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Hannah Waddingham: Things Fans Might Not Know About The Ted Lasso Star

Hannah Waddingham had no clue what was about to happen when she boarded a plane from London to Los Angeles for an audition. She was up for the role of Rebecca Welton, the owner of a soccer club that she's determined to decimate because it was her ex-husband's team. Even though the production team was bringing her to LA for her second read, she didn't believe the role could be hers.

Waddingham not only landed the role on "Ted Lasso" — the hit feel-good series from Apple TV+ produced by and starring Jason Sudeikis as the title character — but it also changed her life.

An accomplished stage performer, her transition to the small screen wasn't easy. With a career that's been more than two decades in the making, she's finally getting the credit and recognition that she deserves. In 2021, Waddingham was nominated for her first Primetime Emmy Award and ultimately won in her category.

Eager to learn more about the scene-stealing actress? From her musical theater background to manifesting her Emmy-winning role, here are 12 things that fans of Hannah Waddingham might not know about the "Ted Lasso" star.

She comes from a family of opera singers

If you've watched "Ted Lasso," you know that Hannah Waddingham can sing. Who could forget her memorable karaoke rendition of "Let It Go" in Season 1, or "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" in Season 2's holiday episode? It's no surprise to learn that music and performance are in Waddingham's blood. Her mother, Melodie Kelly, as well as her maternal grandparents, were all opera singers.

Despite never having formal singing lessons, she has a four-octave vocal range, which she claims to have learned from watching her mom perform at the Royal Coliseum. Melodie Kelly joined the chorus of the English National Opera when Waddingham was eight and worked there for 27 years. After growing up in the theater and learning about the opera and singing from her family, Waddingham went on to study at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in South London.

Her first stage role was in dinner theater

Combining comedy and drama, especially finding lightness during heavier moments, has been a defining factor of "Ted Lasso," and Waddingham's Rebecca really shines in those instances. Who would have guessed that Waddingham first fine-tuned those skills in the world of dinner theater?

She began her stage career as part of "Joni and Gina's Wedding," an interactive comedy with audience participation. A queer twist on a popular interactive format, "Joni and Gina's Wedding" is about two women getting married: Joni, a Jewish sports enthusiast, and Gina, the independent daughter of a military family. The audience takes part as wedding guests, joining the cast after dinner for dancing, cutting the cake, and the bouquet toss.

According to Esquire, Waddingham's role was described as an "overgrown Barbie doll, built like a brick s***house," and with an American accent. She says that being a part of that production helped her "cut her teeth" in the theater, allowing her to hone her improv and timing skills while also sparking her love for drama and comedy.

She was an accomplished theater star before TV beckoned

Long before Waddingham made her small screen debut, she had been gracing stages from London's West End to New York City's Broadway. Some of her credits include Desiree in "A Little Night Music," The Witch in "Into the Woods," and Lilli/Katherine in "Kiss Me, Kate."

One of her most notable roles was playing the Wicked Witch of the West when "The Wizard of Oz" made its debut in the West End. The show's producer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, wrote a new song with Tim Rice, "Red Shoes Blues," that Waddingham was the first to perform.

Waddingham may be the one with the musical theater pedigree on "Ted Lasso," but she has pointed out to Town and Country that some of the show's writers are "massive musical theater geeks." The trio, which she's dubbed the "West End Wendys," consists of Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, and Brett Goldstein. That explains why there were so many references to musicals like "West Side Story," "Funny Face" and "Hamilton" in Season 1 of "Ted Lasso."

She was the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot

Waddingham starred as the Lady of the Lake in "Spamalot," adapted from the 1975 film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." She was in the original London cast, appearing in the West End production from 2006 to 2007, and then on Broadway in 2008.

While theatergoers will remember her incredible performance as Lady of the Lake, Waddingham remembers it for different reasons: two of her most embarrassing moments ever are connected to "Spamalot."

