Emmy Winner Hannah Waddingham Discusses Her Hollywood Journey So Far (2024)

Sure, she is likely best known to many still for playing Rebecca Welton, the AFC Richmond football club owner in England on Ted Lasso, but Emmy-winning actor Hannah Waddingham has expanded on her opportunities in Hollywood ever since.

Originally a beloved West End musical theatre performer, Waddingham, 49, can recently be seen as Mother Witch in Hocus Pocus 2, as the outspoken film producer Gail Meyer alongside Emily Blunt & Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy and voicing the mischievous feline Jinx in The Garfield Movie.

This week, however, Waddingham is reflecting upon her Apple TV+ holiday special, Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas.

First premiering on the streamer back in November 2023, Waddingham performed Christmas songs onstage at the London Coliseum, a full-circle moment for the longtime musical performer, having both her mother and her daughter in the audience at the very same venue that Waddingham used to watch her mother perform in when she was a young girl.

While speaking with me on Sunday at her Home for Christmas For Your Consideration (FYC) event at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California, Waddingham said of her television special, “We wanted it to be a capsule - like a little magic capsule. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what mood you’re in - it has to be for all generations. It also has to be for people who feel the joy of Christmas, but also people who feel the loss at Christmas. I wanted it to really ebb and flow through people’s feelings around Christmas, because I know I have them, as well - that feeling of one minute you’re thinking, Oh, this is cozy and the next minute you’re thinking, Oh, but that person that I don’t have or my friend that has just lost their dad - all of that.”

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Waddingham went on to praise Apple for allowing her and her producing partners “to do exactly what we wanted with it - both the visual look of it and my voice - where I wanted it to sit - the guests I wanted it to have. It was basically, we trust you - go and play, and bring us back the Christmas baby.”

Being not only the lead performer onstage, alongside guests that included her Ted Lasso co-stars and other friends like Luke Evans, Sam Ryder, Leslie Odom Jr., the London Gay Men’s Chorus and Scott Baker & Patrick Davey of The Fabulous Lounge Swingers, Waddingham was also an executive producer on her Christmas special. Knowing of the hard-fought journey she has had to get to this point in her career, after years of knocking on doors in Hollywood to be given a chance to prove her value, I wondered what it means to Waddingham today to have such agency and ownership over her work.

“I mean, it has taken a little while, but actually - you can ask my manager Nick Todisco - when we started out on [the Home for Christmas special], I think I was a bit like, ugh - executive producing. As we got into it, I do feel like they wish they hadn’t agreed because I got very obsessed with the absolute minutiae of it all, even down to things like, let’s not buy this and let’s give someone in the band an extra sandwich. Just trying to kind of shuffle everything around, so that what you have in that locked-off 45 minutes, if you look at the broader state of it, was just perfect. I wanted everyone that was on that stage to feel like they weren’t just ‘that bit’ but they were absolutely a beautiful, glittery cog in the whole thing, and nobody more important than anyone else. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I’m a team player and that’s what happens in theatre. I wanted everyone to feel that and I think you see at the very end of it, you can see that everyone felt that team energy.”

Beyond her TV special, between The Fall Guy and The Garfield Movie, as well as her involvement in Tom Cruise’s much-anticipated Mission: Impossible 8, which is expected to be released in theaters come May 2025, what is Waddingham enjoying most about the evolution of her career lately?

Waddingham said, “I love the fact that every single character is different but has a kind of natural journey to it. I needed to do something for my daughter, out-and-out, and that was Garfield. She’s obsessed - like pictures all around my house of Jinx. She loves Jinx. She hates how I look as Gail Meyer [in The Fall Guy] because [of the brunette hair]. She doesn’t like it at all, but I loved it! I really loved it. I love the fact that whenever she sees posters, she’s just like, ‘Fall Guy! Fall Guy, mummy! Fall Guy, Fall Guy! So, she’s invested in all that. Then, you look at something like Mission: Impossible - I mean, that came in at a time that I had just gone shooting on Fall Guy - came straight back, unpacked my bags from four months in Oz and packed a smaller bag to go land on a moving, active, four and a half thousand servicemen and women warship, and go and be with ‘the unknown’ Tom Cruise. Epic and I start shooting with him in a couple weeks.”

Living in a world today where social media makes it far easier for fans to build a relationship with their favorite stars, I brought up with Waddingham the very loyal and vocal following she continues to have, knowing that she sees their adoration for her chosen projects and her ongoing career moves.

“I love them,” Waddingham said of her fans. “I do see it and I want them all to know that I see it. I think everyone always presumes that when you’re at the level that we’re all at, that everything’s alright all the time, but it often isn’t. Often, you’re tired - and things like that, your message - honestly, makes emotional thinking about it - they make a massive difference to feel that support. I tell you what, my lot, when somebody might say anything even fractionally negative about me, the claws come out. It’s great!”

Looking ahead, I was curious what is next in the pipeline for Waddingham, particularly if we might hear more of her commanding vocals on a music album anytime soon.

Waddingham said, “I mean, I totally am. I was just saying on the way here, I miss singing. I’m doing something very important coming up, singing wise, but it’s not been announced yet but I’m very excited about that. It’s hugely prestigious, so I’m thrilled about that. Short of that, I got my big, fat, lovely series - executive producing for Amazon with Octavia Spencer.”

Almost exactly one year ago, the season three finale episode of Ted Lasso premiered on Apple TV+. Knowing that Waddingham has surely been bombarded over the past year in being asked whether there will be another season at some point or a spinoff series of sorts, I chose not to ask her that, but instead, ask her if she feels satisfied right now with her character Rebecca’s arc up to this point, or if she has an itch to tell more of her story.

“I will always have time for Ted. There will always be an itch. I do know that I genuinely feel a lack. What she would say about this situation? What would she say about that? What would she say if that kind of person walked into her club? How is her relationship with her mother? It’s like leaving somebody on a cliff edge, then going buh-bye, when you have loved them so much. It’s so crazy because I talk to the guys so often that I don’t miss any of them at all - I mean, literally, none of them. Like I was saying the other day, if I haven’t spoken to someone from Ted every week, that would be odd, but I can’t talk to [Rebecca].”

When I followed up by saying hopefully in time, we will see more from this Ted Lasso universe, Waddingham said, “I hope so - I really do, but it would have to be in the right way.”

I concluded my conversation with Waddingham by bringing up her 2021 Emmy-winning acceptance speech, reminding her that she requested while onstage for Hollywood to give more Britain musical theatre performers a chance at on-screen roles. Now these nearly three years since that speech and her Emmy win, I asked Waddingham if she has seen some progress at all or not within the industry.

“Yes, I think so. I mean, I’m not taking any credit for that at all, but yes. There already had been because I’m talking about the time when it was particularly bad when I was constantly [told], ‘Oh, you do this singing thing?’ It has gotten better, definitely, because I know friends that have started kind of climbing into screen work a lot, and it’s just as it should be.” She added: “They’re brilliant theatre performers and I always stand by that and say go and look in theatres, because they are there because they want to play great characters, not for the money or the fame.”

Emmy Winner Hannah Waddingham Discusses Her Hollywood Journey So Far (2024)

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