Hannah Waddingham, the Emmy-winning Ted Lasso star, says the words of a teacher helped fuel her ambition to become a star of the screen.
Waddingham told a BBC podcast that a teacher insulted her appearance, but instead of it being a dispiriting experience, she used it to galvanize her work ethic.
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“I had one drama teacher that said to the whole class: ‘Oh Hannah will never work on screen because she looks like one side of her face has had a stroke,'” the actress said. “I thought, I will do. Come hell or high water, I will work on screen.”
Waddingham told Michelle Visage’s Rule Breakers podcast that the words did give her a complex and that the teacher must have known the remarks were “not helpful or positive or aspirational.”
The actress, who plays Richmond FC owner Rebecca Welton in Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, said the teacher’s comments partly influenced her Emmy acceptance speech in 2021.
After picking up the prize for best supporting actress in a comedy series, she called on decision-makers in the room to give West End theatre performers a screen break.
“In my Emmys speech, I made a point – the one thing I said to myself [was], if this weird moment comes and I get this award, and I get my foot in this door, I’m going to rip it off its hinges for music theatre people, or theatre people, to follow,” she said.
Waddingham was a regular in London stage musicals, appearing in shows including Spamalot, Into the Woods, and The Wizard of Oz. She received three Olivier Award nominations.
“I used to knacker myself senseless”, she said. “I used to be doing a [theatre] show at night and I used to literally take anything to get myself on screen.”
She added: “It got to the point where I realised I was only getting one scene in this, or one ep[isode] in that. And I went, do you know what? I think I’ve done enough… This isn’t cool any more. Why should I be constantly feeding into someone else’s storyline?
“So I said to my agents at the time, ‘I’m not doing it any more… If it’s one scene, I’m not doing it any more, and you shouldn’t be putting me up for it because it’s insulting. I’ve been a leading lady for 22 years. I’m not doing it any more. I’d rather be in a world where I’m appreciated.’
“So I fully stepped back. And then Game of Thrones happened.” She appeared as Septa Unella in Seasons 5 and 6 of the HBO drama, her first major screen role.
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