First, while starring in the London production, she had a live mouse trapped in her costume but had no clue. She didn't realize it until the dead rodent flew out of the sleeve and across the room a couple of days later. Second, while part of the Broadway production, her feet got caught in her costume during a dance routine and she fell, smashing both of her shins. The ensemble was a nude-colored jumpsuit with hand-sewn Swarovski crystals, which didn't hide the blood from audience members who looked on aghast. Waddingham didn't realize she'd injured herself until she left the stage, but she still has actual scars on her legs from that night.

She's a three-time Olivier Award nominee

Waddingham celebrated her first Emmy win in 2021, winning the "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series" for her portrayal of Rebecca Welton on "Ted Lasso." In the same year, she also took home a Hollywood Critics' Association award, an International Online Cinema award, and a Critics' Choice Television award for the role.

This may be the first time she was celebrated for a TV role, but she's no stranger to accolades. Waddingham is also a three-time nominee for Best Actress in a Musical at the Olivier Awards, the prestigious honors bestowed by the Society of London Theatre. Although she didn't take home one of the coveted statues, named for the legendary actor Sir Laurence Olivier, she was recognized for her work in three different productions: in 2007 for "Spamalot," in 2010 for "A Little Night Music," and in 2013 for "Kiss Me, Kate."

She played Septa Unella on Game of Thrones

Also known as the "Shame Nun," Waddingham played the iconic role of Septa Unella, a sister of the Faith of Seven and follower of the High Sparrow, on HBO's "Game of Thrones."

She didn't think she'd get the part because she was eight and a half months pregnant at the time of her audition. When she accidentally hit a casting assistant on the leg with a wooden ladle, her reaction clinched the role for her.

She started filming nine weeks after giving birth to her daughter. Her first day on set was the Season 5 episode "Mother's Mercy," when Cersei (Lena Headey) confesses to adultery with her cousin, Lancel (Eugene Simon). Septa Unella walks Cersei through the streets of King's Landing, ringing a bell and crying "Shame" to attract attention to the sinner.

In Season 6, Cersei got her revenge and imprisoned Unella, torturing the nun by literally waterboarding her with wine. Waddingham did her own stunts while filming that scene, and recounted her harrowing experience. For 10 hours, she was strapped to a table, and water was poured over her head. Waddingham also lost her voice from screaming when The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) had his hand over her mouth. In the end, only 90 seconds from that day appeared in the episode. "Other than childbirth," she told Collider, "It was the worst day of my life."

She is good friends with Lena Headey

Despite Unella and Cersei's antagonistic relationship on "Game of Thrones," Hannah Waddingham and Lena Headey bonded, and remain good friends to this day. They met on Waddingham's first day on set when they sat in makeup together before filming Cersei's infamous walk of shame.

The intensity and intimacy of the scenes they shared formed a strong connection between the women, and neither has shied away from talking about their experiences on "Game of Thrones." In particular, they've both been very candid with their feelings about that Season 6 wineboarding scene.

In a pre-Emmys conversation in 2021 where they talked about going out for lunch and sharing inside jokes, Waddingham and Headey shared their mutual admiration for each other and recalled their time together on "Game of Thrones." A five-time nominee herself, Headey celebrated her friend's well-deserved Emmy nomination and gave Waddingham some tips on how to get through the awards ceremony.

She has the shame bell from Game of Thrones

It turns out that there's no shame at all in how Hannah Waddingham ended up with a specific item connected to one of her most notable characters. Despite rumors that she took the "shame bell" from the "Game of Thrones" set, or simply kept it after filming, she confirmed that she was given the coveted prop as a parting gift.

When filming wrapped for her character, Septa Unella, the production team gave her the bell. Waddingham says that was how she knew her character was truly dead on the show. It's an item that any diehard "Game of Thrones" fan would want for their collection, and would likely fetch a hefty price at any memorabilia auction.

