How British private schoolgirl Hannah Waddington conquered Hollywood

How Hannah Waddingham conquered Hollywood: The British private schoolgirl who became a single mother at 40 is now top of the most wanted list for US’s biggest chat shows

  • Star of Ted Lasso and Game of Thrones has new festive special on Apple TV+
  • London-born Hannah is dazzling on chat shows like Late Night with Seth Meyers
  • From the West End to conquering Hollywood, it’s been a decades-long journey 

Hannah Waddingham has wowed US TV critics and become the toast of Hollywood in a whirlwind round of media appearances promoting her highly-rated festive special ‘Hannah Waddingham: Home For Christmas’.

The 49-year-old English actress, who shot to fame playing Rebecca Welton in Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso, has stunned audience and critics alike with her quick wit, old-school glamour and incredible singing voice.

The Wall Street Journal raved about Home For Christmas as a ‘very musical holiday TV special as merrily, madly anachronistic as Bing Crosby in a sleigh full of eggnog’, while the HuffPost deemed her the ‘Queen of Christmas 2023’.

The LA Times branded Hannah a ‘bona fide star’ with a ‘soaring’ voice adding: ‘Fans of Kelly Clarkson and Celine Dion will likely be enamored by Waddingham’s jaw-dropping voice.’

It caps off a year like no other for Hannah: making use of her fluent French to co-present the Eurovision Song Contest, presenting the Earthshot Prize with Prince William and starring in Christmas ads for both M&S and Baileys.

And next year she could reach even greater heights, as she stars in the next Mission: Impossible film alongside Tom Cruise.

Hannah Waddingham dazzled US viewers with her sparkly dress and even sparklier personality as the stunning actress appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Monday (Picture: Hannah Waddingham making an entrace on Late Night with Seth Meyers)

The 49-year-old English actress hopes to bring in an audience for her special, Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas, on Apple TV+ (Picture: Hannah Waddingham chatting to Seth Meyers on his late night show)


  • Born in London to opera singer Melonie Kelly
  • Started as a stage actress on the West End and Broadway, starring in Spamalot, Into the Woods and The Wizard of Oz
  • Made her way to the small screen, playing the ‘Shame nun’, Septa Unella, in Game of Thrones and Jackson’s mother in Sex Education
  • From 2020-2023, she played Rebecca Welton, owner of A.F.C. Richmond in Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso, winning an Emmy for her role
  • This year, she co-hosted Eurovision
  • Next year, she will star in next Mission: Impossible film with Tom Cruise
  • She is the single mother of nine-year-old Kitty, whose father is Italian hotelier Gianluca Cugnetto

The musical extravaganza, filmed live at the London Coliseum, hit the streaming service on November 22, and features guest stars Phil Dunster, Luke Evans, Sam Ryder and Leslie Odom Jr. 

The Wall Street Journal said of Hannah’s festive special: ‘Can everybody sing? Seems so, though not as well as their host. 

‘And none would look quite as good in a red velvet, cape-topped Christmas ensemble, or generate quite the same amount of good-natured, old-fashioned show-biz energy.’

To promote her new festive musical feast, Hannah appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Monday, dazzling US viewers with her sparkly dress and even sparklier personality.

She revealed to US chat show host Seth Meyers, 49, that Leslie Odom Jr’s appearance on her special was actually a request from Hannah’s nine-year-old daughter Kitty.

The Emmy-award winning actress and singer joked that she ‘looked like a competition winner’ alongside the Broadway star. 

The 5ft 11 beauty, dressed in a midi dress from Rixo and matching sparkling heels,  balanced, as always, her glamour with her down-to-earth and quintessentially British character.

The London-born performer has finally conquered Hollywood after 30 years in the game.

Hannah Waddingham hosts her own musical extravaganza with a series of guest stars on her new Apple TV+ festive special (Picture: Luke Evans (left) and Hannah Waddingham (right) on her new Apple TV+ show Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas)

Hannah Waddingham’s star hit new heights after appearing in the hit show Ted Lasso (Picture: Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca Welton in Ted Lasso) 

Hannah Waddingham stuns in a green patterned suit (Picture: Hannah Waddingham arriving in green at Good Morning America)

Despite two decades on Broadway and the West End, as well as roles on Game of Thrones, Sex Education and Benidorm, it was Ted Lasso that that really gave Hannah her stranglehold on the nation’s hearts. 

The award-winning three-series comedy is about an American football coach, played by Jason Sudeikis, who comes to the UK to manage a fictional English football team called A.F.C. Richmond, owned by Hannah’s character.

Hannah admitted on Seth Meyers’ show that she misses the show, which concluded in May this year, and said of the cast’s appearance on SNL that they ‘travel in a nauseating pack’.

As Hannah is fast becoming a household name, it appears even Kate Middleton is a fan. 

She and Prince William witnessed Hannah singing O Holy Night, accompanied by the English National Opera, at the Royal Variety Performance this year.

The Princess of Wales was seen turning to the person sitting to her left in the Royal Albert Hall and telling them: ‘Amazing, that was fantastic’.

As Hannah steps into the world of film next year, perhaps an Oscar can join her Emmy, which she keeps in her daughter’s bedroom to remind her that ‘mummy will only ever be away when it’s for a really, blooming good reason’.

Indeed, Hannah has come a long way from the young London girl, who was bullied at school for her height.

Born in Wandsworth to opera singer Melodie Kelly, Hannah grew up around theatre. 

However, the star has previously detailed how she was ‘quite shy’ at school and suffered ‘terrible’ bullying.

Even Catherine, Princess of Wales, is impressed by Hannah, after seeing her sing O Holy Night (Picture: Hannah Waddington shares a laugh with the Prince and Princess of Wales after the Royal Variety Performance)

Kate branded Hannah’s singing at Royal Variety Performance ‘amazing’ (Picture: Hannah Waddington performing O Holy Night at the Royal Variety Performance)

She shared on the Kelly Clarkson Show that she was teased by her classmates for being taller than them

Hannah said: ‘I was properly bullied. I got it terrible. I was quite shy, we’re called introverted extroverts that’s what it is.

‘They used to tease me about my height when they were much much smaller but… in your face… look at me now!’

Hannah, who was told at 38 there was ‘no chance’ of her having children, is now a single mother of nine-year-old Kitty.

Kitty’s father is Italian hotelier Gianluca Cugnetto, who the star met through a mutual friend, but is no longer in a relationship with.

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