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Hitting Her Stride
Following a long and successful career onstage, Hannah Waddingham rocketed to worldwide stardom on Ted Lasso, and now she is excited to see what comes next.

by Evan Jameson

British actress and singer Hannah Waddingham may be approaching her half-century, yet the London-born star has perfected the art of arriving late on the scene as she continues to captivate audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

For a long time, Waddingham’s career was focused on the world of musical theater. She spent many years gaining critical acclaim for productions such as The Wizard of Oz, portraying the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, and Spamalot, as the original Lady of the Lake—hardly surprising, with a four-octave range.

Working with the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton and Trevor Nunn, it was clear there was the potential to move onto new platforms, yet the actress was happy with her lot—and why not? After all, such a powerful voice and commanding stage presence earned her three Olivier Award nominations, highlighting her as one of the leading figures in London’s West End.

The transitioning to television finally came about properly only after Waddingham turned 40. She achieved international fame with her role as Septa Unella in HBO’s Game of Thrones, a part that exhibited an ability to embody a brand of intense and memorable characters that had been so perfected by two decades on the stage.

However, it was her role as Rebecca Welton in the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso that has brought full widespread acclaim to her door, with an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Her portrayal of the complex and evolving football club owner has been praised for its depth and humanity, albeit all with a humorous edge.

Off-screen, Waddingham, who is single, leads a relatively private life, focusing on her family and preserving an important sense of physical and mental well-being. She is a devoted mother to her daughter, who turns 10 in July.

Waddingham spoke to South Jersey Magazine about her latest role in the film adaptation of the 1980s television show The Fall Guy, her bond with her daughter, and whether she is enjoying her recent break from singing.


So, tell us about your role in The Fall Guy.

Other than me constantly being in disguise for the film in not only a wig but accompanied by glasses and a hat and a cup with a straw, slurping away, I really enjoyed doing it.

There’s more than a bit of improvisation in there and, if I’m honest, it scared me a little bit because, obviously, I’m used to working from a script, and have pretty much been doing that for nearly 25 years. Oh wow! I’ve just reminded myself how old I am—I really shouldn’t have done that!

So, after working on Ted, Sex Education again and arriving completely jetlagged from a long-haul flight to Australia, I arrived on the set in Sydney to be told that we could riff in the scenes.


Did you not like that?

It wasn’t that I didn’t like it or didn’t want to do it, but I wasn’t prepared for it, and if I had have known before that plane journey halfway across the world, I might have been able to be little more primed to do so.

However, when you’re working with such brilliant people—I mean, Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, c’mon—it becomes so much easier to do things that are spontaneous and off the cuff, and I think they liked what I did, in my country accent and my masquerade [laughs].

In the end, it was a lot of fun, and what a cast to be able to share that fun with.


Was it strange though to make a film about making a film?

It’s funny you should say that, because it is a really weird space you need to go to in your head for it to work. As you say, you are doing something for real that is, in essence, a presentation of something that is made up, and fictional.


Or is it actually the other way around!?

Either way, it can be tricky to get your head into that space; yet at the same time a lot of fun.

You made quite a splash at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards even though you weren’t able to turn nominations into awards this time. It must have still been great to be recognized, though?

Yes, of course. I felt that experience of winning in 2022, and that has carried me and fueled me since more than you can possibly imagine. And if it wasn’t to be this time around, I can handle that.

Of course, to have had the opportunity to get dressed up for the night and be around some of the most amazing and gorgeous and talented people in our industry, was an absolute joy, not least that sparkly red gown that I got to wear.


A lot was made of the purse/bag your daughter designed for you.

Yes. It was made of cardboard, she painted different colored stripes on it, and it had the word ‘Epic’ written on it. How could I ask for more?

My stylist was asking me if I was really going to take it and my daughter said that I didn’t have to, but I reassured her that mummy would be taking that bag on the red carpet and show the world just how proud of it I was. 


She seems to all intents and purposes to be your best friend.

Oh she is, unequivocally. She is my best friend, and I am hers, although I’m prepared for the near future when she would rather spend time and prioritize people her own age with the same tastes, or at least with tastes she doesn’t find a little embarrassing!


Is that balancing act difficult?

I think it’s easier when it’s two girls. If I had a son and was trying to stay on his level I think that would be a lot more difficult.

At least there are a number of life lessons I can pass on to my daughter

with some degree of confidence. With boys, it’s a bit more of a mystery.


The fact you’ve had to work and really invest in your career must be such an important life lesson to be able to pass on to a young person.

I think people look at the fact I have been on the stage for two decades and there is a level of comfort and security in that, but appearing in theater is a hard, unrelenting, extremely anti-social ride. The hours are long and extend way into the night, and you are there every night.

It’s very different to do TV. There is much more waiting around in theater, and much less recognition, but the final project is so much greater. It’s a weird dichotomy that takes a bit of getting used to, as does everything in this industry.


Would you say you’ve had to be patient with yourself?

I think ultimately you are acting, and it’s the same thing. It’s just a case of getting used to the conditions around you, which are very different.

And yes, I have had to be patient with myself, just as in the same way I have been grateful for people being patient with me.


With that in mind, I like the way you are always very clear in thanking those who have contributed to your success, and ensuring they share in it.

I just feel there’s enough negativity and criticism out there. We have to remember to praise people. It’s a pretty miserable world when we don’t, because there are so many people ready to tread you down and make you feel like you are nothing.

Even on the stage I battled it for years and years, and before then growing up there are countless people in an actor or actress’s formation who will have told them they won’t amount to much.

I’m no better than anyone else and neither am I the only person to be listened to, yet it’s vital to ignore all those intent on sabotaging the confidence of everyone and everything in their path. They are vacuums.


Finally, your incredible voice. Do you worry that film and TV work is taking away this aspect of what you can offer?

I guess this is a diversion, if you can call it that, but I’ve been singing for years, and it’s so nice to do something that doesn’t necessitate me to warm up my vocal chords!

I know singing is something I can go back to quite easily, and for now I am more than happy looking in other areas.

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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 21, Issue 3 (June 2024)

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