13 Things You Didn’t Know About Hannah Waddingham, From Showbiz Pals To Weird And Wonderful Roles (2024)

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Hannah Waddingham, From Showbiz Pals To Weird And Wonderful Roles (1)

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From her early days on the West End stage to her Emmy-winning stint as Ted Lasso’s Rebecca to a show-stopping turn as the co-host of this year’s Eurovision ceremony, Hannah Waddingham just keeps going from strength to strength.

With a CV that includes everything from hit musicals to a brief but unforgettable role in HBO’s Game Of Thrones and even a season of ITV’s Benidorm, the multi-talented (and multilingual) Hannah surely has one of the most fascinating CVs in entertainment right now.

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We’ve taken a look back at her career – and her life off-screen – to bring you some unexpected facts about the star…

1. She got her start in dinner theatre

One of Hannah’s first roles came at the dinner show Joni And Gina’s Wedding, where audience members are invited to interact with the cast.

Before the audition (for a role described as an “overgrown Barbie doll”), she had been toying with the idea of quitting performing, she later told Esquire. “I was like, ‘if I don’t get this, I think I should just give up,’” she said. She decided to enter the tryout doing an American accent “from the minute I walked in the door” - and was offered the job “on the spot”.

The role was a gamechanger for Hannah, who ended up landing West End roles in shows like Spamalot and Kiss Me Kate afterwards.

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2. Hannah kept the Game Of Thrones ‘shame bell’ as a goodbye gift

When Hannah played nun Septa Unella in HBO’s fantasy series, one of her most memorable scenes saw her accompanying a naked Cersei Lannister (played by Lena Headey) through the streets of King’s Landing, clanging a bell and shouting “shame”.

When her time on the show was over, the Game of Thrones team gave her that prop as a keepsake.

“It’s common knowledge that if a show gives you a hero prop, it means your character is truly, really dead,” she told InStyle.”So when [producers] David Benioff and Dan Weiss made a ceremony, and handed it to me on my final scene, I was a little disappointed!”

3. Ted Lasso isn’t Hannah’s first football-related role

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Hannah Waddingham, From Showbiz Pals To Weird And Wonderful Roles (2)

Long before Ted Lasso, Hannah had a brief role in Footballers’ Wives, the legendary ITV drama which chronicled the wild exploits at the fictional football club Earls Park, back in 2005. Appearing in just one episode, she played a tennis pro called Jools, the latest love interest for club boss Hazel Bailey.

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“I’m going to go out there and say that [Ted Lasso] is 150,000% better,” Hannah said in an interview with AV Club – but we reckon that it’s possible to embrace the merits of both shows. After all, did Ted Lasso have a scene where a WAG’s fake boobs caught fire? Or a Sleeping Beauty-themed wedding, with noted Christmas song Walking In The Air as a musical accompaniment? Thought not.

4. She released a single back in 2000

At the start of the millennium, Hannah starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton’s West End musical The Beautiful Game, which is set during the Troubles in Belfast in the late 60s, and centres around a group of teenagers in a local football team. She played Christine, the girlfriend of the team’s only Protestant member, Del, and performed the track Our Kind Of Love, which she later released as a single (under the mononym ‘Hannah’).

It eventually reached number 41 in the UK charts – and Lloyd Webber would later recycle the same tune for the song Love Never Dies in the sequel to Phantom Of The Opera.

5. She has a four octave vocal range

Though she has never had formal singing lessons, Hannah’s vocal range is staggering (for comparison, the standard woman’s range spans between two and three octaves).

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6. She credits her musical theatre work ethic as the secret to her success

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Hannah Waddingham, From Showbiz Pals To Weird And Wonderful Roles (3)

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Although her screen roles may have caused her profile to skyrocket, Hannah maintains that “musical theatre has changed my life the most”, thanks to the sheer discipline required to sing, dance and act to a packed auditorium every night.

“The physical dedication I’ve had to build doing musicals - I couldn’t do Ted Lasso or Hocus Pocus [2] without it,” she told InStyle. “Mentally and physically, the stamina and agility you need to keep up with [Jason] Sudeikis and his SNL style of, you know, giving you things in 12 seconds while there’s a camera in your face?... I’ve had to keep my mind and body really strong, and in ‘musical theatre shape’, because it’s so much a tool of my craft.”

