Hannah Waddingham Talks ‘Ted Lasso’ And Why She Never Expected To Get The Part That Earned Her An Emmy Nomination
With 20 Emmy nominations, the cast of Ted Lasso kicks off the second season of the Apple TV+ in solid form.
The comedy’s first season became an international pop culture phenomenon almost overnight when the first season landed on the streamer in August 2020. For anyone who doesn’t know, Jason Sudeikis, who also co-created the show, plays the titular Ted Lasso, an American football coach who heads to the UK to manage a struggling soccer team.
Hannah Waddingham, Emmy nominated for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, plays the club’s owner, Rebecca Welton. I caught up with her to talk about the Lasso factor, how she never expected to get the role and the appeal of a Ted Lasso movie.
Simon Thompson: Ted Lasso has transcended being purely a success story and become a pop culture phenomenon. Were you ready for that?
Hannah Waddingham: I think it surprised everyone, but that’s precisely what it has done. Even Jason Sudeikis, Papa Ted Lasso himself, it’s something that even he didn’t anticipate. None of us thought we would be led into this kind of apocalyptic time, so for something that we have given out into the world to have been some sort of tonic is a crazy privilege.
Thompson: The second season was given the green light five days after the first landed on Apple TV+. Was a return always planned?
Waddingham: I think Jason always thought there would be a beginning, middle, and end. I think he had it all mapped out in his head. Even though there are off-the-cuff, last-minute tweaks, all of this has been a long time coming.
Thompson: Being from the UK originally, I have seen you take on many different types of roles throughout your career so far. What did Rebecca Welton offer that was unique?
Waddingham: I’ve always been very picky about the parts that I take. I have never been interested in always being glamorous or always being nice in anything. If anything, I go for things that aren’t, but this gave me everything, and that is unique. Even just reading the pilot, the difference in her from one end to the other was extraordinary. I’ve never had a thing where you get to play so many different things in one scene. It’s literally the dream role that I consistently pinched myself about. The fact that we shoot it in Richmond, which is like half an hour away from home, was also massively appealing.
Thompson: What did you want season two to do that wasn’t possible with the first season of Ted Lasso?
Waddingham: If I’m honest, I think it nailed things so well that had Jason chosen to walk away and say, ‘Actually, you know what, that’s all I got to say about that,’ I think people would have still been like, I’ll get to rewatch it for the next 20 years. What is coming up in season two is something that I wasn’t expecting, and had I been a writer on it, I don’t think I would have had the courage to do it.
Thompson: A lot of your roles have given you a certain level of recognition in public but has this taken that to a whole new level?
Waddingham: Actually, not so much here in the UK; I think it’s even more of a phenomenon over there with you. I was saying to somebody recently; it’s going to freak me out when I come over to America and see my face on a giant billboard. It’s really odd. When I think of Rebecca as being in my head and my heart, I’m sure I’ll find that strange. I don’t even watch my scenes. It has happened a good few times in Richmond, actually. People have just come running up and gone, ‘Rebecca?’ and I’m thinking, ‘What?’ Of course, when I’m there, I’m just noodling about as me or in mommy mode scuttling about before I pick up my daughter from school or whatever, so that’s how it’s been weird for me.
Thompson: From what I hear, margaritas and drag queen karaoke are lucky charms for you when it comes to securing dream roles.
Waddingham: I was flown to LA, and the night before the audition, I went out with some friends from 12 Monkeys, which was a show I did in Toronto. I had a great time, and I enjoyed a couple of margaritas because I thought there was no way I would get this role. It was really lovely that they’re putting me in the mix, but I thought they’d go for one of what we call ‘the famouses.’ I went into the audition and had a lovely time. I thought, ‘Oh, it’s Jason Sudeikis. He’s prolific and brilliant.’ I had a lovely chat with him, and we had two hours of back and forth, working with some stuff. We did some improvising, and it was a total pleasure, and then I left. I said to them, ‘Whoever gets this, it’s such a honey of a role, but it’s been nice to have met you.’ I left it like that. I went out that evening with my manager in LA, and we went to a drag queen karaoke bar. We had the best night. I mean, just a crazy, brilliant night. The next day I left LA thinking, ‘Well, wasn’t that a very lovely interlude? I couldn’t have done any better in the meeting. I couldn’t have got on any better with Jason, and whatever happens, happens.’ I’m quite fatalistic about these things. Maybe ten days passed where I didn’t hear anything, so I chalked it up as a nice time to see my friends and go for tacos. Suddenly, I got a conference call from my team, who told me that the role of Rebecca was mine. It felt like that emoji with the head exploding.
Thompson: You’ve done musical theatre in the past. It turns out a lot of the guys involved in Ted Lasso are fans of musicals, right?
Waddingham: Oh, massively. Jason, Brendan Hunt, and Brett Goldstein.
Thompson: Could we see that creeping into the show?
Waddingham: Not for a whole episode. They put in ‘Let It Go’ in, and I balked at it massively, so Jason said to me, ‘Okay, well, if you don’t want to sing that, go and find me a song that’s better for that moment.’ Obviously couldn’t because he knew what he was talking about, but even at the time, I was like, ‘Why is the owner of the football club singing?’ He simply said, ‘Why not?’ I had no comeback to that. It’s so funny because Brett knows my career better than I know myself, which I think is really funny for people to know when he’s seen as gruff Roy Kent. He and Roy are worlds apart.
Thompson: If the idea of doing a feature-length Ted Lasso movie came up, would you be on board?
Waddingham: Absolutely. I’m not having anyone else playing Rebecca, so, of course. We can get even more into the characters’ heads in a movie instead of being limited to 25 or 30 minutes or however long an episode is. We do have 12 episodes this year, which is great, so we have more room to explore things. I think people are going to be delighted with this season; I really do.
Season two of Ted Lasso premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday, July 23, 2021.
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