BAZ BAMIGBOYE: How Hannah Waddingham Welded For The Spotlight And Her Dream Job

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Hannah Waddingham shakes her head in disbelief and roars with laughter when suddenly, at the age of 46, she finds herself in the middle of one of the hottest TV shows.

And the reason for her cheerfulness? She was recently nominated for a top TV award in Hollywood. And won.

“Isn’t it weird?” marveled at the actress who, like her mother opera singer and maternal grandparents, is classically trained. ‘You can float around in the theater world for years; and so often you feel like you’re knocking, knocking, knocking. ‘

Hannah Waddingham, 46, is at the center of one of the hottest TV shows, Ted Lasso

Hannah Waddingham, 46, is at the center of one of the hottest TV shows, Ted Lasso

The Apple TV + show has been a huge success, winning awards for creator and star Jason Sudeikis (who plays Ted) and Waddingham (pictured together)

The Apple TV + show has been a huge success, winning awards for creator and star Jason Sudeikis (who plays Ted) and Waddingham (pictured together)

The Apple TV + show has been a huge success, winning awards for creator and star Jason Sudeikis (who plays Ted) – and Waddingham (pictured together)

And then Hannah landed the role of Rebecca Welton, owner of a fictional English football club, who hires a great American coach Ted Lasso – also the name of the 12-part series – to get the team in shape.

Since its launch last year, the Apple TV + show has been a huge success, with awards from creator and star Jason Sudeikis (who plays Ted) – and Waddingham.

At the Critics Choice Awards in January, she was named Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. The show also received top honors.

And on April 5, Ted Lasso has a chance to win a prestigious Screen Actors Guild comedy ensemble trophy.

Waddingham previously starred in Game of Thrones as Septa Unella, alongside Jonathan Pryce and Natalie Dormer

Waddingham previously starred in Game of Thrones as Septa Unella, alongside Jonathan Pryce and Natalie Dormer

Waddingham previously starred in Game of Thrones as Septa Unella, alongside Jonathan Pryce and Natalie Dormer

Waddingham is listed alongside Sudeikis and castmates, including Juno Temple, Annette Badland, Jeremy Swift, and Nick Mohammed. Plus footballing Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein and Toheeb Jimoh.

In the series, Waddingham’s Rebecca – who gets club AFC Richmond in a divorce deal – is regularly humiliated by her verbally abusive ex-husband, who likes to parade his increasingly youthful girlfriends for her and the tabloids.

What makes the show so enjoyable to watch is the way Sudeikis and his team of award-winning writers (who won a Writers Guild Award last weekend) develop the characters.

Waddingham’s first scene was the firing of the existing manager, who showed up in her office wearing inappropriately adjusted shorts and then slipped her with a stream of casual misogyny. (‘Oh, do you want to get that from that impressive chest of yours?’)

In the series, Waddingham's Rebecca is regularly humiliated by her verbally abusive ex-husband

In the series, Waddingham's Rebecca is regularly humiliated by her verbally abusive ex-husband

In the series, Waddingham’s Rebecca is regularly humiliated by her verbally abusive ex-husband

In the scene, Rebecca is “ flawless and glamorous, ” but no cleavage on purpose, says Waddingham. She is a businesswoman, albeit in an unfamiliar environment, ‘aware of her own sexuality, feminine but strong’.

But that power, at least to begin with, is largely an act – an “ice girl” facade of not a hair out of place; like she’s the boss b ****, when she’s actually lost, ‘she says.

After more than two decades in musical theater – in everything from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Beautiful Game to the Lady Of The Lake in Spamalot – Hannah’s triumph on TV seems a long time ago.

She signed on for mostly American productions shot in the UK – Game Of Thrones, Sex Education, 12 Monkeys, Krypton – because she felt that mainstream UK TV shows were biased against musical theater actors. (She insists they can transition perfectly to the small screen ‘if you ask them to turn it down a bit.)

After more than two decades in musical theater, Hannah's triumph on TV seems a long time ago

After more than two decades in musical theater, Hannah's triumph on TV seems a long time ago

After more than two decades in musical theater, Hannah’s triumph on TV seems a long time ago

Interestingly enough, her stage experience was one of the things Sudeikis and his team were drawn to when ‘the little girl from Wandsworth Common’ auditioned.

While the fame Ted Lasso has brought in for her is welcome and fun, the main factor is that the show is filmed in the UK (in Richmond in London and in studios and a soccer field in Middlesex).

