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Hannah Waddingham recalls how a drama teacher cruelly told her class she'd never work on screen

The former "Ted Lasso" star said a teacher's nasty remarks about her appearance "gave me a complex for years."
/ Source: TODAY

Hannah Waddingham says her drive to succeed as an actor is inspired in part by the memory of a former teacher's cruel remarks about her appearance.

The former "Ted Lasso" star opened up about the incident during an appearance on Michelle Visage's BBC Radio 2 podcast, "Rule Breakers," explaining that she wanted to follow in her opera singer mother's footsteps to be a performer.

The London-born actor recalled taking dancing lessons from an early age, and later attending a "prim and proper" British school, where the headmistress refused to give her a recommendation to go on to drama school.

"She was always dismissive of me because — it wasn't that I wasn't academic. I knew what I wanted to do," explained Waddingham. "So it annoyed her that I turned my back on my academia.

“So she would purposely put everyone else in the school plays and have me understudy,” she added.

Hannah Waddingham and Jason Sudeikis in a scene from the Apple TV+ comedy "Ted Lasso."
Hannah Waddingham and Jason Sudeikis in a scene from the Apple TV+ comedy "Ted Lasso."Apple TV

When Waddingham later got a scholarship to the drama school, she walked to the headmistress's office and left the scholarship's paperwork on her desk.

Waddingham would face other obstacles, including an unsupportive teacher whose nasty remark about her appearance made Waddingham even more determined to make it big.

“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,'" Waddingham recalled.

The "Sex Education" star said the remark lit a fire under her. “I thought, ‘I will do. I will do. Come hell or high water, I will work on screen,’” she recalled.

The humiliating incident, she said, “gave me a complex for years.”

The teacher's remark was still on her mind when she accepted the 2021 Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her role as Rebecca Welton in "Ted Lasso."

"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 musical theater people, or theater people, to follow," she said.

Waddingham, who got her start on Broadway and on the London West End stage, used her speech to thank "Ted Lasso" creator Jason Sudeikis and others involved in the show, while also expressing her gratitude to her parents and other loved ones who supported her throughout her career.

"Oh, my God, I'm giving a speech at the Emmys!" she screamed in joy while at the podium.

Waddingham also used the opportunity to rally producers to hire more stage actors for their projects. “West End musical performers need to be on screen more," she said. "Please give them a chance cause we won’t let you down."