Hannah Waddingham on “Ted Lasso”
Hannah Waddingham, 46, is a London-born actress and singer who began her career on the London stage. An accomplished performer on the West End, she garnered three Olivier award nominations for performances in Spamalot, (also performed on Broadway), in 2007, A Little Night Musical, in 2010, and Kiss Me Kate, in 2013. Additionally, she originated the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium in 2011. Although she worked in various UK television productions, it was her role as Septa Unella in the fifth and sixth season of Game of Thrones that proved to be a game-changer in her already established career. She also appeared in the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables.
Waddingham is currently starring in two mainstream comedies, Sex Education as well as Ted Lasso, in the latter of which, she appears opposite Jason Sudeikis as Rebecca Welton, the new owner of football team AFC Richmond, desperately trying to ruin the team, the only thing her ex-husband loved.
We spoke to her via Zoom from her London home, where she is raising her six-year-old daughter.
Rebecca is such a fun character in Ted Lasso. How did the role come about for you?
I didn’t go after it. I previously had a conversation with my reps on both sides of the pond, because my little girl had been ill previously, badly ill, and I had been shooting Krypton in Belfast for Syfy. I said to them in April 2019, “I know that things are going well but I need to be able to be here (in London) because as a Mummy first and foremost, I can’t have the fear of being away from her.”
How did that go down?
(laughs). Well, of course, the other end of the phone went silent. But then, of course, they were understanding. And then, literally, I’m not joking, two months later, they rang me and said, “There’s been a request for you to go and read for this role. It will shoot in London.” And I thought, “I want this damned role!” So, I put myself on tape and then thought nothing of it. I don’t dwell on things like that. I am very fatalistic, and I think if something comes back to you, it’s meant to be. So, I got on with my life, and about a week later I got a call from my rep in LA, who said, “You need to be on a plane on Monday to go to a chemistry read with Jason [Sudeikis].” Then I came home, and a few days later, boom!
Rebecca is such a powerful woman. Did you relate to that aspect of her?
The bit that I related to is the fact that on face value she is a powerful woman. She does have power, she does know who she is, but the thing I related to the most is being a 5’11” woman in my mid-40s. You can give off a vibe without even realizing it. People think you are powerful and strong all the time, and when you walk into a room, people go, “Oh, that’s a strong woman.”
Did you have any preconceptions about Jason Sudeikis? Were you very familiar with his work?
Yes, on both. I’ve been a fan of his for years. Of course, mostly that has been comedic, but I wasn’t aware of what a great writer he was. And to see him standing in front of me, I was like a fangirl, a lunatic, but I had in mind that the hierarchy was supposed to be so vastly different, so I had to really try and park my giddiness.
You also have Sex Education, another successful show at the same time. I imagine this must be the high point of your career.
Can I just say, hell yes! This is a high point! (laughs)
And such great roles too, each in their own way.
Yes, crazy great roles. But let’s just talk woman to woman here for a second, I’m a woman in her mid-40s, and I am unashamedly and proudly a single Mum. For me to find this success now – although I’ve been very privileged to have 20 years of being a leading lady in the West End and on Broadway, and to have done Game of Thrones and things like that – but with Sex Education and Ted Lasso, it’s overwhelming for me. If somebody had said, “You will hit your stride and have the greatest success of your life in your mid-40s as a single Mum,” I would have said, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Can I just take you back to Game of Thrones? What was that experience like?
Phenomenal and horrific (laughs). I have so much to be grateful for, from David Benioff and Dan Weiss. I auditioned for that role when I was eight months and one week pregnant. (laughs) I was literally pregnant from the cheekbones out; I was actually a ship in full sail. I thought, “Well, I’ll go along, and I’ll say hello for next time when I’m not literally looking like I’ve eaten ten volleyballs.” (laughs) So I went along, I did the audition. And Nina Gold, the casting director, came running up to me and said, “Is this something that you would actually think of doing?” And I went, “Uh, what?” It was a turning point, for sure. And to be brought back for Season Six as well, that was crazy. It very much changed my life, and my little girly has been along for the ride all through the bits that brought me here. It’s been amazing.