Zoe Wanamaker

Zoe Wanamaker

Born: May 13, 1949
Age: 75
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
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Zoë Wanamaker, CBE (born 13 May 1949) is an American-born British stage, television and film actress, who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. A nine-time Olivier Award nominee, she won for Once in a Lifetime (1979) and Electra (1998). She has also received four Tony Award nominations for her work on Broadway; for Piaf (1981), Loot (1986), Electra (1999), and Awake and Sing! (2006).

Wanamaker's film appearances include Wilde (1997), Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), and My Week with Marilyn (2011), while her television roles have included starring as Tessa Piggott in the drama series Love Hurts (1992-94) and Susan Harper in the long-running sitcom My Family (2000-11). She has also appeared in the ITV dramas Agatha Christie's Poirot (2005-13) and Mr Selfridge (2015).


Early life and family

Wanamaker was born in New York City, the daughter of Canadian-born actress and radio performer Charlotte Holland, and American-born actor, film director and radio producer Sam Wanamaker, who decided not to return to the United States after being blacklisted in 1952. Her parents were Jewish, although she had a non-religious and non-observant upbringing. Her father's family was of Ukrainian extraction.

The BBC documentary Who Do You Think You Are?, broadcast on 24 February 2009, revealed that Wanamaker's paternal grandfather Maurice Wanamaker (originally Manus Watmacher) was a tailor (born 1895) in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. She was educated at the independent King Alfred School in Hampstead and at Sidcot School, a Quaker boarding school in Somerset. Zoe attended Hornsey College of Art for the Pre-Diploma Course before she trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama.



Wanamaker's career started in the theatre. From 1976 to 1984 she was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. She won an Olivier Award for her 1979 performance in Once In a Lifetime and a second for Sophocles' Electra in 1998. In 1985, she played Verdi's wife Giuseppina Strepponi in the original production of After Aida. She appeared on stage playing the part of Beatrice opposite Simon Russell Beale as Benedick in the National Theatre's production of Much Ado About Nothing. She has received Tony Award nominations for her performances in Piaf, Loot, Electra, and Awake and Sing!.

In 1997, Wanamaker was the first person to speak on the stage of the newly completed replica theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, on London's South Bank. This was in recognition of the role played by her father in founding the new theatre. She subsequently became Honorary President of the Globe.

From May to October 2010, Wanamaker appeared in Arthur Miller's All My Sons as Kate Keller at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in London.

Wanamaker appeared in Terence Rattigan's All On Her Own from 24 October 2015 till 13 January 2016 at the Garrick Theatre. The work is a one-woman play that preceded Rattigan's Harlequinade, which she also appeared in, each night as part of a never-before-seen double bill.


Starting in the early 1980s, Wanamaker began performing on screen, most notably in a number of critically acclaimed television productions, such as the BBC Television production Edge of Darkness; she was nominated for a BAFTA Award for her portrayal of the love interest of a suspected serial killer in the first instalment of the Granada series Prime Suspect.

Television series have included Paradise Postponed (as Charlotte Fanner-Titmuss, 1986) and Love Hurts (1992-94) with Adam Faith. She appeared with Wendy Hiller in the The Countess Alice in 1993, playing a rebellious woman searching for the truth about her past in war-torn Germany.

She played Madam Hooch in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

She played Clarice, one of the dim-witted twin sisters of Lord Groan in Gormenghast (2000), a BBC television adaptation of Mervyn Peake's trilogy.

Wanamaker portrayed Susan Harper in the BBC situation comedy My Family from 2000 to 2011.

She voiced a CGI character named Lady Cassandra in the Doctor Who episode "The End of the World" (2005), and reprised the role (also appearing in the flesh this time) in the episode "New Earth" (2006).

Wanamaker lent her voice to the 2008 Xbox 360 game Fable II as the blind Seeress Theresa, who guides the playing character throughout the game. She returned to voice Theresa again in Fable III in 2010, and again in 2012 for Fable: The Journey.

She has played Ariadne Oliver in several episodes of Agatha Christie's Poirot.

Wanamaker was in the Australian Film "We of the Outback" (2013) where she played the role of Sheila Williams, the wife of Australian Bush Legend R M Williams, (played by Michael Markidis). The film won many AFI awards with Wanamaker being awarded the Best Actress title and Markidis Best Actor.

In 2015, she joined the cast of Mr. Selfridge as Princess Marie, the Russian mother-in-law of Rosalie Selfridge/Bolotoff.


Zoë Wanamaker holds both British and American citizenship. She became a British citizen in 2000.


Wanamaker was appointed a CBE in the 2001 Queen's New Years Honours List for her services to drama. She also received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia on 19 July 2012.