This means that she can be close to her six and a half year old daughter. The child (who Waddingham refuses to name) was taken ‘desperately ill’ while she was filming Krypton in Belfast ‘and I couldn’t get back to her’.

On April 5, Ted Lasso has a chance to win a prestigious Screen Actors Guild comedy ensemble trophy

On April 5, Ted Lasso has a chance to win a prestigious Screen Actors Guild comedy ensemble trophy

On April 5, Ted Lasso has a chance to win a prestigious Screen Actors Guild comedy ensemble trophy

So she informed her agents in London and LA that ‘I can never have another moment when I can’t go back to my child. She is my priority ‘.

Thankfully her daughter is better now (it was a kidney problem), Waddingham told me about Zoom, from Ted Lasso’s season two set.

Her dedication is understandable. For a long time, she thought that she could not have children, but then became pregnant at the age of 39, after following the ‘oriental herbal route’.

Getting the part of Ted Lasso ‘was like the universe was going,’ You done your hard grafting, you done your running around. Here you go: you can have both. ‘

Conrad’s performance is something to write home about …

Conrad Khan, now 20, shot director Henry Blake’s heartbreaking film County Lines two years ago.

This ‘nice middle-class boy’ plays a 14-year-old teenager who is forced to bring drugs from central London to buyers in the Home Counties.

Director Blake, a former social worker, helped the actor see how drug lords target vulnerable youth and lure them into a life-threatening world. The film has a surprising – often gruesome – realism (available for a fee on BFI Player).

Conrad Khan, now 20, shot director Henry Blake's heartbreaking film County Lines two years ago

Conrad Khan, now 20, shot director Henry Blake's heartbreaking film County Lines two years ago

Conrad Khan, now 20, shot director Henry Blake’s heartbreaking film County Lines two years ago

This 'nice middle-class boy' plays a 14-year-old teenager forced to bring drugs from central London to buyers in the Home Counties

This 'nice middle-class boy' plays a 14-year-old teenager forced to bring drugs from central London to buyers in the Home Counties

This ‘nice middle-class boy’ plays a 14-year-old teenager forced to bring drugs from central London to buyers in the Home Counties

As Conrad noted, ‘This is just a sham for an actor, but real kids go through this and often don’t sleep in their bed at night. ‘

His character, Tyler, goes from a timid, bullied schoolboy to someone who sells dope in crack dens, screams – and hits – his mother and gets beaten to a pulp by hoods. “Being angry was one of the harder things,” Khan told me. ‘I am not an angry person. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at anyone. It took several recordings. ‘

He added, ‘You have to be careful about tapping into those emotions. It is not an on or off switch and if you go to that place it is not certain that you will get out of it as soon as you think. ‘

Ashley Madekwe, who plays his on-screen mom, was crucial to getting it right. Having that tension of hers helped me. Her energy was electric. ‘

Director Blake, a former social worker, helped the actor see how drug lords target vulnerable youth

Director Blake, a former social worker, helped the actor see how drug lords target vulnerable youth

Director Blake, a former social worker, helped the actor see how drug lords target vulnerable youth

There is a surprising, often gruesome, realism to the film, which is available for a fee on BFI Player

There is a surprising, often gruesome, realism to the film, which is available for a fee on BFI Player

There is a surprising – often gruesome – realism to the movie, which is available for a fee on BFI Player

It’s (to me) no surprise that both were recognized at the BAFTA Awards on April 11: Madekwe for Best Supporting Actress, Khan as an EE Rising Star contender. (Voting for this is now open at ee.co.uk/baftas, where you can read all about all of the Rising Star nominees.)

Watching Khan’s dynamite portrait in County Lines reminded me of a young Gary Oldman and Daniel Kaluuya, when I first saw them play meaty screen roles.

Khan started his acting career at the age of 15 in The Huntsman, alternating these jobs playing the cello for a youth orchestra.

He is now studying film in college (via Zoom) and also plays a new character in Peaky Blinders.

Khan started his acting career at the age of 15 in The Huntsman, alternating these jobs playing the cello for a youth orchestra

Khan started his acting career at the age of 15 in The Huntsman, alternating these jobs playing the cello for a youth orchestra

Khan started his acting career at the age of 15 in The Huntsman, alternating these jobs playing the cello for a youth orchestra