Shadow and Bone

Zoë plays Baghra, a stern teacher, in this major new fantasy series based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse novels. Series one and two are streaming now on Netflix.

Criminal Record

Zoë plays the fragile mother of a young detective reinvestigating an old murder case in this crime drama series currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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Interviews galore – Zoë’s thoughts on Britannia and more

1 October 2021 21:15

Having done battle with my scanner (how can it be offline if the little blinky light is blinking?!), I'm pleased to present a round-up of recent interviews.

Woman’s Weekly cover star

Here’s Zoë on the cover of Woman’s Weekly (31 August 2021 issue). The magazine describes her as ‘a poster girl for staying young at heart’. Lovely – and true!

Less than lovely was the British weather when Zoë filmed Britannia series three (which is currently available to stream via Sky and other platforms around the world) in 2020. ‘We had the worst winter ever [...] outside in the mud and rain and snow and ice,’ she tells the magazine.

But not even those harsh conditions could stop Zoe from enjoying her work on the epic historical drama and spending time with her co-stars, who include Eleanor Worthington-Cox and Julian Rhind-Tutt. As she makes clear, ‘the doing of it is always wonderful’.

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Insights about Queen Antedia in Yours

‘Zoë rules Britannia!’ declares Yours magazine (24 August – 6 September 2021 issue). Quite right too!

‘I think I’m attracted to mystical stories such as Britannia and roles that scare me a bit. To me it’s heaven, going to another world,’ Zoë explains.

Her formidable character, Queen Antedia, is never short of insults, much to the enjoyment of fans. ‘There’s more to her than her colourful language and being hell-bent on revenge, though. She has a backstory and, in this series, we get to see her more vulnerable side. Yes, she’s very angry but there’s got to be a three-dimensional person there,’ Zoë asserts.

Antedia’s character development is surely one of the key reasons why the third season is so compelling.

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Chatting about Constellations in Good Housekeeping

Zoë was interviewed for the August 2021 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine shortly before starring in the dazzling West End show Constellations with Peter Capaldi.

Her enthusiasm is clear: ‘The play is intense, it is funny and touching, it’s all you could want in a piece of work.’ She adds that she ‘was really terrified by it’ – if you saw the production, you’ll know this love story across the multiverse doesn’t shy away from complexity!

The fact Zoë rose to the challenge of performing Constellations suggests, as the magazine points out, she’s ‘inherited the same determination as her father [Sam Wanamaker], who famously spent years raising funds to build Shakespeare’s Globe in Southwark, yards from the site of the original theatre’. ‘It’s a monument to one man’s incredible belief,’ Zoë emphasises.

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Childhood TV favourites in the Guardian

Zoë has spoken to the Guardian about the kind of TV shows she enjoyed as a child – the interview is part of the newspaper’s ‘Watched with Mother’ section.

With her mum, Zoë watched the hugely popular 1950s US sitcoms I Love Lucy (starring Lucille Ball) and The Phil Silvers Show. ‘It was such a delight to watch these shows with her and hear her giggle,’ she recalls.

‘Watching them was like getting an insight into my parents’ backgrounds and into where I came from [...] I suppose it was a kind of Jewish American humour and that was what I was brought up on,’ Zoë explains.

These classic series made a big impression on her and helped to shape her career. ‘The quickness of [the actors’] wit really influenced me as a child and it meant I knew I wanted to act from a very young age’.

Zoë found echoes of her childhood TV favourites in the sitcom she herself starred in, My Family, which was the brainchild of the US writer and producer Fred Barron. In Zoe’s words, ‘the humour seemed to hark back to this type of naughty yet somehow gentle comedy’.

This is a great little interview – and it’s wonderful to see so much love for Zoë in the comments section :)

Back to 1994 for a Big Breakfast

In addition to all these recent interviews, a gem from the TV archives has turned up on YouTube. Let’s take a trip back to 1994, when Zoë was a special guest on Channel 4’s bright and breezy The Big Breakfast. Although it’s a pity the start of the interview is missing from the recording, the video is still a fantastic watch.

Looking very relaxed, she talks to Paula Yates about Love Hurts – the TV drama’s last series aired that year and saw Tessa and Frank becoming parents. (‘Are babies easy to work with?’ asks Yates. ‘No!’ jokes Zoe.)

