Shaking her head in disbelief, Hannah Waddingham roars with laughter as she suddenly, aged 46, finds herself at the centre of one of telly’s hottest shows.
And the reason for her mirth? She was recently nominated for a top TV award in Hollywood . . . and won.
‘Isn’t it weird?’ marvelled the actress who, like her opera-singer mother and maternal grandparents, is classically trained. ‘You can be knocking about in the theatre industry for years; and so often you feel like you’re knocking, knocking, knocking.’
Hannah Waddingham, 46, finds herself at the centre of one of telly’s hottest shows, Ted Lasso
The Apple TV+ show has become a runaway success, winning awards for creator and star Jason Sudeikis (who plays Ted) — and Waddingham (pictured together)
And then Hannah landed the part of Rebecca Welton, owner of a fictional, down-on-their-luck English football club, who hires an aw-shucks American coach Ted Lasso — also the name of the 12-part series — to whip the team into shape.
Since its launch last year, the Apple TV+ show has become a runaway success, winning awards for 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 took top honours, too.
And on April 5, Ted Lasso’s in the running for 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 is listed alongside Sudeikis and castmates including Juno Temple, Annette Badland, Jeremy Swift and Nick Mohammed. Plus football-playing Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein and Toheeb Jimoh.
In the series, Waddingham’s Rebecca — who gets club AFC Richmond in a divorce deal — is humiliated on a regular basis by her verbally abusive former husband, who enjoys parading his increasingly youthful girlfriends in front of her and the tabloids.
What makes the show such enjoyable comfort viewing is the way Sudeikis and his team of award-winning writers (who snared a Writers Guild Award last weekend) allow the characters to develop.
Waddingham’s first scene involved firing the existing manager, who turned up in her office wearing inappropriately adjusted shorts and proceeded to slime her with a stream of casual misogyny. (‘Oh, do you want to get that off that impressive chest of yours?’)
In the series, Waddingham’s Rebecca is humiliated on a regular basis by her verbally abusive former husband
In the scene, Rebecca’s ‘immaculate and glamorous’ but deliberately not showing any cleavage, says Waddingham. She’s a businesswoman, albeit in unfamiliar surroundings, ‘aware of her own sexuality, being feminine but being strong’.
But that strength, at least to start with, is largely an act — an ‘ice maiden facade of not a hair out of place; as though she is the boss b****, when actually she is lost’, she says.
After more than two decades in musical theatre — in everything from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Beautiful Game to the Lady Of The Lake in Spamalot — Hannah’s triumph in TV feels long overdue.
She signed for mainly U.S. productions shot in the UK — Game Of Thrones, Sex Education, 12 Monkeys, Krypton — because she felt mainstream British TV shows were biased against actors from musical theatre. (She insists they can transition perfectly well to the small screen ‘if you ask them to bring it down a bit’.)
After more than two decades in musical theatre, Hannah’s triumph in TV feels long overdue
Interestingly, her stage experience was one of the things Sudeikis and his team were attracted to when ‘the little girl from Wandsworth Common’ auditioned.
While the fame that Ted Lasso has roped in for her is welcome — and fun — the most important factor is that the show is filmed in the UK (in London’s Richmond and at studios and a football ground in Middlesex).
This means she can be close to her six-and-a-half-year-old daughter. The child (whom Waddingham refuses to name) was taken ‘desperately ill’ when she was filming Krypton in Belfast ‘and I couldn’t get back to her’.
On April 5, Ted Lasso’s in the running for a prestigious Screen Actors Guild comedy ensemble trophy
So she informed her agents in London and LA that ‘I cannot have a moment, ever again, where I can’t get back to my child. She’s my priority’.
Luckily, her daughter is better now (it was a kidney complaint), Waddingham told me over Zoom, from the set of season two of Ted Lasso.
Her devotion is understandable. For a long time she thought she couldn’t have children, but then fell pregnant at 39, after going down the ‘Eastern herbal route’.
Getting the Ted Lasso role ‘was like the universe going, ‘You’ve done your hard grafting, you’ve done your running around . . . here you go: you can have both.’ ‘
Conrad’s performance is something to shout about…
Conrad Khan, now 20, shot director Henry Blake’s heart-stopping film County Lines two years ago.
This ‘nice middle-class boy’ plays a 14-year-old teen coerced into carrying drugs from central London to buyers in the Home Counties.
Director Blake, a former social worker, helped the actor see how drug kingpins target vulnerable youths and lure them into a life-threatening world. There’s a startling — often gruesome — realism to the film (available, for a fee, on BFI Player).
Conrad Khan, now 20, shot director Henry Blake’s heart-stopping film County Lines two years ago
This ‘nice middle-class boy’ plays a 14-year-old teen coerced into carrying drugs from central London to buyers in the Home Counties
As Conrad noted: ‘This is just make believe for an actor, but real kids go through this and often don’t get to sleep in their beds at night.’
His character, Tyler, goes from being a timid, bullied schoolboy to one who sells dope in crack dens, shouts at — and hits — his mother, and gets beaten to a pulp by hoods. ‘Being angry was one of the harder things,’ Khan told me. ‘I’m not an angry person. I don’t think I’ve ever shouted at anyone. It required several takes.’
He added: ‘You have to be careful about tapping into those emotions. It’s not an on or off button and, if you go to that place, it’s not certain that you’ll come out of it as quickly as you think.’
Ashley Madekwe, who plays his on-screen mother, was crucial to getting it right. ‘Having that tension from her helped me. Her energy was electric.’
Director Blake, a former social worker, helped the actor see how drug kingpins target vulnerable youths
There’s a startling — often gruesome — realism to the film, which is available, for a fee, on BFI Player
It is no surprise (to me) that both have been recognised at the BAFTA Awards on April 11: Madekwe for Best Supporting Actress, Khan as an EE Rising Star contender. (Voting for that is now open at ee.co.uk/baftas, where you can read up on all the Rising Star nominees.)
Watching Khan’s dynamite portrait in County Lines put me in mind of a young Gary Oldman and Daniel Kaluuya, when I saw them tackle meaty screen roles for the first time.
Khan began his acting career aged 15 in The Huntsman and has alternated these jobs with playing the cello for a youth orchestra.
He is now studying cinema at university (via Zoom) and is also playing a new character in Peaky Blinders.
Khan began his acting career aged 15 in The Huntsman and has alternated these jobs with playing the cello for a youth orchestra
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