Biography

With thanks to ZoŽ and Kerrie for this biography.

ZoŽ Wanamaker was born on May 13th 1949 in New York, USA.  At the age of three, ZoŽ had to move to London with her family, because her father, the actor/director Sam Wanamaker, was blacklisted during the McCarthy witch-hunts.  Her mother, Charlotte Holland, was an actress and radio star; when they came to London she left work so she could take care of her family.  Zoe also has two sisters - Abby, the eldest, and Jessica, who is the youngest.  ZoŽ comes from a Russian-Jewish background. 

Sam Wanamaker is most well known for the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the South Bank in London.  He was passionate about building a faithful replica of The Globe, and spent nearly thirty years trying to get his project finished.  Sam was awarded a CBE in early 1993, and sadly died later that year of cancer.  Queen Elizabeth II opened the Globe in June 1997, and ZoŽ was the first person to speak on stage when she read a passage from Henry V.

ZoŽ decided she wanted to act at the age of ten, after spending a summer in Stratford with her parents.  They tried to stop her going into the acting industry, as they didn't want her to have to go through its rejection and fierce competition.  She trained as a dancer and went to art school.  She also had a very short career as a secretary, and even toyed with the idea of becoming a nun!  She finally knew she definitely wanted to act.

ZoŽ joined the Central School of Speech and Drama, and after spending three years there, she left in 1970 and went straight on to stage work.  She went from strength to strength and recently became an Associate to The National Theatre, on the South Bank in London.  She also remains a trustee of Shakespeare's Globe, at which she has recently unveiled a Blue Plaque that was awarded to her father for his efforts, and in recognition of the Globe.  The award was a People's Choice award voted for by the public, and ZoŽ accepted this on his behalf.  The Blue Plaque can be found on the site of the Globe.

She went from stage to our TV screens in many different roles, and slipped from one role to the next with no problem and so much talent.  She is now a well-known face on TV, mostly recognised for her recent role as Susan Harper in the BBC sitcom My Family, in which she plays alongside Robert Lindsay; and also for her role as Tessa Piggott in Love Hurts, in which she worked with Adam Faith in the early 1990s.  ZoŽ has more recently starred in films such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in which she played the famous Madam Hooch.

ZoŽ is married to actor/writer Gawn Grainger, with whom she previously worked in Bob Hoskins' 1988 film The Raggedy Rawney.  They married in November 1994, and she has now taken on the role of the 'wicked stepmother' to his two children.

She has been nominated for many awards and won two Best Actress Olivier awards, among others.  In 2000 she was awarded a CBE by the Queen in the New Year Honours list.  ZoŽ has done extensive work for charity, which included reporting from South Africa on Ethiopia's economic crisis in 1993, for Comic Relief.  She has also been working as Honorary Vice-President of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society for some time.

Having done over a hundred roles and performances in a career spanning over 25 years, with her talent shining through in each one, she has gone from playing a mad aunt, a twin, a Leprechaun and even a dog, every time her performance better than before.  ZoŽ is one of the best actresses of her time and puts her 'all' into every show, series and film she does.

Update from 2004

Since the last time I sat with ZoŽ to do her Biography she has done so much, itís been 7 years since the last one so here goes!!

We will start with 5 Children and It, ZoŽ played a scatty housekeeper called ĎMarthaí, and things were not quite what they seemed with her character! She starred alongside Alex Jennings in this film who also played opposite her lead role in His Girl Friday at the National Theatre. She also Ďplayedí a piece of skin called ĎCassandraí Stretched across a frame with just a face...This was in the new series of Dr Who in 2005.

ZoŽ has also taken up the role of the character ĎAriadne Oliverí in the recent Poirot episodes with David Suchet, so far 4 of these stories have been aired, there are 7 of the Poirot novels with her character in, so hereís hoping to ZoŽ doing all 7! She has also played alongside David Suchet on Stage in All My Sons playing ĎKate Kellerí at the Apollo Theatre, London in 2010.

She has also been over to New York on Broadway for 3 months in 2006 to play ĎBessieí at the Belasco Theatre in Awake and Sing. Another Theatre role was ĎSerifina Della Roseí in The Rose Tattoo and ĎBeatriceí in Much Ado About Nothing both played at the Olivier Theatre at The National in London.

ZoŽ is still very much involved with numerous Charity organisations and events, Amnesty International Ė Protect The Human Campaign in 2006, Youth Music Theatre Ė Give 5 in 2009 and she narrated for Prisoners Of Conscience in 2011 just to name a few!

On 23rd February 2009 ZoŽís episode of Who Do You Think You Are? aired on BBC1. This journey into her past took her thousands of miles from her home in the UK. She visited Washington DC to read her Fathers FBI file at the FBI Headquarters and also to Nikolaev in the Ukraine to discover her and her Familyís connections to the country.

Some big news for 2011 was that after 11 series of the sitcom My Family spanning over 10 years was sadly coming to an end. The cast filmed the last series at Teddington Studios early 2010 but didnít know it was the end! It finally came to an end at the beginning of September 2011. ZoŽís character of Susan Harper and indeed the program itself will always be remembered with a smile.

On June 30th 2011 ZoŽ was involved with ĎNT Liveí the National Theatreís production of The Cherry Orchard where she is playing ĎMadame Ranevskayaí the production was played LIVE to hundreds of cinemas around the world and was a huge success. ZoŽ finished her role in The Cherry Orchard on August 13th.

The next thing to be released for ZoŽ is a film called My Week With Marilyn where she is to play ĎPaula Strasbergí who was Marilyn Monroeís acting coach. This film is due for release late 2011.

What a lot of work to pack in to 7 years and thatís not all of it! ZoŽ just keeps giving us her all in everything she does, in every character she plays and every role she takes on.

What can we expect next?


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