Zoë also discusses entertaining – and shocking – theatregoers in Dead Funny, an acclaimed, darkly comic play about British attitudes towards sex and marriage. ‘We get at least a couple of people walking out in the first ten minutes of the show,’ she smiles.

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‘The great thing about it is it’s raw’ – Zoë discusses Prime Suspect at the BFI

21 September 2021 20:24

The British Film Institute in London celebrated Prime Suspect I’s 30th anniversary on 19 September. A screening of the highly acclaimed ITV series, which paved the way for other gritty, female-led detective dramas, was followed by a very special Q&A: Lynda La Plante, Zoë Wanamaker and John Bowe in Conversation. The interviewer was TV and film expert Matthew Sweet. You can see photos taken just before the event on Zimbio.

Dozens of Prime Suspect fans listened to the drama’s creator, La Plante, having a lively, entertaining chat about the show alongside two of its stars. John Bowe portrayed the original ‘prime suspect’, George Marlow, with Zoë as his partner, Moyra Henson. In charge of her first murder case, Helen Mirren’s DCI Jane Tennison suspects Marlow, an apparently ordinary man, is guilty of a series of terrible crimes. Brittle Moyra won’t hear anything said against him and tries to obstruct the police investigation at every turn.

Brilliant drama is timeless – La Plante, reflecting on Prime Suspect I, emphasised how proud she feels that ‘with very few tweaks, it could stand up today’. The mobile phones would just need to be smaller if the programme was being filmed now, joked Bowe.

Female characters inspired by real women

Although working in the US prevented Mirren from attending the Q&A, she appeared in a short, pre-recorded video, during which she spoke about Prime Suspect I as a major turning point in her career. Echoing La Plante’s sentiments about the programme, Mirren remarked that ‘it reverberates to this day’. Prime Suspect’s power lies in the fact that it’s ‘absolutely revolutionary’. It paints an authentic, uncompromising, never-seen-before portrait of a talented female detective who’s determined to succeed in the male-dominated world of 1990s police work. Zoë suggested that Prime Suspect highlights the ‘power and strength’ women possess.

La Plante was able to write incredibly accurately about the treatment of women in the police at the time and the pressure of running a murder investigation because of her willingness to ‘go to ground’ for her research. For Prime Suspect, she attended a post-mortem, became a fly-on-the-wall in a busy police incident room, spoke to the victims of crime, and interviewed prisoners. La Plante pointed out that ‘almost everything’ about Tennison was inspired by the experiences of Jackie Malton, who worked as a DCI with the Metropolitan Police and is now a police drama story consultant. La Plante knew TV executives wanted a crime drama with a female main character, so that’s what she wrote. The show’s title came to her in a flash of inspiration – ‘like manna from heaven’, she said.

Zoë also did some unusual research for the programme, as she explained during the Q&A. La Plante advised her to watch, from a discreet distance, a woman working at a department store make-up counter. Little did the store’s customers know that the woman serving them hadn’t been honest with the police about her partner’s actions. Hiding behind the rows of stockings for sale, Zoë was keen to see how this real-life Moyra behaved, how she moved, and shape her performance accordingly. Zoë found Moyra ‘very interesting’ and felt ‘very lucky’ to play her.

Key moments in Prime Suspect’s plot

Several clips from Prime Suspect I were shown during the Q&A, including the crucial scene featuring Tennison’s interview with Moyra. Up until that point, Zoë’s character hasn’t budged an inch; she’s remained fiercely loyal to Marlow. But suddenly, Moyra catches sight of the horrifying photos of the victims – photos she’d previously refused to look at. Her bolshiness vanishes. She’s rigid, her voice barely above a whisper. She tells the truth, finally, and then breaks down. As Zoë said of the show, ‘the great thing about it is it’s raw’ – and it doesn’t get rawer than that scene.

For La Plante, Marlow telling Moyra how he discovered, as a boy, that his glamourous mother was bald is another key scene. Moyra can’t help herself – she bursts out laughing at the thought of Doris Marlow’s wig being carried away on a gust of wind in front of all of her son’s friends. 'Just goes to show you the Rita Hayworth of Warrington was really Yul Brynner in disguise,' quips Moyra. For a second or two, Marlow looks at his girlfriend darkly – and at this point, La Plante noted, the audience sees ‘a glimmer’ of something potentially very unpleasant beneath his unassuming demeanour.