7. She’s played the Devil… in a Rod Stewart jukebox musical

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Hannah’s CV is nothing but varied. In 2003, she played Satan in the stage musical Tonight’s The Night, belting out various Rod Stewart hits while wearing a black PVC catsuit and a belt embellished with the word ‘Wicked’.

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The bizarre plot saw a shy young man make a pact with the devil, giving him the courage to ask out his crush… in exchange for eternal damnation.

8. She’s pals with Michael Bublé

Hannah and Michael became “very good, just instant friends” back in 2006, when the crooner went to watch Spamalot in the West End and headed backstage to meet her after the performance, he recalled to Entertainment Tonight.

They’ve “remained firm friends ever since”, Hannah told The Zoe Report last year – and when she won her Emmy for Ted Lasso, Michael got a bit emotional.

“He basically FaceTimed me, crying, going ’I always knew it, I knew it, I knew it!” she revealed. Soon after, he invited her to perform on a duet of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) his Christmas In The City TV special, introducing her as “the kingest, most talented, beautiful, wonderful human being in the whole wide world”.

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9. She keeps her Emmy trophy in her daughter’s bedroom

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Hannah Waddingham, From Showbiz Pals To Weird And Wonderful Roles (5)

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Some celebs keep their awards trophies in their bathroom; some conveniently display them so that they can easily be seen every time they do a Zoom interview from home. Hannah, though, has opted to store her Emmy in her daughter’s bedroom and the rationale behind her decision is very sweet: she wants to remind her child that “mummy will only ever be away when it’s for a really, blooming good reason”.

10. She used to struggle with her height as an actor

Hannah is 5 foot 11 inches tall, and has frequently spoken about how this has impacted her entertainment career. Even at a young age, when she was learning ballet, her height was commented upon. “The teacher was like, ‘Mr and Mrs Waddingham I hate to say this but your daughter is a giant’,” she told Rose & Ivy.

Then when she wanted to move into the world of TV and film, she found herself hearing the same excuses from producers and casting agents over and over again. “It was a constant thing of ’Oh no, we’d love to use her, but we’ve already cast the man. He’s 5’8, but we’ve already cast,” she told Glamour, adding: “I could never work out whether it was a height thing or whether it was just that I wasn’t established enough.”

Her role in Ted Lasso was an anomaly, she admitted on an appearance on The View, because co-star Jason Sudeikis wasn’t bothered about her height at all. “[He] was like, ’I don’t care if she wears four-inch heels. Let’s do it,” she revealed, describing his response as “a completely unique situation to find yourself in where the man is so generous that they want to raise you up”.

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11. She comes from a family of singers

Hannah hails from a long lineage of musical talents. Her mother Melodie Kelly was part of the English National Opera for 27 years, and her grandparents on the maternal side were both opera singers, too.

“Singing was in the blood,” she told The Mirror back in 2014. “Mum went back to work in the chorus of English National Opera when I was eight and was there for 27 years. I’d sit in the stalls at the Royal Coliseum, listening and soaking everything up like a sponge”.

In fact, as a youngster, she remembers being surprised to learn that “some people’s parents worked in offices”, telling The Zoe Report: “I was like, ‘What do you mean? Doesn’t everyone sing and dance for a living?’”

12. She made an appearance in the film adaptation of Les Misérables

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Hannah Waddingham, From Showbiz Pals To Weird And Wonderful Roles (6)

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During Tom Hooper’s movie version of the classic stage musical, you’ll see Hannah appear in the factory scene during the musical number At The End Of The Day, playing one of the factory women who gossip about Anne Hathaway’s Fantine. Surely a bigger role in a big-screen musical beckons - and she’s certainly prepared for it.

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“I want to do musical film,” she told Rose & Ivy. “I am so ready I am literally like a greyhound waiting to get out on that track.”

13. She’s multi-lingual

Hannah got a chance to show off her language skills when she hosted Eurovision earlier this year, speaking fluent French during the various ceremonies (“Honestly Hannah, I could listen to you do that all night,” her co-host Alesha Dixon admitted during the semi-final).

She can also speak Italian (she was previously in a long-term relationship with Italian hotelier Gianluca Cugnetto) and has said that if she wasn’t an actor, she’d “probably be an interpreter”.

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Hannah Waddingham, From Showbiz Pals To Weird And Wonderful Roles (2024)
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