Emmy FYC: Hannah Waddingham in “Ted Lasso”

This article original appeared on The Film Experience.

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There’s a reason Ted Lasso has endured through all these months.  When the world shut down and every piece of news was about the worst possible people doing the worst possible things, we needed a bit of positivity in our lives.  Enter the world’s sunniest dispositioned football/futbol coach in Jason Sudekis’ Ted Lasso.

As much as the shenanigans of Ted and his team entertain, the central conflict of the show’s freshman season is between Lasso and Richmond FC owner Rebecca Welton, played to sly, annoyed perfection by Hannah Waddingham.

For all intents and purposes, Rebecca is the villain as the show begins.  She has inherited the club ownership after divorcing her philandering husband and she intends to run the club into the ground just to spite him.  The crux of her plan involves hiring Ted and with the expectation he will fail spectacularly.  Slowly but surely, Ted endears himself to Rebecca (and everyone else) with his suffocating sweetness.

Most interactions with Ted end up the same: Rebecca starts annoyed and ends up enamored.  The new coach gifts his boss with English biscuits and though she curtly refuses at first, his persistence eventually pushes her over the edge and she indulges (and eventually devours) the batch.  Every subsequent morning, Rebecca practically snatches at the box to get at the morsels inside.  Waddingham deftly embodies the physical comedy at every turn.  She begins tightly and outwardly aggressive, until she eventually lurches at the box, brings it to her nose and sniffs it like a line of cocaine.  She does all of this with the perfect blend of camp, tucked neatly inside her refined persona

As the season progresses, Ted helps Rebecca at every turn in personal and professional ways.  All the while, Rebecca stands steadfast in her desire to destroy the team.  Waddingham wears this dichotomy with a shiny exterior, but behind closed doors is being torn apart by her desires and her newfound friends.  Rebecca can never decide how far she wants to go; simultaneously trading away their best player and helping Ted through a panic attack.

Rebecca does eventually confess everything to Ted, breaking down every terrible thing she did in her attempts to undermine him.  She lays it all out on the table and has an expectation for his reaction, just like she did when she hired him.  Instead, Ted immediately forgives her and moves on.  He offers a handshake as a peace offering, but for the first time, Rebecca is the one who gets too close and gives him a bear hug.  Waddingham underplays the entire scene, laying everything out clearly and concisely while attempting to maintain her dignity.

Waddingham’s performance is the perfect supporting performance not because of how she supports Ted, but how her performance compliments the lead.  The hero’s positivity turns the “villain” into a fully-formed sympathetic character with clear motivations. 

Before Ted Lasso, Waddingham was best known for parading Cersei Lannister nakedly through the streets of King’s Landing on Game of Thrones (NSFW).  She is also an accomplished singer, as evidenced by her karaoke rendition of “Let it Go” in episode 6, but you can also watch her belt out “Memory” from Cats on stage in Barcelona. 

Hopefully we can see more of Waddingham on our screens, but let’s hope she can make it to the Emmy stage beforehand.

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