Working with actors from Zoë’s RSC days

Everyone agreed that when you’re cast in such an emotive drama, it helps enormously if you already know some of the other actors and have a rapport with them. Fortunately, Zoë had met Mirren and Bowe when all three were members of the Royal Shakespeare Company during the late 1970s and early 80s. Despite the distressing storyline, making Prime Suspect I was a positive experience, because she was working with people she knew and liked; Zoë had ‘a good time’.

What’s more, the show was produced by Granada Television, which she was familiar with, having appeared in a number of its other shows early in her career (including 1973 comedy-drama Lorna and Ted, which gave Zoë her first leading role on TV). She recalled that Granada was well-known for showcasing new writing. La Plante emphasised that Prime Suspect I’s director, Christopher Menaul, is amazingly talented. She felt confident her script was in safe hands.

Prime Suspect has lost none of its power

Zoë made clear that the fact La Plante had herself acted on TV for many years before writing Prime Suspect I (they both appeared in the 1988 TV version of classic play Once in a Lifetime) was helpful. It meant the writer had an innate understanding of how actors approach scripts and what they’re looking for in them.

Bowe emphasised that he’d been blown away by the script and the character of Marlow. Zoë praised the writing too, as well as the camerawork and lighting, which contributed so much to the drama’s almost unbearably tense, grim atmosphere. When she played Moyra, she was struck by how new and fresh the pioneering show was. 30 years on, Prime Suspect I remains, in Zoë’s words, ‘a great piece of work’.

Q&A photo is by @kevinknapman on Twitter

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News round-up: Donmar to stream Constellations (soon!), Zoë to appear at BFI Prime Suspect event, and more

16 September 2021 05:14

Watch Constellations online worldwide

If you’re one of the many Zoë Wanamaker and Peter Capaldi fans who were unable to travel to London for Constellations this summer, you probably fear you’ve missed out on an amazing experience. But fear not – you can still journey through the multiverse! And if you were fortunate enough to watch Constellations live, get ready to relive it!

The Donmar has announced that its revival of Nick Payne’s hit play was filmed and will be available to stream worldwide in October via the theatre’s brand new On Demand service.

The release date hasn't been confirmed yet. But what we do know is that viewers worldwide will be able to rent Constellations, in which Zoë plays a quantum physicist and Peter Capaldi a beekeeper who fall in love (or don’t – the play explores multiple versions of their relationship), for £15 and enjoy 24 hours’ access. Alternatively, rent all four productions (the other casts are: Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah; Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey; Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd) for £40 and receive extended access.

The latter option will give you the chance to compare and contrast, as you’ll see four pairs of actors’ interpretations of the same text. What’s more, audio-described and captioned versions will be available.

This fantastic news comes hot on the heels of the play’s final performance, which took place on 12 September with Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd. At the end of the night, all the actors (with the exception of Ivanno Jeremiah) appeared on stage together for the first time and received rapturous applause. See if you can spot Zoë and Peter Capaldi in the Donmar’s short video. There are some great photos from Constellations’ grand finale on Twitter and Getty Images.

BFI celebrates 30 years of Prime Suspect

Can you believe it’s now 30 years since Prime Suspect I was first broadcast? The ground-breaking, award-winning drama paved the way for gritty, female-led detective series.

Zoë gives an unforgettable performance as Moyra Henson, the tough-talking partner of George Marlow. He’s a seemingly ordinary bloke who Helen Mirren’s DCI Jane Tennison suspects has committed a series of horrific murders. She just needs to prove it, and Moyra isn’t budging an inch...

To celebrate Prime Suspect’s 30th anniversary, the British Film Institute in London will be screening the first series in full then hosting a 90-minute Q&A event this Sunday, 19 September. For the Q&A, Zoë will join the show’s trailblazing creator, Lynda La Plante, and John Bowe (who played Marlow) on stage. Interviewing them will be film and TV expert Matthew Sweet.

For details and to book tickets, visit the BFI website.

My Family is back on BBC One

From one TV favourite to another – and this one won’t give you nightmares! My Family series two has made a welcome return to BBC One, 20 years after it originally entertained UK viewers. Catch it on Tuesdays at 8:30 pm. Plus, all eleven series are still available on the iPlayer.

Fundraising campaign for Afghan women

In the light of recent events in Afghanistan, Zoë’s PA, Vanessa, has asked me to highlight an urgent fundraising campaign organised by Zoë’s friend, Baroness Helena Kennedy, who heads the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.

