She’s here. She is there. She is everywhere!
Ever since she burst onto our television screens in 2020 as outfit owner Rebecca Welton on “Ted Lasso,” Hannah Waddingham has been on the fast track to where she should be, which is on as many screens and stages as humanly possible.
For the moment though, it’s about to be on Zoom. Even meeting Waddingham virtually, you have to wonder: will she be as intimidatingly fabulous as she is in “Lasso”?
Her character contains multitudes, her impeccable power outfits shield a vulnerable heart, but still: the lady is fierce.
Waddingham, on the other hand, is as welcoming as Rebecca is cautious.
“It looks like I’ve added some sort of lighting effect,” he says, gesturing toward the disco highlight in the room. “Because I have a lamp with tassels on it.”
The British actress has just come off a gig hosting the Olivier Awards (watch the musical opening number on YouTube and marvel at her bagpipes) and is now gearing up to co-host the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest. Her outfits, she says, “are going to be a little more extravagant than usual.”
This is a woman who knows how to work a costume, whether it’s Rebecca’s skintight cream style on “Lasso” or a nun’s habit on “Game of Thrones.”
Or, more recently, the feathered period dress of the scheming Lady Bellaston in the new Masterpiece miniseries adaptation of “Tom Jones.”
Known as one of the first literary romantic comedies, Henry Fielding’s 18th-century novel follows the adventures of a generous and loving boy and the various women he encounters; Lady Bellaston is an older woman who first seduces Tom, but eventually falls genuinely in love with her.
The original 1963 film, which starred Albert Finney, hummed with a raunchy, free-love vibe. Waddingham appreciates that this version is more subtle.
“It’s so easy to play the devious cougar and the fun, fun, fun one,” he says of his character. “But she wanted to show that when she accidentally falls in love with Tom, which has shocked her, she doesn’t know how to cope. She has never had to look at any part of herself in an emotionally mature way.”
Waddingham, whose mother and grandparents were opera singers, had a successful career in West End theater before roles on television came along. She wondered if she made her almost too suitable for this role.
“Is it too obvious a route to have someone from the theater play this theatrical role? I said to [director Georgia Parris], ‘You have that for a fact: I will make sure the dresses move well and the posture is correct in all scenes. But are you happy that I’m leaning on her without knowing how to cope?’”
Parris was, and “Tom Jones” is much better for Waddingham’s nuanced version.
“Not knowing how to cope” has also been a major line in “Ted Lasso”, as you may have noticed.
Waddingham was one of the cast members who visited the White House earlier this spring for a mental health awareness summit with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.
“Walking through that famous door and spending time, all of us, talking about our own fears, our own mental health, and the president and the first lady being very vocal and open about theirs, that’s how conversations should go. start,” she says. Waddingham even posed next to a portrait of Michelle Obama, flexing toned biceps, a nod to a line from “Ted Lasso” that she compares the two.
It’s been a jam-packed year for the Emmy-winning Waddingham; “reserved and busy” hardly covers it.
“Completely crazy,” she happily agrees. “And I have to remind myself that this is the level of work and contribution to what is happening in entertainment that I have longed for for so many years.”
This is not to say that she was not appreciated in her pre-“Lasso” years.
She played Lady of the Lake in the Monty Python musical “Spamalot” and has been nominated for three Olivier Awards.
She played an uptight mom on the Netflix series “Sex Education,” and then there was that gig as the “Shame!” nun in “Game of Thrones,” a scene that has now become one of the best memes of all time.
“I actually quite like the fact that people still can’t believe it was me,” he laughs. Her character, Septa Unella, sports a coarse habit and a face without makeup; it would be hard to conceive of a role more diametrically opposed to Rebecca’s.
But his Emmy-winning portrayal of “Ted Lasso” has also involved some deeply emotional work: illustrating the aftermath of a verbally abusive relationship.
Rebecca is still reeling from her years with Rupert (Anthony Head), the billionaire ex-husband whose cruelty fueled her revenge hiring Ted in season one. It’s a subject the actress understands firsthand.
“Having lived it myself, four years into my verbally abusive relationship, I have flashes that come and attack me all the time,” she says. “And I don’t think we should shy away from any of that. Why should she be on the red carpet at the Emmys looking bright and shiny, and not show the other side?
She credits much of the series’ impact to her ability to deal openly with trauma and mental health issues alongside jokes and puns.
“The show has to go there to allow us the luxury of having fun moments,” she says. “I think that’s why it captured everyone’s hearts, because you feel squeezed in every way. As life does.
While the future of “Ted Lasso” is up in the air — star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis has been vague about plans for a fourth season — Waddingham has filmed roles in two of next year’s biggest action movies ( a reimagining of Tom Cruise’s “The Fall Guy” and “Mission: Impossible, Dead Reckoning Part 2”) and voices a character in a new “Garfield” movie starring Chris Pratt.
She will also star in a music special for Apple, “Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas,” which will be recorded live at the London Coliseum. (“She’s a stunner!”)
His latest projects have been “Lasso”-esque for his ubiquity of friendly, like-minded colleagues.
“He had that in ‘The Fall Guy.’ Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, just completely positive, joyful, affirming human beings,” she says. “You can’t help but feed off that energy. And I have to say the same to the great Mr. Cruise! just glorious. Hugely inspiring, inclusive, utterly present and positive.”
She brought that vibe to our shoot, channeling old-school glam “leaning towards a ’50s, ‘Stepford Wives’ kind of thing, because I’m in an old-fashioned way,” she says, “but then deconstructed. Something done, but undone, something like that.
She and our photographer got along great, except when she accidentally stumbled upon his last name. As it turns out, this happens so much that she mentioned it in her opening monologue at the Oliviers.
“I said, ‘My name is Hannah Waddingham. Waddingham. Not Waddington! As they have called me throughout my career.
For now, she’s embracing the craziness of her schedule along with the joy and hard work of being a single mom to her 8-year-old daughter.
“All I want is to spend time with her; she is absolutely my best friend,” says Waddingham. “I try to get her to come with me as much as possible, because when I was younger, I would go with my own mother and I would be at the London Coliseum with her.”
This summer will possibly bring some free time. “And then I’ll collapse in a little heap with my girl, somewhere sunny…and see if she’ll let me have five minutes to read a book!”
Editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Photo editor: Jessica Hober; Fashion Assistants: Madeleine Shepherd, Alycen Humphrey-Case, Colleen Finnerty; Hair: Lewis Pallett at Eighteen Management wearing Amika; Makeup: Hannah Martin in Eighteen Management with Charlotte Tilbury and Anastasia Beverly Hills