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Jodi Balfour Talks Playing Powerful Lesbians in Ted Lasso & For All Mankind

Jodi Balfour Talks Playing Powerful Lesbians in Ted Lasso & For All Mankind

jodi balfour

Balfour has gotten to play powerful queer characters on two shows this year — and she doesn't want to stop anytime soon.

Jodi Balfour is well aware that her character on the final season of Ted Lasso, the billionaire investor Jack Danvers, is one of the few people in the show that fans don’t like, even after the finale.

“It’s not ideal, but it's also on the other side,” she laughs. “On the purely creative side, it's quite fun to play a villain from time to time, and particularly a villain on, as you say, a show chuck to the brim with very lovable characters who are equally redeemed as they are when they explore their sort of faults and things.”

While being booed by a fandom wasn’t ideal, Balfour did love getting to play not just a powerful lesbian character, but a powerful lesbian character who got to be in a relationship with Juno Temple’s Keeley.

Balfour says the two actors didn’t do chemistry tests, but as soon as they started filming, “we just had it,” she says. “It was so natural and there from the get-go.”

“And a lot of that is to Juno's credit for being such an open-hearted, playful, friendly, warm person. So it was fairly effortless in terms of chemistry,” she adds. “And then of course those scenes in the office where you could call it flirtation, develops into the first kiss and all of that. Those are such fun scenes on the page to play. So between our natural connection and then some really fun material to work with, I will say it felt pretty effortless.”

Balfour, who is engaged to A League of Their Own co-creator and star Abbi Jacobson, says she “never really felt like I was closeted,” but didn’t publicly come out until 2021 when she and Jacobson went public with their relationship.

Now she’s out and is becoming known for playing powerful and accomplished lesbian characters, like Jack on Ted Lasso and President Ellen Wilson on Apple TV+’s For All Mankind.

On that show, her character is a former astronaut who became Administrator of NASA, a Senator, and then, in the alternate 1992 that the show takes place in, she is elected President. During her presidency, Ellen comes out as a lesbian, making her the most powerful queer woman in the world.

“It was such a joy,” she says about getting to play an out lesbian president. “But the contrast of our imagined reality in the nineties vs. our actual reality in 2023 is deeply depressing and heartbreaking.”

Without revealing too much about the upcoming fourth season, Balfour says that when we get to see more of President Wilson’s story, we get to see her living in her truth met with celebration.

“It's so hard because it makes me really sad, genuinely,” she says of the current, real-world political situation for women and LGBTQ+ in America. “Of course, today it's frightening. It's frightening out there. And what lies ahead is pretty frightening with certain voices in our political landscape getting louder and louder.”

“It was a really big gift to play Ellen and to also demonstrate a moment like that because it feels like such a work of fiction and imagination, but it's also not,” she adds. “I think they did a beautiful job, and I certainly tried to do a good job of making it feel like these are real people who we could imagine existing in our real world. So I hope it's a glimmer, a beacon of hope and optimism, in a fair amount of darkness currently.”

While she’s happy to play any role – gay or straight – Balfour is getting another opportunity to play an influential queer character in the upcoming film Freud’s Last Session, where she gets to star alongside Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode.

In that movie, she’s playing Dorothy Burlingham, a child psychoanalyst and lifelong close friend of Freud’s daughter Anna. Both Anna Freud and Burlingham are known for their massive contributions to the fields of child psychology and empathic scientific observation.

While she says Dorothy and Anna’s relationship is up for interpretation, in Freud’s Last Session, they are portrayed “as life partners and lovers and work partners.”

‘It was such an incredible thing to learn about,” Balfour says, “I barely knew about Anna Freud’s contribution to child psychology, which is immense, I now know.”

Freud’s Last Session, about a conversation between Freud and C.S. Lewis about the nature of God and humanity, comes out later this year, as should the fourth season of For All Mankind.

For now, Balfour is working on developing a feature film that she co-wrote and will co-direct with her friend Jessy Hodges, which she says is inspired by some of her own lived experiences as a queer person.

Of course, all of this is on hold due to the writer’s strike, which Balfour is in full solidarity with. But still, she’s enjoying the new experience.

“I've never written anything before, and I truly didn't know how I would feel about it,” she says. “But it's been some of the happiest, happiest times at work of my life.”

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.