Eurovision host Hannah Waddingham branded a ‘national treasure’ ahead of Grand Final

Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham hosting the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 in Liverpool

Move over David Attenborough, the UK has a new “national treasure” after West End legend Hannah Waddingham wowed the crowds at the Eurovision semi-finals

The actress co-hosted Eurovision’s two semi-finals on Tuesday (9 May) and Thursday alongside Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian rock star Julia Sanina, winning the nation’s heart along the way.

Viewers have gushed over Waddingham’s impromptu dance moves, incredible singing voice, and language skills as she presented the singing contest at the Liverpool Arena, with the audience chanting her name after she explained the voting rules in fluent French. 

“You see, Europe, some of us Brits do bother to learn another language,” she joked.

So who is Hannah Waddingham, and what do you need to know about her ahead of the Eurovision Grand Final on Saturday (13 May)?

Who is Hannah Waddingham?

Hannah Waddingham, 48, is an Emmy award-winning British actress with an impressive career spanning film, TV, and West End and Broadway theatre. 

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Her presenting debut came at the 2023 Olivier Awards, with the Game of Thrones actress saying that hosting Eurovision was one of her childhood dreams. 

Waddingham will host the Eurovison Grand Final on Saturday (13 May) alongside Dixon, Sanina and contest legend Graham Norton, with Catherine Tate set to announce the UK jury voting results

The stage and screen star explained on the BBC’s Eurovisioncast podcast that the idea of announcing the winner “literally gives me shivers of excitement”.

“My 12-year-old self couldn’t believe that I would ever be saying [it],” she added.

What has Hannah Waddingham appeared in before?

Hannah Waddington has made waves in TV and film, but the London-born actress began her career firmly in theatre, with West End credits including Spamalot, A Little Night Music, The Wizard of Oz, and Kiss Me, Kate earning her three Olivier nominations.

The actress then found fame with roles on Game of Thrones, and Ted Lasso as well as playing Sofia Marchetti – one of Jackson’s mums – on Netflix smash Sex Education.

The former RuPaul’s Drag Race guest host has said that it was “horrifically difficult” to make the leap from theatre to TV, explaining that she had to go to the United States to really break into the industry. 

“You see the same faces constantly, I think, on British television, and that was my frustration,” she said on Kate Thornton’s White Wine Question Time podcast. 

“I had to jump over to the other side of the pond in order to get recognised, and I don’t think that’s right, personally.”

Eurovision viewers are obsessed with her enthusiasm for the contest

Hannah Waddingham has been described as a “national treasure” following her Eurovision hosting debut, with one Twitter user declaring that she has “achieved gay icon status” while on the show. 

Another Twitter user said: “Petition to rename Eurovision this year to ‘Hannah Waddingham proudly presents 2023 Eurovision, also there are some songs, but mostly Hannah Waddingham’.”

BBC presenter Nina Warhurst said on Eurovisioncast: “I think we have an overnight national treasure on our hands. Hannah Waddingham is the absolute bomb.”

She added that the co-host exudes “extraordinary warmth”, and “looks like she’s having the time of her life” on the show. 

Paul Jordan, a former communications official for Eurovision, told The Guardian: “She’s endearing herself to new audiences and I really hope we get to see more of her because she’s funny, she’s a good presenter, she can sing, she can act. There’s not really anything she can’t do.

“If her career goes to bigger and bigger things because of this, it will be thoroughly deserved, and it was an inspired choice to choose her.”

The Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final will air on BBC One on Saturday (13 May) at 8pm BST, on Peacock in the US and via the official Eurovision YouTube channel.

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