Hannah Waddingham and Jane Becker
Hannah Waddingham and Harriet Walter
Toheeb Jimoh and Hannah Waddingham
Toheeb Jimoh and Hannah Waddingham
Oh, sure, Ted Lasso co-star Hannah Waddingham and coexecutive producer Jane Becker are all smiles now on this Zoom chat. But when they last met up in L.A. — this was in September 2021 during Emmys weekend — they greeted each other by bursting into tears.
"We embraced and when I pulled back, I saw that all my mascara was on Hannah's face," Becker recalls. "I was like, 'My entire face is on your face!' But it was this incredible maternal moment."
The heightened emotional reaction wasn't just due to an extended pandemic-induced separation. (Becker resides in L.A.; the Ted Lasso production is based in London, where Waddingham lives.) Waddingham and Becker are also cognizant of their special bond. Given that their Emmy Award-winning Apple TV+ comedy series centers on a men's Premier League soccer team and their ever-believing American coach (Jason Sudeikis), these two help kick-in the heart, soul and gusto of the female kind. "I can find a little bit of myself in all the characters," says Becker, formerly a writer on Harley Quinn. "But Hannah's character is my favorite because I'm probably the most like her."
That would be a strong-willed businesswoman unafraid to show her vulnerable side (and croon a retro Rick Astley tune at an opportune time). Indeed, Waddingham's fabulous Rebecca Welton — she took ownership of AFC Richmond in the aftermath of her bitter divorce — was in top form last season as she navigated her family, friendships, love life and team.
For the six-foot-two British actress and classically trained singer — whose stage work includes the original West End production of Spamalot and whose television credits include Sex Education and Game of Thrones — the connection to her onscreen persona is real. "I feel like I'm serving a friend that I'm walking along with," explains Waddingham, who won a 2021 Emmy for the role — one of seven wins for Ted Lasso that evening, including outstanding comedy series and lead actor (Sudeikis). "I'm staunchly in love with her."
Waddingham and Becker are currently working across the Atlantic on Ted Lasso's third season. Though plot points were off-limits, they were game to chat about everything else.
Ted Lasso was originally conceived as a three-season series. If that's the case, how did Rebecca evolve in her middle chapter?
Jane Becker: I don't know if I ever look at the show as a beginning, middle and end. Especially with Rebecca, I'm always thinking about what's the best story for her. In season one, Rebecca had the big secret [she was trying to torpedo the team] because of her ex; Ted was collateral damage. In season two, the writers were like, "OK, now let's focus on her."
Hannah, what did you think of her arc?
Hannah Waddingham: I'm like a tigress with Rebecca, so if anybody says or does something to her that doesn't feel right, I just think "ah, no." I wasn't really feeling Rebecca at the beginning when she was using the dating apps because she is cleverer than that. I've spoken to Jason about this. But in retrospect, I liked the fact that she was finding herself with the team but lost elsewhere. I loved that she's kind of floundering around. And I loved where we found her by the end.
But Rebecca has continued to struggle in her personal life despite her professional success. What should viewers make of that?
JB: I would never say the words "having it all" because I truly think that's, like, disgusting. But they did come out of my mouth. The women on our writing staff question career and family a lot, and I think her story was us going through that ourselves and giving it to a character that resembled us. I mean, obviously, Rebecca is richer and more beautiful. But that's what the women wanted to talk about, and the men were down with it.
What's the male-to-female ratio in that writer's room?
JB: There are six female voices in a room of about eleven.
HW: Bearing in mind, the gentlemen that you have in that room are utter feminists.
JB: One hundred percent. I was talking to Jason the other day and he said, "There's not a brother among the men." It's fascinating because it's true — the [male writers] don't have brothers — they all have sisters. I've been in a lot of rooms where you have to be the voice of every woman everywhere or you're just not heard. This is such a different energy and vibe.
How has Rebecca's relationship with Ted changed?
HW: She realizes that she absolutely needs him in every way of her life. Every time she bucks against him, he effortlessly pulls her in. I love that she paints his nails to determine which color she wants to wear and he just keeps it on. It's so charming.
They can't get together romantically, right?
JB: They're like brother and sister.
HW: They're soulmates but who says that comes in the most pedestrian of ways? Soulmates can come in all different shapes and sizes.
JB: I like coming up with a different way to show intimacy, too.
What about her friendship with young Keeley [played by Juno Temple]? Why is that mentor-mentee dynamic so important?
JB: I get that it's natural to think like that, but they really do teach each other. That's what a real female friendship is like.
HW: It reflects me and Juno. We are each other's yin and yang, absolutely.
Let's talk about the "No Weddings and a Funeral" episode, in which Rebecca's estranged dad dies and she proceeds to run the emotional gamut. What was the impetus for that plotline?
JB: Everyone had wanted to do Rebecca's mom's story from the very beginning. I had gone through this big crossroads with my parents — and especially with my mom, our relationship had changed over the years. So, it was really exciting for me to use that. Like, the reason why I got into this industry in the first place was to write my feelings. I will say that in my original draft, we were going to have Rebecca sing "Hey Ya" by Outkast during the eulogy because that is my mom's favorite song. It got changed to "Never Gonna Give You Up" during the rewrite, which was the right move. And then Hannah delivered and brought it all to life in a way I never could have imagined. I was so beautiful that it's hard to explain.
Hannah, did you feel pressure to deliver?
HW: When I read it, I was literally like, "Gahhhh!" I've never been given a better gift. I read it and was so excited and then thought, "Oh, sweet baby Jesus, don't mess up." There was a responsibility to make the eulogy believable, and not only because she starts singing Rick Astley. There's also the heavy scene in the chamber with Rebecca and her mother. And there was a split monologue with Rebecca and Ted where we had to fill in each other's lines in the script. With Jason Sudeikis, I knew I was playing opposite someone that would smash it out of the park. I was worried about letting the ball drop.
Doesn't winning an Emmy instill you with some extra confidence?
HW: [makes a horrified face] What?!!!
Is that reaction for real?
HW: One hundred percent! When I was in theater, the more established you get, the more award nominations you get. And people go see you and they're like "all right, go on then, you're going to be so great!" You feel it. That's the pressure I put on myself as well because I'm a perfectionist. When I got this role, I thought I knew who she was straight away. But now I think how I don't want to let Rebecca down. Don't let Jason Sudeikis down. Don't let the writers' room down. And I just put that upon myself because so many brilliant people have come into my life. We all have to raise each other up, whether I've won an Emmy or not.
Where is the award, anyway?
HW: It was originally in my little girl's room, but I thought she was going to impale herself on the wings. Now it's in the sitting room next to her little dog's trophy.
Say something about season three, come on.
JB: It's either great or horrible. We don't know.
HW: That's why she's a writer! That's the best way to say it! All I can say is that Rebecca will continually wear fabulous outfits.