Hannah Waddingham reflects on her whirlwind year filled with love, Emmys, and Eurovision.
As a child, Hannah Waddingham would sometimes accompany her mother to work at the English National Opera’s location at the Coliseum in London. She fondly recalls the building and its inhabitants as her babysitter, often exploring its various corners. One time, she accidentally got stuck in the orchestra storage room and was scared when looking down from the upper circle boxes. However, for a child, it was a magical place. She reflects that if someone had told her at eight years old that she would one day have her own Christmas special on that very stage, she would have been overwhelmed with excitement.
Hannah Waddingham’s holiday special, “Home for Christmas” on Apple TV+, is an extravagant display of music, dazzling costumes, and comedic skits featuring her fellow actors from “Ted Lasso”. It exudes a sense of festive celebration, and for Waddingham, it truly is a momentous occasion. This year has been a breakthrough for the theatre actress, who gained widespread recognition when she joined the cast of “Ted Lasso”, a US sitcom about a struggling English soccer team. While she has appeared in other productions such as “Game of Thrones”, where she played the infamous “shame nun”, it was her portrayal of the football team’s owner, Rebecca Welton, that propelled her to stardom and earned her an Emmy award.
People were wondering where she had been all these years. When asked to be on Eurovision, her initial thought was if someone else had dropped out. However, she ended up being a great choice. Despite tough competition, with Croatian punks, a man in inflatable green sleeves, and impressive pyrotechnics, Waddingham stole the show. She smiled, sang, danced, played air guitar, spoke French, and seemed to be having the time of her life. She says that if she could go back to one moment in the year, it would be the week of Eurovision.
Her Christmas special feels like the crowning achievement of an amazing year. “I’ve been afforded the luxury of incredible moments this year,” she says. “So 2024 is going to have to go some!” Did she love being back on stage? “I’ve missed it a lot. I haven’t been on a stage for 10 years.” At the start, she rises through the floor, looking every inch of her statuesque height. “There’s just this wave of love coming my way. I was really overwhelmed.”
Waddingham’s main goal was to make the special deeply personal. She did not want it to be flashy or for the sole purpose of showcasing famous individuals. The selection of every person and location was thoughtfully chosen and holds a special place in her heart. The London Gay Men’s Chorus, of which Waddingham has been a patron for many years, is featured in the special along with the duo Patrick Davey and Scott Baker, also known as the Fabulous Lounge Swingers. Waddingham stresses the importance of bringing people along on her journey and acknowledges the duo’s talent. They are also the godparents of Waddingham’s daughter.
The star-studded group has a special bond: Waddingham and Luke Evans, who is an actor, singer, and now a movie star, have been acquainted for 20 years through their work in the theatre. Additionally, Leslie Odom Jr was invited at the request of Waddingham’s daughter, who is a huge fan of the hit musical Hamilton. Odom Jr was part of the original Broadway cast. Waddingham admits that her daughter was more excited about his presence than her own. She describes his voice as smooth and classy and considers it a winning moment to have him there. Sam Ryder, last year’s UK entry for Eurovision, also makes an appearance, along with many other cast members from Ted Lasso.
After putting in years of effort, Waddingham achieved mainstream success in her 40s. Her journey serves as motivation for those who still hold onto their dreams. While she has encountered obstacles, she is grateful that her success did not come in her younger years as it would have been too much to handle. Despite the changes around her, Waddingham has remained true to herself and has simply worked to keep up with the success. She acknowledges that some people may have changed towards her, but she is unapologetically herself and does not know how to change.
The special’s most personal moment comes when Waddingham introduces her parents and daughter, seated in the audience, before singing with the ENO Chorus. “It was very much a love letter to them – and to my daughter.” Her family’s presence meant everything, she says: while Waddingham was filming the end of Ted Lasso, her father was undergoing heart surgery, and her mother has Parkinson’s. “I was just thrilled they were there. I had to make them proud of me.”
During a brief moment of emotion, she considered pre-recording the song because she was afraid she would not be able to speak or sing in a minute. However, Waddingham is an experienced professional. After forty years, from being a young girl running around the Coliseum, the same age as her daughter is now, Waddingham still belonged on that stage.
Hannah Waddingham’s show, “Home for Christmas,” is currently available on Apple TV+.