Public advocacy

Wanamaker has been a Patron of the UK charity Tree Aid, since 1997. Tree Aid enables communities in Africa's drylands to fight poverty and become self-reliant, while improving the environment. In 2006 Wanamaker recorded a successful Radio 4 appeal for the charity.

She is a patron of Dignity in Dying, the Lymphoedema Support Network, Youth Music Theatre: UK and of the Young Actors' Theatre, Islington. She is also one of the Honorary Patrons of the London children's charity Scene & Heard. Wanamaker also supports Survival International's campaign to save the threatened native tribes in Brazil.

In August 2014, Wanamaker was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.

Wanamaker is one of nine presidents of The Young People's Trust for the Environment.

Personal life

Wanamaker lived for many years with fellow Royal Shakespeare Company actor David Lyon. In November 1994, she married actor/dramatist Gawn Grainger.

Acting credits


Year Film Role Notes
1988 The Raggedy Rawney Elle
1997 Wilde Ada Leverson
Amy Foster Mary Foster
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Madam Hooch
2004 Five Children and It Martha
2010 It's a Wonderful Afterlife Mrs. Goldman
2011 My Week with Marilyn Paula Strasberg


Year Tv Series Role Notes
1971 ITV Sunday Night Drama Sally Episode Turn of the Year: Sally for the Keeps
Take Three Girls Jackie
1973 Late Night Theatre Alice Episode The Eagle has Landed
Between the Wars Ada Abbott Episode The Silver Mask
ITV Sunday Night Theatre Lorna Green Episode Lorna and Ted
Spy Trap Muriel Episode Sale of Work
1974 Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill Pearl Craigie TV Miniseries (1 episode) A Perfect Darling
1975 The Confederacy of Wives Corinna TV film
Village Hall Shirley Chatsfield Episode Miss Health and Beauty
Crown Court Joan Carmichael 1 episode
1977 A Christmas Movie Belle TV film
1978 BBC Play of the Month Lucille/Dorinda Danton's / Death the Beaux Strategem
The Devil's Crown Berengaria of Navarre 3 episodes
1980 Doctor Who Villager Episode: State of Decay: Part Two
1981 Strike: The Birth of Solidarity Aline Pienkowska TV film
1982 Baal Sophie
Inside the Third Reich Annemarie Kempf
1983 Richard III Lady Anne
Enemies of the State Zdena Tomin
1985 Edge of Darkness Clemmy TV Miniseries (3 episodes)
1986 Paradise Postponed Charlie Fanner TV Mini-series (8 episodes)
1987 Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story Jean Kennerly TV film
Tales of The Unexpected Margaret Smythe 1 episode Skeleton in the Cupboard
1988 Once in a Life Time May Daniels TV film
1989 The Dog It was That Died Blidebeck
Ball-Trap on the Cote Sauvage Sarah Marriot
1990 Theatre Night Emilia Episode Othello
1991 Inspector Morse Emma Pickford Episode Fat Chance
Prime Suspect Morya Henson TV Miniseries (2 episodes)
1992 Screen Two: Memento Mori Olive Mannering TV film
Screenplay: The Countess Alice Connie
Shakespeare: The Animated Tales Lady Macbeth Episode Macbeth
The Blackheath Poisonings Charlotte Collard TV Miniseries (3 episodes)
1992-94 Love Hurts Tessa Piggot/Tessa Carver 30 episodes
1995 Prime Suspect: The Scent of Darkness Morya Henson TV film
Performance Mrs Holroyd Episode The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd
The English Wife Carolina Griveau TV film
1997 A Dance to the Music of Time Audrey Mclintick TV mini-series (2 episodes)
Great Performances Prologue/Herself Episode Henry V at Shakespeare's Globe
Creatures Fantastic Narrator 1 episode
1998 Normal Ormal: A Very Political Turtle Narrator TV film
1999 The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns Mary Muldoon
David Copperfield TV miniseries
2000 Gormenghast Clarice Groan TV Mini-Series (3 episodes)
2000-11 My Family Susan Harper 114 episodes
2001 Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years Tania Braithwaite 6 episodes
2005 Agatha Christie's Marple Letitia Blacklock Episode A Murder is Announced
The Real Maityville Horror Narrator Documentary
A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets Countess of Pembroke TV film
2005-13 Agatha Christie's Poirot Ariadne Oliver 6 feature-length episodes:
  • Cards on the Table (2005)
  • Mrs McGinty's Dead (2008)
  • Third Girl (2008)
  • Hallowe'en Party (2010)
  • Elephants Can Remember (2013)
  • Dead Man's Folly (2013)
2006 Johnny and the Bomb Mrs Tachyon 2 episodes Deha Viidii / Mrs. Tachyon and the Bags of Time
2005, 2006 Doctor Who Cassandra 2 episodes: "The End of the World" and "New Earth"
2007 The Old Curiosity Shop Mrs Jarley TV film
2013 Wodehouse in Exile Ethel Wodehouse
2015 Mr Selfridge Princess Marie 10 episodes

