Hannah Waddingham doesn’t know where she ends and Rebecca begins.
“Oh God, I don't think I'll ever make peace or will say goodbye to her properly,” the actress tells Bazaar.com over a phone call in late April, referring to her character on the critically acclaimed series Ted Lasso. When we chat, half of the show's third season has already aired, with creator Jason Sudeikis remaining mum on whether or not it will be the series' last. “I will never be ready to hang up her high heels,” she continues. “We can send that as a gentle, friendly nudge to Jason.”
On the phone, Waddingham has the same commanding yet gentle voice she's known for on television. Her manner is warm, and she answers my questions like she’s letting me in on little secrets. She has just returned from hosting Eurovision, where fans claim she stole the show, and meeting King Charles III (“It is a very busy day. I've just met a little-known man called the King of England”). She also reveals that while she’s on her way back from Eurovision, some of her castmates from the series are on a train back together after watching a soccer match in Manchester. “I’ll catch up with them tomorrow,” she says. “We are proper AFC Richmond gaggle.”
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After roles in Les Misérables, Sex Education, and Game of Thrones (yes, she is the viral voice behind Cersei’s walk of shame), Waddingham's Emmy-award-winning role on Ted Lasso has propelled her into a whole new level of stardom, especially among those of us in the United States. When we initially meet her character Rebecca Welton, she is a bitter divorcee who has kept her husband's football team, AFC Richmond, in the separation. Hoping to get revenge on her cheating and emotionally manipulative ex-husband, she hires an optimistic and inexperienced coach from the United States named Ted Lasso (Sudeikis).
Since the first season, Rebecca’s journey has turned into the story of a middle-aged woman reclaiming her life and learning to accept love again, something Waddingham has been invested in since the very start. “I've cared so deeply how that demographic is portrayed, and how people find themselves in life, newly divorced and trying to find their way, so that will be a very strange thing for me to not be speaking on her behalf anymore,” she says.
In the latest season, Rebecca is struggling with the aftermath of dating again for the first time since the divorce. In season two, she found a match on a dating site that keeps your date's identity a secret. Turns out her mystery man was the much younger, extremely sweet soccer player Sam, who happens to be on the team she owns. The romance was short-lived—much to the disappointment of fans—though Waddingham and I agree that we enjoyed watching it play out.
“I loved her and Sam together, not least of which because we don't really see that on television: an intergenerational, interracial relationship where it's not just about the shock factor of it. The shock of it all is that they actually really get on, even though they are very different ages and have different backgrounds,” she explains.
As for the future of Rebecca’s romantic life, it seems like Sam isn’t fully off the table. Everyone else seems to want Rebecca and Ted to be endgame, though Waddingham won’t give me any hints about her character’s romantic ending. What’s brewing between her and Ted? “It’s pure love, however, anyone wants to take it. That's how I've always seen it. At first, Rebecca was reluctant to allow herself to feel the love she has for him because of the situation she was in. But she was reluctant to feel love from any of the people that were showing love to her.”
This season continues to focus on Rebecca's growth. She’s concentrating solely on her personal self-care, which so far has included visiting a psychic her mother recommended, journeying to a fertility doctor, speaking up in the face of multiple misbehaved men, and falling into a canal in Amsterdam only to be rescued by a handsome Danish man who she spends the night with.
Waddingham describes it all as “a sense of healing” but continues, “As with all of us, I love the fact that she takes two steps forward, and maybe in this case four or five steps forward, but then you never know when she's going to take a step back. And I love that. That's what I'm interested in. In all the characters I play, I like seeing the ebb and flow of confidence and vulnerability.”
No character straddles the line of confidence and vulnerability more than Rebecca. One of the main moments of this season centered around her wish to be a mother, though a trip to a fertility doctor raises her hopes only to have it come crashing back down after a phone call regarding her tests. Waddingham’s real-life experiences informed the way she took on this storyline. “I felt like I could speak to it. I struggled myself to a point with fertility, having been told left and right that I wouldn't be able to conceive and the measures I took to really try and exhaust that issues. I remember that feeling of desolation and desperation,” she says. “Thankfully, it turned out how I would have wished with my beautiful daughter, but I remember that feeling.”
Even so, Rebecca powers forward, continuing her friendships with Ted, the whole soccer team, and the bubbly Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). Throughout the series, the friendship between the two women has remained inspiring and honest, though according to Waddingham, it has nothing on her friendship with Temple in real life. “When I tell you that she and I literally met in the restroom of West London Film Studios, we laid eyes on each other, beamed, went 'hi' and that was it. She and I meeting in life and being entrusted with these roles was some kind of kismet,” she says.
As for where we leave Rebecca, besides being described as “strong, loved, and calm” at the end, I get absolutely no clues from Waddingham. “The door is left ajar,” she says, and it seems like enough hope for the both of us.
Brooke LaMantia is an NYC-based culture and fashion freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Cut, Cosmopolitan, W Magazine, InStyle, NYLON, and more.