Awards Daily drops off a biscuit and chats with Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham about playing the heartbroken Rebecca and singing karaoke when you’re a professionally trained singer.
On lesser television shows, a character like Ted Lasso‘s Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) would be a flat one. The angry boss who makes everyone’s life miserable, the wrench in the plans. We’ve seen characters like Rebecca before, one whom audiences don’t really get to know beyond what’s on the surface.
Thankfully, the AppleTV+ series plays to its strengths by going beyond the biscuit chats Rebecca has with Ted (Jason Sudeikis) and delving into the heartbreak the character is going through. The show also plays to the strengths of its actress, Waddingham, by allowing her to bend and break, from comedy to drama, even getting to show off her musical theatre voice in a key scene, something she was reluctantly talked into (thank god!).
Waddingham is an utterly delight to speak with, brimming with spirit and love for her character and this show. While Rebecca has some work to do to get back to her sense of self on the series, I’d like to think that when she does get there, she’ll be something like Hannah.
Awards Daily: First off, what do those biscuits taste like that make them so damn good?
Hannah Waddingham: Oh my god, Megan, you have no idea how bland they are.
AD: Are you serious?
HW: Oh my god. Honestly. It’s the greatest acting job of my life. (Laughs) So many people have said, “Those biscuits look so good,” and I go, “Do they?”
AD: This has damaged the mystique for me now! I’m going to look at them differently.
HW: I hope you rewatch it and go, “Damn, she’s good.” (Laughs) I added in the sniffing thing, like a panic sniff. When she’s having a particularly shitty moment, when she’s like, “Gimme the box, gimme the box” Sniff!
AD: I’m going to be looking for that now, too. (Laughs) You’ve done so many different types of shows, but I don’t know if you’ve ever done anything quite like Ted Lasso. What has it been like working on this comedy series compared to some of your more dramatic work?
AD: I think for me at first, I was thinking, I’m very used to being very serious off-screen certainly. So when I first started doing the read-throughs and stuff, I thought, “Oh, I’m allowed to play here,” which was incredible, but having come from musical theater, drama, and comedy all rolled into one, the pieces I’ve chosen to be in in my musical theater career, both here and in New York—I’d already cut my teeth so much there, and who better to cut my teeth with than Eric Idle himself [Spamalot on Broadway]. So I knew that I could access all of that, but the thing that I have found just incredible, and totally unique in playing Rebecca Welton, is that the power that Jason and all the writers have put into Rebecca—to be not only in one episode drama and pathos and comedy—but literally in one scene, making me turn on a dime and just dig deep to find all of those moments and hit them where they want me to hit them. As soon as I started playing her, I thought, Oh my god, this is what I’ve been waiting for all my life, to be able to show everything a woman is, that doesn’t get seen usually.
AD: I love that.
HW: We’re not all one thing. And I relate to it so much, between myself and Rebecca. I’m 6’2″ in heels. People presume that if you’re a woman who looks after yourself, that you’ve got everything sorted in your life. And we have as little sorted as the next woman.
AD: I’d like to think of myself that way! (Laughs) There’s a side of Rebecca we haven’t met yet, and Flo (Ellie Taylor) hints at that. She describes Rebecca as someone who’s hilarious and free-spirited, which we’ve only seen glimmers of. What do you think happened to her that changed her?
HW: Undoubtedly, Rupert. His controlling nature. I think that which we’ve seen in Series 1, or Season 1 as you guys call it, is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve seen him smiling at her through gritted teeth. She was married to him for 12 years. The thing I was very keen on playing was that she’s still in love with him and cannot get out from underneath that, which I have had myself. You know that someone’s wrong for you. You know that someone is toxic, but still you effing love them and you can’t help it. And that would be the thing for me to convey more than anything. I think it went wrong probably quite early on, but she was smitten. She is literally trying to get rid of him, anything material, just to get him out of her bloodstream, but she can’t.
AD: There’s that moment where Rebecca learns that Rupert is having a baby with his new wife. And you play that so well. I couldn’t tell whether she had wanted to have kids—
HW: 100% wanted to.
AD: Really? I wondered if maybe it’s just her realizing she didn’t really know him or this side of him, that he wanted to have kids.
HW: Yeah, that’s exactly it. Jason and I were talking about that. It hurts more. If I’m playing her as my age, if she had wanted to 12 years ago, that’s totally doable. And he batted it away and batted it away, and she obviously had no choice but to go with it because she loved the man. So he not only is having a child with another woman, but a woman who is near the age she was when he said no to her. That for me is what got me to the place to be in the scene. And then the way he just punches my shoulder, that might as well have been right across my face, because he just about finished me off.
AD: And it’s brilliantly done because you knew from her face that there was more to that moment, without you even giving me that backstory. But, let me ask you, do you think Rebecca finds Ted attractive?
HW: I feel like she finds his soul attractive, maybe not as surfacey with them. I don’t think she’s even caught up with her own plan. She hasn’t thought any of it through. She doesn’t know what way is up. I’m not even sure at this juncture whether she even sees him in his physical form. I think she’s just slightly bewildered that this human being has come into her life and blindsided her with love and not anything else. She doesn’t quite know how to take it. And then of course when he says, “I forgive you,” and “Divorce is hard.” I mean, Jesus! (Laughs) I don’t know, to be honest. I haven’t figured it out myself yet.
AD: I loved when he spelled out, “Hi Boss!” on the field. It melted her heart.
HW: I was leery about how to play that. I was glad that the scene that followed it involved her still trying to get to Rupert. When I realize that it said, “Hi Boss!” I purposely roll my eyes like, “Oh my god, you guys” rather than “Oh my god, I love you.”
AD: It’s not schmaltzy. It’s really cute. You have a very poignant karaoke moment where you sing “Let it Go.” Do you think Rebecca has a singing background like yourself? Or do you think it’s something she only occasionally pulls out at karaoke parties?
HW: Absolutely not. I even argued with Jason. Why is Rebecca singing? And he was like, “Well, hello?” I have literally avoided on the international concert stage singing that effing song since the day it came out. Are you kidding me? And he said, no, no, in this Venn diagram moment of this show, it’s perfect for you to sing it to your goddaughter while Ted is having a panic attack. I said, “Can I not sing very much of it, because I don’t want people to think I’m show-offy?” And he said, “Oh my god, woman!” I couldn’t come up with anything [song] that was better, and of course because they’re all brilliant in the writers’ room. I went back to him and was like, yes, you’re right, obviously.
AD: It worked out well. It’s a great scene.
HW: I told him, I don’t want to play her as a singer. It needs to be something that she just likes doing. She’s having a moment when she’s letting her hair down with new pals. He was like, 100 percent, let’s do that.
AD: What do you hope for Rebecca in Season 2?
HW: If I’m perfectly honest with you, Megan, I’m not nervous, but I hold her as such a jewel in my hand, and I feel such responsibility to women in their 40s and to anyone who has had their hearts damaged, who has been at the hands of verbal abuse, I feel such responsibility to carry that which came to pass in Season 1. But I have a fractional anxiety about where Rebecca goes from here. I have to just trust that where the writers’ room took her from Season 1 can only get more colorful and reach deeper depths in Seasons 2 and 3. I’m excited, but I’m equally nervous because I’m so invested in her, which I think is a good place to be. She’s precious to me, a great pal that I want to hold the hand of and guide through it.
Megan McLachlan is a freelance writer that lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, The Cut, Paste, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thrillist, and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @heydudemeg.