Waddingham may not have taken the bell, but some of her "Game of Thrones" castmates did make off with souvenirs when filming wrapped on the series. Liam Cunningham, who played Ser Davos Seaworth, took a U-Haul full of items from the show.

She has a recurring role on Sex Education

If you can't quite put your finger on what other recent show you recognize her from, Hannah Waddingham has a recurring role on the Netflix series, "Sex Education." She plays Sophia, one of Jackson Marchetti's moms, a former competitive swimmer who pushes her son to pursue the same path. Sophia Marchetti is living vicariously through Jackson, the Moordale swim team's superstar, not realizing the immense pressure she's placing on him.

Waddingham appeared in four episodes during the dramedy's first season, and six episodes in Season 2. In the third season, however, she was only able to film one episode because she was working on "Ted Lasso" at the same time. Her screen time was limited to the Season 3 finale, but Waddingham's brief performance made an impact on Jackson's story arc going forward.

Like "Ted Lasso," "Sex Education" films in the United Kingdom, with locations across Wales and along its border with England. Hopefully, Waddingham will be able to hop over from London to film a scene or two in Season 4.

Her dream is to star in a musical film

Music will always be Waddingham's first love. If she had to choose between singing or acting, she told Rose and Ivy that singing would win every time. She's conquered stages on both sides of the Atlantic and TV screens around the globe, and now she wants nothing more than to star in a movie musical.

Waddingham did have a small role in "Les Misérables," the 2012 film based on the stage musical, starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, but it's time she takes the spotlight. Perhaps her "Ted Lasso" momentum will help her land a leading role. She hasn't mentioned any specific titles that she'd like to see herself in on the big screen, but there is a "Spamalot" film in the works at Paramount. Perhaps she can reprise her role as Lady of the Lake?

While Waddingham and her fans wait for this dream to come to fruition, they will be able to catch her in "Hocus Pocus 2," the Disney+ sequel to the hit 1993 theatrical release. She was cast in an undisclosed role, but we can all hope that she'll get at least one musical number in the movie.

She wants to work with Viola Davis

If Hannah Waddingham could work with anyone, it would be Oscar, Tony, and fellow Emmy winner Viola Davis, but there might be one big challenge for the "Ted Lasso" star. 

As much as Davis would be Waddingham's dream scene partner, even an acclaimed actor can get starstruck. Waddingham has shared that if an opportunity to work with the "How to Get Away With Murder" star ever came her way, she's not sure if she'd actually be able to talk or say anything coherent in front of the iconic actor.

Then again, Waddingham isn't scared to show her inner fangirl. She didn't hold back when she met Sharon Stone at the 2021 Pride of Britain Awards in London, or with her Twitter response to a gobsmacked Rick Astley after she performed his hit song, "Never Gonna Give You Up," in a Season 2 episode of "Ted Lasso."

If Waddingham and Davis were to share some screen time, there probably won't be a musical number involved. Davis may have starred as legendary blues singer Ma Rainey in the 2020 film version of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," but she's never been shy about addressing her lack of musical talent.

She keeps her Emmy in her daughter's bedroom

Hannah Waddingham credits her daughter, Kitty, for being instrumental in landing the role of Rebecca Welton on "Ted Lasso." Kitty has an autoimmune disorder called Henoch-Schönlein purpura, or HSP, and was quite ill when she was younger. Waddingham, who says being a mom is her number one job, still wanted to work but didn't want to be far from her daughter. Performing on stage and TV often involves a lot of travel, so Waddingham asked the universe for a job that allowed her to stay close to home. Her wish was manifested two months later when the "Ted Lasso" role came along. Working on the beloved Apple TV+ show, as she told Ellen DeGeneres, means that Waddingham is working only 30 minutes away from her daughter.

When Waddingham won her Emmy in 2021, she thanked her co-star and show creator, Jason Sudeikis, for changing both her life and her daughter's life with the role. She keeps the Emmy in Kitty's bedroom to remind her daughter that "her mummy will only ever be away when it's for a really, blooming good reason."