Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
The Snapshot: Hannah Waddingham plays the owner of a struggling London soccer team who hires a small-time American college football coach with a big heart in the comedy series, Ted Lasso. (Streaming on Apple TV+ as of August 14th.)
The Performer: Hannah Waddingham
The Series: Ted Lasso
If there’s anything our world needs right now, it’s Ted Lasso – both the new series and the refreshingly optimistic titular character played by Jason Sudeikis (based on a character he drew up for NBC Sports’ coverage of the English Premier League in 2013-2014.)
It’s an upbeat new series about a glass half-full type guy that Sudeikis described as “Mr. Rogers meets John Wooden.” Turns out Lasso has been lassoed from a small-time college football program by one Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), the de facto owner of the Premiere League team AFC Richmond. Much to the chagrin of, say, the whole of Britain.
Only thing is – much like the owner in the legendary film, Major League, this powerful female owner isn’t so keen on the idea of winning games. She’s more concerned with exacting revenge on her cheating ex and former co-owner who plunged their marriage into a tabloid swamp.
But there’s more than meets the eye with Rebecca – and the delivery of this layered character is a testament to Waddingham’s range of abilities. With a hard exterior and soft core, Rebecca’s tough armor shows signs of cracking in early episodes in rather comical fashion as she bonds unpredictably with Lasso and the team’s star player’s girlfriend, Keely (Juno Temple).
An amusing example of this is when Lasso first drops in with fresh-baked biscuits despite Rebecca’s resistance to what Ted calls “Biscuits with the Boss.” Rebecca indulges the coach and immediately becomes smitten – with the biscuits. Despite her disdain for these meet-ups, she needs this pastry – bad – so much so that she tells a team official to find out where he buys them.
That’s the soft side of Rebecca – who wants to dislike Ted so badly but just can’t. His kind soul just has a way of winning us over as does Waddingham as Rebecca, who becomes more sympathetic as the episodes go by – especially once her ex shows up back on the scene.
Waddingham also shows off her harder edge early in the pilot when Rebecca lets the current coach go, but not before listing the reasons why he’s been fired – at his request:
Coach: Fired, what the fuck for?
Rebecca: I suppose I could go for any number of reasons really. Your casual misogyny for one. I know it’s a big word, ask one of your daughters what it means… Or perhaps it’s your performance, having led this team to yet another remarkably average season. Or maybe it’s because you insist on wearing those tiny shorts that force me to see one of your testicles.
The series writer/creators (which includes Sudeikis and Bill Lawrence, former EP of Scrubs) seem to know they’ve got a gifted actress on their hands in Waddingham and have made her character’s evolution central to Ted Lasso. Consequently, it’s a pleasure to see where Waddingham takes Rebecca as she chisels her icy exterior into something with a warm creamy center.
Much like the biscuits.
If you look at Waddingham and immediately want to confess your sins, it’s because of the role she played in HBO’s Game of Thrones as Septa Unella, the Shame Nun who tortured the diabolical Cersei Lannister before leading her on the most legendary walk of shame ever.
Despite that chilly role, Waddingham’s wide-ranging talents have been on display in a slew of features, TV shows and theater performances, where acclaim has followed her at many stops.
For instance, the London-born actress has walked tall across the West End musical theater scene at various junctures over the past two decades – garnering three Olivier nominations for roles in Kiss Me Kate (as Kate), A Little Night Music and Monty Python’s Spamalot, where she found her grail as The Lady of The Lake.
More recently, Waddingham can be seen streaming in seasons’ one and two of the popular Netflix series, Sex Education (2019-2020), where she plays Sofia Marchetti, one of Jackson’s (Kedar Williams) two mothers. Not to be outdone is her villainous character, Jax-Ur, on SyFy’s Krypton (2018-2019). Then there’s film, where notable roles over the years have included How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008), Les Misérables (2012) and Winter Ridge (2018).
Finally, if you love Ted Lasso like I do and want to see more of Waddingham in the future, fans of the Apple TV+ series were just given something to cheer for: a second season.
Meaning: it doesn’t matter how much that soccer team loses – for us, it’ll be a win.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.