Video Games

Year Video Game Role Note
2008 Fable II Theresa
2010 Fable III Theresa
2012 Fable: the Journey Theresa


Year Play Role Writer Location Notes
1970 A Midsummer Night's Dream Hermia William Shakespeare University Theatre, Manchester
Creditors Tealk August Strindberg
The Cherry Orchard Anya Anton Chekhov
1971 Pictures in a Bath of Acid Colin Wilson Fanny Falkner
Family Album Emily Valance Noel Coward
Twelfth Night Olivia, a co untess William Shakespeare West Yorkshire Playhouse
Dick Whittington Tommy the Cat Fred Locke
The Hostage Teresa Brendan Behan Royal Lyceum Theatre
1972 The Birthday Party LuLu Harold Pinter
When Thou Art King Lady Percy/Doll Tearsheet John Barton
Guys and Dolls Miss Adelaide Damon Runyan University Theatre Manchester
1973 The Provoked Wife Bellinda, The Brute's nieve John Vangrugh Watford Palace Theatre
Twelfth Night Viola William Shakespeare Multiple venues
Jack and the Beanstalk Margery, the Baron`s daughter John Moffatt Cambridge Arts Theatre
1974 She Stoops to Conquer Constance Neville, Kate's Cousin Oliver Goldsmith Various places
French Without Tears Jacqueline Maingot Therence Rattigan Various places
Cabaret Sally Bowles Jan van Druten Redgrave Theatre, Farnham
Tom Thumb Princess Huncamunca Henry Fielding The Young Vic, London
Much Ado About Nothing hero, Leonato's daughter William Shakespear
1975 Kiss Me Kate Lois Lane/Bianca Cole Porter Oxford PlayHouse
The Vegetable; or, From President to Postman Doris F. Scott Fitzgerald various places
The Taming of the Shrew Katherina William Shakespeare
The Beggar's Opera Mrs. Vixen/Lucy Lockit John gay Nottingham Playhouse
Jug eva Hirst, her daughter Henry Livings
A Streetcar Named Desire Stella Kowalski Tennessee Williams
1976 Pygmalion Eliza Doolittle George Bernard Shaw
The Servant of Two Masters Smeraldina Carlo Goldini
Trumpets and Drums Victoria Balance Bertolt Brecht, Aldwych Theatre
The Devil's Advocate Essie, Mrs Dudgeon's illegitimate niece
Ivanov Babakina, Marfa Yegorovna, a young widow Anton Chekhov,
Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman Jane, daughter to Farmer Gammon John O'Keeffe
1978 The Taming of the Shrew Bianca, the Prize, younger daughter of Baptista William Shakespeare The Other Place, Stratford-Upon Avon
Captain Swing Gemma Beech Peter Whelan
1979 Piaf Toin Pam Gems
Once in a Lifetime May Daniels Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman Aldwych Theatre, London
1985 After Aida Giuseppina Strepponi Julian Mitchell Taliesin Theatre, Swansea

Awards and nominations

  • For her stage work, Wanamaker has been nominated four times for the United States' most prestigious theatre award the Tony and nine times for the most prestigious British theatre award the Olivier, winning two.
  • For her screen work, Wanamaker has received three BAFTA nominations.

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1979 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Revival Once in a Lifetime Won
1981 Tony Award Best Featured in a Play Piaf! Nominated
1981 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Piaf! Nominated
1984 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Revival Twelfth Night Nominated
Olivier Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role The Time of Your Life Nominated
1985 Olivier Award Best Performance in a Supporting Role Mother Courage Nominated
1986 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Play Loot Nominated
1986 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Loot Nominated
1989/90 Olivier Award Best Performance in a Supporting Role Othello Nominated
1991 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role The Crucible Nominated
1992 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Prime Suspect Nominated
1993 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Love Hurts Nominated
1996 Olivier Award Best Actress The Glass Menagerie Nominated
1998 BAFTA Film Award Best Supporting Actress Wilde Nominated
Olivier Award Best Actress Electra Won
1999 Tony Award Best Actress in a Play Electra Nominated
1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play Electra Nominated
2002 Olivier Award Best Actress Boston Marriage Nominated
2006 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Play Awake and Sing! Nominated
  • In 2006, Wanamaker and the rest of the cast of Awake and Sing! won a special Drama Desk award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance.

Zoe Wanamaker supports the following charitable cause: Cancer.

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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