The Canterville Ghost, and more deeply examine the heroic legacy of Oscar Wilde himself. It’s not every day I get to wax lyrical with someone about Robbie Ross, let alone in an interview, so if James Lance ever needs a kidney, he can have one of mine. Watching Hiram Otis’s unique personal has made me more aware of how conscious and chosen James’s performance as Trent Crimm is, so discussing that raises a couple of interesting clues. Also, he knows you ship Tred.

It wasn’t until I saw you for four hours as Hiram that I realized just how much you are doing as Trent — even though I think he’s genuinely one of the best characters on Ted Lasso, beloved by so many people. But just in terms of how you look at Jason [Sudeikis] like he is the most fascinating thing that you have ever seen in your life. Trent just seems so curious, constantly like “Hmmm!” about this guy. Was that planned? What’s happening there?

I think a lot is actually happening there and that’s really funny to hear you say that, that you pick up on that and and if other people are picking up on that.

People are like “Look at how he looks at him. Like he’s constantly studying him and finding something really appealing.”

Oh dear, well that really makes me laugh. That just makes me laugh and I guess the reason that makes me laugh is because there’s a truth that you’ve hit on there and until it gets revealed — I wouldn’t be laughing like this unless there was something there. I love that. I could talk loads about it but there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot going on, is what really is the truth of the matter.

Related: James Lance of ‘Ted Lasso’ has seen the backlash from journalists, and says Trent Crimm was ‘happy to pull the pin’ on his career

And I think that he is completely fascinating to Trent. Ted is totally fascinating to him. And I think that really sort of starts right from the top. I mean, look, first of all, the premise of the show is kind of as ridiculous as say someone like Donald Trump becoming President, right? There’s no way that man is going to get it to happen. This would never happen.

So if we’re going to take it seriously and actually recognize that this is happening, then you’re gonna look at Donald Trump and think “Is this a fucking joke?” What the fuck’s going on? And so that was the sort of start point really from Trent. Ted Lasso is the most fascinating bloke to land in his arena really, because it’s like he shouldn’t be there, what is this?

And then that’s only the beginning, just there’s so much more that unfolds for Trent there — as we and you and I know, as viewers of the show know, because I’m a fan of the show as well — and as it unfolds it’s like “Oh my God, there’s just so much more to this guy” and I guess true to his journalistic viewpoint, Trent’s on the trail and he always has been, you know?

I could ask you about 17,000 more Trent questions and it’s just gonna get weird at a point, but I want to ask something specific – is he meant to be gay? I’m asking this is a queer person myself – he feels coded as gay to a lot of queer people.

Oh, I wouldn’t answer that at this point, you know.

The main reason I’m asking is because in the scene in the pub, asking Ted to tell him the truth about what happened, he looks like he’s leaving behind like a male date — it could have been a friend — you’re with someone going out the door and you’re kind of like “I’ll be back in a minute,” and I was just wondering if you knew that that was a popular read on the character?

If I knew it was a thing? I didn’t know that was a popular read on the character. I have, in the comments, seen people being like “oh Ted and Trent, they just need to kiss” or whatever, like what the hell! [ed: Actors talking about shipping can really get heated in fandom spaces, so for those who did not listen to the audio, I feel the need to clarify tone: this quote was not said in disgust, just surprise.] Oh, this is…

I think that would be the looking. That’s because of the look, you know, the gaze I spoke about.

I mean, it would be, I really just wouldn’t be able to say anything about any of that stuff, but all I will say is people are really forensically looking at stuff in a way that’s kinda like… okay!

People have wondered if that was one of the things that was planted in terms of personal life things, but I actually wanted to ask in terms of if it was like meant to be an unspoken, already known thing, like a subtle ‘show don’t tell,’ so it’s not a big deal, it’s just curious.

Going back to The Canterville Ghost, that American out of Water in Britain story: Ted Lasso, Hiram Otis, many many versions — what is it about British culture that makes them like this about Americans? Ted Lasso handles the clash so well of what’s polite in America versus what’s polite in the UK, what’s kind here vs what’s kind there, how we express ourselves. The Canterville Ghost actually has that flirtatious arc with Ginny and Cecil having lessons in translating emotions and “codes.” What is that cultural clash and why do you think that it’s like that?

Why do I think there’s such a clash? I guess what it reminds me a little bit of is like a jelly mold. So if you get like a bunny rabbit jelly mold, and then America is either the mold or the jelly, or England is the mold, and it’s like they sort of fit perfectly and completely imperfectly. They’re completely opposite but they kind of work. That would be what I kind of think about it.

