'I am very happy to make this website, designed by Liz, official.'
ZoŽ Wanamaker CBE
My name is Liz, and I manage the website.  For details of when and why it was created, please see the section about this website.
ZoŽ has an official Twitter account that she runs with her PA, Vanessa.  Do feel free to say hello!

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse:
You can donate to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and find out more about this project to recreate an indoor Jacobean theatre, on the Shakespeare's Globe website.  ZoŽ, who is Honorary President of the Globe, talks about the history and significance of the project in a video by the theatre. 

Current and upcoming projects:
  • Stevie (Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva venue; 24 April to 24 May): ZoŽ plays poet Stevie Smith in this revival of Hugh Whitemore's biographical play.
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV1; broadcast dates TBA): ZoŽ plays a Russian princess, Marie de Bolotoff, in the third series of this lavish costume drama, inspired by the founder of Selfridges department store.

Guestbook - To sign the guestbook, please click the picture below.  Your comments are much appreciated.

Welcome to the official website for Zoë Wanamaker!

ZoŽ on cover of Time and Leisure

9 December 2013 23:34

ZoŽ appears on the cover of this month's Time & Leisure lifestyle magazine (specifically, the edition covering Clapham, Battersea and Fulham), in a photo taken at Shakespeare's Globe's Gala Dinner by the very talented Julia Boggio Studios.

The magazine includes a detailed article about Shakespeare's Globe and new, indoor theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

As ZoŽ explains in the article, 'Some of Shakespeareís plays were written for an indoor theatre, and to discover that and how this works will change how an actor approaches it.'


ZoŽ in conversation at JW3: 'You have to keep going forward all the time'

8 December 2013 19:35

Londonís new Jewish community centre, JW3, hosted a lively discussion on Thursday evening, when ZoŽ was interviewed by her friend, the TV and radio presenter Jeni Barnett.  Around two hundred people came to this ĎOut of the Boxí event, in order to hear ZoŽ talk about her life, career and what being Jewish means to her.

As Jeni explained at the beginning of the discussion, she and ZoŽ were born only weeks apart in 1949, and have both worked extensively in the arts and media.  They have particularly fond memories of acting together in Omnibus documentary 'The Story of Pantomime' (1976), during which they learned the secrets of comic timing, alongside Bob Hoskins, Duncan Faber and others. 

Jeniís first question for ZoŽ, who has worked as an actress for more than forty years, was characteristically forthright: what are ZoŽís regrets?

ZoŽ made clear that she believes it is important not to harbour regrets, because they will only hold you back in life.  'You have to keep going forward all the time', and 'you have to accept who you are,' she emphasised.  If ZoŽ regrets anything, it is the fact 'that I didn't accept who I was earlier'.  In addition, ZoŽ commented that she has learned the hard way that Ďirony does not work in printí, and so is now particularly mindful of this during interviews.

Jeni pointed out that ZoŽ, as the daughter of the famous actor and director Sam Wanamaker, was 'born into a name and profession'.  Her background, however, has not shielded her from the unpleasant aspects of the acting industry.  ZoŽ emphasised that, at times, the life of an actor is filled with 'crippling' rejection; sometimes the industry is 'not a kind world' to inhabit.

Because ZoŽ's parents knew how brutal the acting profession could be, they encouraged their daughter to 'try other things first'.  As ZoŽ explained, this included directing her creative energies towards an alternative pursuit, by studying at Hornsey College of Art.  Perhaps the most valuable lesson she learned there was how 'to draw with one line rather than a hundred'. 

Although ZoŽ enjoyed studying at Hornsey, she realised that acting was her real passion - training to be an actor felt like her 'vocation'.  So that she would have another skill to fall back on, during periods when acting work was not forthcoming, Zoe enrolled on a speed typing course.  Although its slogan suggested that anyone who completed the course could 'get a good job in three months', ZoŽ had a very different experience, perhaps partly as a result of her dyslexia.  After six months of study, she was still learning to speed-type and not enjoying the process.

The course was followed by a spell as Ďa Girl Friday in a casting directorís officeí, where ZoŽ became familiar with the harsh realities of the acting industry.  This experience, she noted, Ďnearly put me offí becoming an actor altogether.

Fortunately, ZoŽ remained determined to act, and earned a place at the Central School of Speech & Drama towards the end of the Sixties.  When she left drama school, her father recommended that she hone her craft in repertory theatre.  In ZoŽ's words, repertory is where people 'get their grounding as actors', because they 'learn by doing' a wide range of plays in a wide range of venues.  For example, ZoŽ remembers performing The Cherry Orchard in Edinburgh 'with some fantastic actors', such as Antonia Pemberton and Penelope Wilton, as part of a 1971 production directed by Richard Eyre.

As ZoŽ embarked on her professional acting career, Sam Wanamakerís work to reconstruct the Globe Theatre in London was well underway.  ZoŽ remarked that her father, on his first visit to the city in the 1940s, 'could not understand why there was nothing there' to celebrate the place in which Shakespeare's plays were originally performed.  As a result, Sam had resolved to rebuild the Globe, which now stands on the South Bank and has very recently been joined by an indoor theatre, named the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

ZoŽ commented that she has never been as outgoing as her father.  'It just wasn't in me to do that,' she said.  ZoŽ remembers being approached, years ago, in an Edinburgh pub by an aggressive man who wanted to direct his anger at Sam Wanamaker, and she 'couldnít take that on'.

While ZoŽ may not be an extrovert, 'there is something very centred' about her, Jeni observed.  This is reflected in ZoŽ's world view; like her parents, ZoŽ believes in Ďa multi-cultural, multi-faithí society.

