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Hannah Waddingham’s Hollywood dream come true

There was a song and dance when the stage star decided to change her tune and become an actor!
Hannah Waddingham wearing red in front of a lighter red backgroundImages: Getty

Hannah Waddingham was a virtual unknown on London’s West End for decades. Today, thanks to the resounding success of a show about an American coach hired to manage a struggling British football team, she’s scooping accolades galore and being lauded as a phenomenon.

And the 49-year-old single mum has a message for those who didn’t believe in her as she slogged her way to the top, the kids at school who called her a “lanky freak” – she is 1.82 metres tall – and the drama teacher who told the whole class that “Hannah will never work on screen because she looks like one side of her face has had a stroke.”

“There is a little list of people who wouldn’t give me the time of day, but now want us to work together,” tells Hannah. “I’m happy to say to them, ‘Please look somewhere else. I’m human. I remember. Bog off!’”

Hannah’s empowering attitude and candour has delighted the world. Fans have praised Hannah ever since the first season of Jason Sudeikis’ hit Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso hit its stride in 2020. She plays footy team owner Rebecca Welton in the show.

The star got her foot in the door on Ted Lasso.

Her accolades include Critics’ Choice Awards in 2021 and 2022, but it was her win at the 2021 Emmys that gave her the biggest thrill.

“That will never not excite me,” says Hannah. The star shares nine-year-old Kitty with her ex, Italian businessman Gianluca Cugnetto.

The treasured statue was given pride of place in her daughter’s room, but then, “I realised Kitty could probably have her eye out with the wings because she was only seven at the time! So now it sits in front of my hob in the kitchen. She’s very good at propping up things like recipes and to-do lists. She’s an active lady.”

Ten years ago, Hannah discovered she was pregnant with Kitty. She brought her baby girl home on her 40th birthday and despite her successes, motherhood is her number-one priority.

“As much as all of this is my absolute dream come true, if I didn’t have her, I would be a little husk in the corner,” she smiles. “There’s no me without her.”

A collage of four of Hannah Waddingham's most extravagant red carpet looks.
A regular on the best-dressed lists, Hannah’s a red-carpet showstopper!

While motherhood came easily, it was a huge challenge for Hannah to move from musical theatre into film and television. Casting directors, she says, “wouldn’t even come to a musical because we weren’t considered actors”.

She persisted, getting small parts, but it wasn’t until she appeared in Game of Thrones as Septa Unella, the gruesome nun who paraded a naked Cersei Lannister through the streets of King’s Landing, that people noticed her. Along came Ted Lasso and the rest is history.

Hannah now has her pick of projects. She recently filmed with Tom Cruise onboard a US fighter carrier for a role in Mission: Impossible 8.

“I have to say,” she shared after an “intense” five days of filming, “I have a real problem with anybody that goes at Tom now. He is without doubt one of the loveliest and encouraging, positive and inspiring human beings I have ever met.”

She’s also in cinemas now in the movie Fall Guy with Ryan Gosling.

Hannah did a lot of her own stunts in The Fall Guy.

Hannah attributes her transition into mainstream entertainment to asking the universe what she wants.

“I’m a big believer in manifestation,” she says. “And I did say, ‘Look, I think I’ve been knocking about for a while now. Can I please have something that will show everything that I feel I’m capable of?’”

But it’s not fame or fortune she finds most satisfying. “It’s being taken seriously on screen. That was what I was desperate for.”

Being in her late forties when she found success, she adds, is a boon.

“You’re never going to know yourself more than when you’re just about to turn 50.”

Stream Ted Lasso on Prime Video from $10.99/mth, with a 7-day free trial. 

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