Baroness Kennedy’s campaign aims to raise £20,000 to support female judges, lawyers, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders and their families seeking to resettle from Afghanistan. Donations will fund food, shelter, transportation, visa costs and resettlement assistance.

At the time of writing, the campaign has just crossed the halfway mark in relation to its fundraising target. If you’d like to support it, you can donate on GoFundMe.

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Queen Antedia rules Britannia series 3 – streaming worldwide

7 September 2021 02:27

The highly anticipated third series of Britannia is now available to stream. You can watch all eight eye-popping episodes on Sky or NOW in the UK, as well as on many other streaming services worldwide. Check out the trailer for the kooky, gory historical epic above for a taste of the wild ride season three will take you on... The Financial Times sums it up in one word: ‘Genius.’

Having binged all of the new episodes in just two days, I must say that Britannia III packs a phenomenal punch. You’ll be gripped from the get-go. And you know what else is phenomenal? Zoë’s performance as Antedia, the deposed queen of the Regni tribe, who was last seen caged and being sold at auction in series two.

Antedia makes her series three debut in the second episode. I won’t give too much away in case you haven’t seen it, but she’s soon plotting to win back her freedom. Revenge is most definitely on the cards.

As Zoë explains on MemorableTV.com:

‘Antedia was a killer, at the top of her game, but she’s been betrayed in every way so she’s got a journey ahead of her. She feels like she’s been let down by the gods, and those she trusted and put her faith in. Now she’s trying to find her way back.’

Antedia’s alliance with the chosen one

The warrior queen has a trick or two to teach young Cait (who, as ancient Britain’s ‘chosen one’, often has the weight of the world on her shoulders), played brilliantly by Eleanor Worthington-Cox. Zoe says of her co-star, ‘She’s extraordinary. She was working every day, and she’s so young. Her journey from the first series to now is fascinating.’ She adds: ‘Antedia sees a lot of herself in Cait, and she’s also without a tribe, and she’s found a soulmate on another trajectory.’

Antedia and Cait are a dangerous duo, capable of pulling the wool over even the Roman invaders’ eyes. Their scenes together are my favourites in the whole season – sparking and fizzing with verve and energy. But it’s not all fun and high jinks: there’s a seemingly impossible mission to try and complete. ‘Are we all going to die? The thought had crossed my mind,’ Antedia says ominously, as you’ll see in the trailer.

Multi-layered portrayal of Queen Antedia

What’s more, season three gives the former Regni leader a great deal more character development than the previous seasons. ‘Well, there’s got to be something more to her than swearing!’ Zoë quips. ‘There’s got to be a three-dimensional person there.’

Her multi-layered portrayal of Antedia has captured the attention of plenty of season three’s viewers, as highlighted by this selection of comments on Twitter.

‘Zoe Wanamaker especially is incredible’ – @faceofboe

‘@ZoeWanamaker is just awesome’ – @Estelley77

‘@ZoeWanamaker by far one of, if not the star of the show for me!’ – @denisegregory10

Behind the scenes of Britannia III

Check out the dialogue teasers from SpoilerTV.com and see if you can guess who says, ‘Hello, pretty boy,’ and which returning character she’s talking to!

Britannia’s third season is a tremendous achievement, not least because so much of the filming took place during the pandemic and in harsh weather. For behind-the-scenes insights, take a look at the making of Britannia season three video just released by Sky.

Britannia series three on DVD

If you’d like a physical copy of the new episodes, you’ll be pleased to hear that Britannia series three will be released on Region 2 DVD, though the release date hasn’t yet been announced. I’m hoping the DVD might include an extended version of the ‘making of’ video.

As Zoë remarks in that video, ‘There’s nothing like it.’ Britannia III has a magic all of its own.

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Celebrating 19 years of ZoeWanamaker.com

30 July 2021 01:23

Waaay back in 2002, teenage me had an idea: why not create a website especially for fans of the amazing Zoë Wanamaker?

This site was launched on 30 July of that year, and thirtysomething me can’t quite believe that today is its 19th birthday. It’s older than I was when I started it!

Zoë is still being amazing (most recently, she wowed theatregoers in Constellations, while Britannia series three is soon to be released), and there’s still so much I’d like to do with ZoeWanamaker.com. So much to write, so much to design, so many photos to share...

I’m extremely grateful to still be managing the site and thankful to everyone who visits it. I'd like to give special thanks to Zoë, her PA Vanessa and my mum for their kindness and support.

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