ZoŽ finds that being in the public eye can be challenging, because she is not particularly confident.  For example, she noted that she 'didnít feel articulate enough' to become a personality in the media.  'Will you now accept that you are a brilliant actor?' Jeni enquired, to cheers from the audience.  'I probably don't believe it,' ZoŽ replied.  'As women, I think it's very hard to have that self-belief,' she added.  For example, ZoŽ commented that when she saw a clip of herself in The Cherry Orchard (2011), during the National Theatreís 50th anniversary celebrations, she immediately focused on aspects of her performance that she didn't particularly like. 

When pressed, ZoŽ remarked that 'I do believe I have something', and emphasised that she greatly enjoys acting.  When playing a character, she strives for what she describes as the 'hovercraft moment', at which point 'you are it and it is you'.  When asked by Jeni if she views acting as 'a service' to other people, ZoŽ agreed that she does, to some extent.  'Youíre passing on storytelling and great writing' to audiences, ZoŽ explained, as if you are 'a cog' in a great theatrical machine.  'I love going to the theatre', because 'you just become so involved' in the action.  She cites the National Theatreís recent production of Othello, starring Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear, as a particularly captivating show. 

In 1959, at Stratford, ZoŽ's father played Iago alongside Paul Robeson's Othello, in another acclaimed production of Shakespeare's tragedy.  'It was a big year for me', ZoŽ recalled, because it marked a 'turning point in my life'.  From that point onwards, ZoŽ was determined to become an actress.

Another turning point came several years ago, when ZoŽ explored her family history for the documentary series Who Do You Think You Are.  Jeni wondered if the process of making the programme had changed ZoŽ.  After thinking carefully, ZoŽ agreed that the 'very visceral' experience of exploring her cultural and religious background 'did change me'.  In particular, realising how many Jewish people had fled from the pogroms and made the extremely difficult journey to the US, in order to make new lives for themselves, had a 'powerful' effect on her.  ZoŽ praised the strong sense of self-improvement and integrity that is evident in many people in the US.

Audience members posed questions about a diverse range of topics.  When asked what part she would most like to play, ZoŽ explained that she 'would love to have played Juliet'.  Who is her favourite leading man?  'All of them; they've all been lovely.'  Adam Faith, for example, ZoŽ's co-star in the enormously successful drama Love Hurts (1992-4), 'was a charmer' and 'great' to work alongside.  Similarly, ZoŽ cannot choose just one favourite actress, because she admires so many, including Maggie Smith, who she describes as a 'consummate' performer, as well as Judi Dench, Lesley Manville, Harriet Walter and others.

A particularly memorable question came from the audience member who asked ZoŽ which of her TV or film characters she would most like to play on stage.  ZoŽ chose Sophie from Baal (1982), a disturbing drama with a 'really good director', Alan Clarke.  David Bowie played the title role in that TV production, and ZoŽ remarked that 'we got on very well'.

ZoŽ's backstage rituals include completing physical and vocal warm-ups.  'I usually get to the theatre at least two hours before a performance', in order to have plenty of time to prepare for it.  Similarly, when filming, ZoŽ likes to exercise, perhaps with a yoga routine, before going into make-up.  Jeni encouraged ZoŽ to share some of her vocal warm-up techniques with the audience, but ZoŽ explained that it is a 'private' process.

When Zoe is relaxing, she enjoys Belvedere Vodka Martinis.  She commented that she was introduced to them by her husband, Gawn Grainger, and they are a great way to unwind in the evenings.

The mood of the discussion at JW3 can perhaps best be summed up by the audience member who commented, as the event was drawing to a close, that ZoŽ's work has 'given a lot of people a lot of pleasure'.

I'm sure, like me, you can't wait to see what ZoŽ does next!


Win ZoŽ's coat and help Age UK!

28 November 2013 23:07

ZoŽ has donated this lovely coat to Age UK, which is currently auctioning it on eBay in order to raise funds to help older people stay well and warm in the winter. 

Age UK's Donate a Coat charity auctions are part of the Spread the Warmth campaign, which aims to support older people in the cold winter months.  Age UK estimates that 1.7 million older people in the UK are unable to afford to heat their homes, and sadly as many as 24,000 could die from the cold this winter.

If you would like to support Age UK's campaign and be in with the chance of owning Zoe's coat, you can bid on the auction via eBay until 8 December.

Good luck if you decide to bid!


More photos from Shakespeare's Globe Gala Dinner

28 November 2013 22:38

More photos from the Shakespeare's Globe Gala Dinner, which was held last month to raise funds for the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, have been released.  They have been published in lifestyle magazine Time & Leisure and include an unusual picture of ZoŽ surrounded by models of decapitated heads and a stuffed dog - props from Shakespeare's Globe productions!

The photos are accompanied by a lovely article about ZoŽ's father's vision for the Playhouse, a recreation of an indoor Jacobean theatre.  As ZoŽ explains in the article, 'Some of Shakespeareís plays were written for an indoor theatre, and to discover that and how this works will change how an actor approaches it.'

The first season of plays at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse begins in January 2014.  To book tickets, find out more or donate to the Playhouse, please visit the Shakespeare's Globe website.


ZoŽ at No Man's Land opening night on Broadway

25 November 2013 00:40

Yesterday ZoŽ attended the opening night of No Man's Land, starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, at the Cort Theatre in New York.  You can see a photo of her at the event on Getty Images.

During the early 1980s Zoe appeared in Piaf on Broadway when Ian McKellen was performing Amadeus there.  McKellen's Amadeus co-star, Tim Curry, later recalled a funny story about that period. 

As Curry explained, he had experienced 'a Damascus moment when Ian and I spent New Year's Eve with Jane Lapotaire and ZoŽ Wanamaker, who were doing Piaf next door.  I found myself defending Ronald Reagan and I thought, "You've been here too long."'


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