Hannah Waddingham says that despite the Eurovision Song Contest being “ridiculously hard work”, given the chance she would host the event every year.
“It was really the most ridiculously hard work for five days, but the greatest pleasure,” says the actor and theatre star, 49, who was relatively new to live presenting at the time.
“The first thing I ever hosted was the Olivier Awards, barely two weeks before, that was literally the first time I had ever read from an autocue. And so then to move straight on to Eurovision, I felt slightly more adept.”
The London-born star – who won an Emmy for her role in hit comedy series Ted Lasso – presented alongside Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina when the annual competition was held in Liverpool in May on behalf of Ukraine, and feels the gig was the perfect match for her skillset.
“The alchemy of being comfortable on screen because of all my screen work meeting 22 years of theatre both here and on Broadway, it meant that when I was in an arena of 10,000 people per show I was totally in my element,” says Waddingham, who was a huge hit with viewers on the night.
“Coming from theatre, Eurovision is a big deal. If I can do all of that and let my daughter also see me encouraging hands across the water with people of different languages, different ethnicities, different cultures… I loved it. If I could present Eurovision every year I would.”
The multi-talented performer, who has a nine-year-old daughter, Kitty, from a previous relationship, wants to keep mixing it up career-wise: “[I want to] step back into theatre when the right thing comes along, carry on with my screen work, but then occasionally host things that I think are total magic.”
Hailed as an instant national treasure after Eurovision, Waddingham’s star has continued to soar this year.
She received the entertainer gong at the Glamour Women of the Year awards, hosted the Earthshot Prize ceremony in Singapore, and is set to star in her own musical TV special, Hannah Waddingham: Home For Christmas airing on Apple+ on November 22.
In early November, when the special was announced, she was trending on Twitter (‘It’s Hannah Waddingham’s world, we’re just living in it’ was a common refrain) and she’s less than 4,000 followers away from hitting the million mark on Instagram.
Now, she’s dangerously close to dethroning Mariah Carey as the Queen of Christmas, having been unveiled as the star of two festive ad campaigns, for yuletide tipple Baileys and high street giant Marks & Spencer.
“I am nauseatingly obsessed with Christmas and always have been,” says Waddingham, breaking into song when asked to name her favourite festive tune: “The one that springs to mind is it’s the most wonderful time of the yeeear…”
This year, she’ll be spending the “precious” holiday period with her parents: “They’re both quite elderly. My dad’s fighting fit and elderly but my mum is in a bit more of a dubious state health-wise.
“Now the mantle has been given to me to do all the food… And if they have to wait for several hours for the roast potatoes to be ready, then they’re just going to have to wait!”
Roasting spuds is not, she has learned, her forte: “I’ve had too many disastrous nightmares where they’re just not ready at all. I did make chips one year. My dad was gently appalled. He got on with it, but with a raised eyebrow.”
Quality time with family is top of her Christmas wishlist, as is keeping the Santa illusion alive for her daughter: “One of her friends said that Father Christmas wasn’t real the other day. I said, ‘You tell your friend that Mummy had Covid two years in a row on Christmas Day, so how would you have got any presents if Father Christmas didn’t bring them?'”
A fan of manifesting – visualising goals in your mind to bring them to fruition, which has gained popularity in recent years – Waddingham compares the self-help practice to prayer.
“I do firmly believe in manifestation, but I think you need to have the laser focus on it and in the same breath make it very clear that you’re grateful for what you have already,” she explains.
“I say it out loud and say thank you for what I have already. I suppose it’s my form of praying really.”
What started as a “last resort” has become a regular exercise for both career and personal aims.
“I think probably there’s an element of needing it at some point and it feeling like a last resort of wanting help, but now I like it [because] I think what you’re manifesting is what you’re really wanting in life.
“At the moment, there’s a little bit of ill health around my family so that’s the main thing, and my daughter will be moving [schools] so I need to sort out a good senior school for her.”
With the amount of showbiz success she’s had this year, the soon-to-be Queen of Christmas makes a strong case for manifestation, but it’s clear an enormous amount of hard work has gone into making her dreams a reality – and she doesn’t take anything for granted.
“It needs to have a good focus on it, you can’t endlessly ask for things,” Waddingham concludes. “It’s just in those moments when you just want to be acknowledged and heard a bit more.”
Hannah Waddingham stars in the Baileys Christmas campaign. Find out more ways to treat yourself this festive season on the Baileys website.
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