Related: Anthony Head on punching up ‘The Canterville Ghost’ with special effects and Shakespeare

There’s just so many differences that are kind of completely at opposite ends I guess. I’ve heard Americans say things that they love about England and the reason they love them is just because it’s just the complete opposite to America, and I think it’s the same with us. I remember hearing someone say you can always hear a shy American, which, I don’t know whether that’s true or not but I like the idea.

Obviously the look that you had for Trent Crimm — and then Hiram, you kept your hair and stuff — that was that your look, and they based Trent off you were looking like already, in terms of your hair and your style? Or was that something they asked you to do?

I just had this feeling that Trent — I was just growing my hair for some reason, I don’t know, I just was growing it, and I was actually taking some time out, I was kind of a new dad and I was just sort of doing my thing and then Trent Crimm came along and I was like “This is perfect for him, so let’s just keep it,” so that I just kept it! And then in terms of the costume, I had a feeling of how he would look and and and all that sort of stuff.

They kind of lampshade it in the finale, like, thinking he’d ride a hipster bike because of this whole look… With The Canterville Ghost and Ted Lasso, did you chase these roles or were they offered to you, like in terms of audition versus right of refusal?

So Trent Crimm was an audition, straight audition and The Canterville Ghost was a straight offer, so that was cool.

Had you worked with anyone in the production before?

On both of those I don’t think I’d worked with anyone. I mean, as an actor I’d worked with Caroline Katz [Lucy Otis] a few times before, and there are directors that have come in on Ted Lasso that I’ve worked with as well, but other than that [in terms of production or casting] no. I think Jason just saw my tape.

Do you know if The Canterville Ghost was offered because of Trent, because of seeing Ted Lasso? Or because of other parts in your career?

I would imagine it would be because of Trent, although you couldn’t kind of get two more different roles really, so they had some faith.

Regarding Oscar Wilde, is there any work of his that you would like to be in, any plays or any of the stories of his or even like a you know biographical thing — anything of his that you would like to to be involved in?

I don’t know — all I know is that the most interesting bit of Oscar Wilde’s material that I’ve read so far is the transcript to the court case, the trial, when he got sentenced. I think his last words were as he was walking out the door, “Is there nothing more I can say,” as he was being shunted downstairs for two years hard labor, which was ultimately kind of a death sentence.

Related: ‘The Canterville Ghost’ star James Lance talks Wilde, Wodehouse and learning Ted Lasso’s secret from Jason Sudeikis

The kind of heroic — I’m gonna use that word — the heroic message that he puts out beforehand in that courtroom I thought was just phenomenal and so far I think it’s the most amazing bit of work of his that I’ve read, and I love the fact that it was just a real conscious choice to do that, because as you probably know, Robbie and that, they’d secured a safe passage for him to go to Paris, take the tickets, go get out of here, you’re gonna get annihilated, and Oscar, he’s like, nah.

Robbie Ross is also someone I have a lot of feelings about, so, yes.

Love Robbie Ross, I know, he’s amazing, yeah, and Oscar, Oscar goes no, fuck it, I’m gonna say what needs to be said here and I just think that’s quite something, right? And to this day, you know, it’s powerful. Those words were powerful, so that’s really where my admiration for him really comes from, as well as of course as his wit, I mean it’s just so funny.

All of the stuff that’s kind of popularized in fiction, it’s light, it’s witty and it’s scathing but the more heartfelt stuff is all based in the trauma that he had — like the essay De Profundis that he wrote in jail, I think a film about De Profundis would be really interesting to me, the battle that they had over publishing it, Bosie and Robbie had a really a big conflict about publishing it.

All that stuff was really interesting. I just read The Ballad of Reading Gaol recently, when I was filming in Dublin, and I was talking to someone who’d actually performed The Ballad of Reading Gaol in prisons to people and I was like “How was it?” so I read it and that’s an amazing piece of work as well. I just love his humanity and his compassion and also his insatiable sort of joie de vivre, and I think that really, if you can, you ought to have a good time whilst you’re here and I love that about him, that he really went for that.

I’m glad that you got to be a little part of that with The Canterville Ghost.

Me too!

There are people in the world who are moved by Oscar Wilde and there are people who are not, which is why that was my first question, “What is your relationship with Oscar?” Because I felt like, to do this, you had to have had one. I’m always keen to have more of his stuff in the public eye and a modern adaptation is not something I’ve seen before, so I’m really keen to see how it’s received.

Me too, it’s a bold thing to adapt and I’m really looking forward to seeing episode four because I loved reading it off the page.

‘The Canterville Ghost’ airs Sundays until 21 November and is available to stream for free on BYUtv.

This audio interview will be released on Subjectify’s Not About The Weather podcast.