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No, You're Not Ugly, Zoe

Alan Kennaugh TV Times, 1975-05-10

No, You're Not Ugly, Zoe image #0

I'm not normally stumped for words, but actress Zoe Wanamaker floored me when she said her face was ugly.  Cheeky, maybe, I suggested.  Impish sometimes, but ugly?  Never.

'Well, ugly in the context that it's an individual face.  I'm not complaining - I can never be typecast,' says Zoe.

It's certainly true that not even her best friends would say she is a raving beauty in Village Hall on Sunday.  'I'm a dowdy North country girl, simple and not very clever.'  That is how she describes her role.  Of her first lead part on television, three years ago in the play Lorna and Ted, Zoe recalled: 'I was a prim nurse, a bit boring.  But who'd believe, say, Raquel Welch in the part?'

If ugly means being one of the brightest young TV acting talents Zoe is welcome to the label.

She is the only girl among three daughters in the famous Wanamaker family to take up acting.  Zoe, who is 25, says she is 'the piggy in the middle'.  Abby, her eldest sister, is a speech therapist in America, and Jessica is at Bristol University.  Zoe claims that she chose acting because she 'freaked out as a temp', tried painting (she did a pre-diploma course at Hornsey College of Art, in London), but found it 'too much like hard work'.

'Acting was there all the time,' she says, 'and now I can't avoid it.'

But it took some strong words from her father, Sam Wanamaker, to get her going.  At drama school, Zoe had the reputation of being the girl who hid right at the back of the class.  So Sam Wanamaker pulled up his budding wallflower sharply.  'Do you think somebody's going to say, \"Ah, that little girl behind the radiator.  She's fantastic.  We'll have her\"?  If you want to be in this business you've got to do something about it.'

And she did.  She was in the stage musical version of Guys and Dolls and Cabaret, and she has rarely stopped working since, with parts ranging from Shakespeare to Dick Whittington's cat.  She was in the TV series Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill and The Way of the World and recently appeared in The Taming of the Shrew, in London - a production which is transferring to the Open Air Theatre, in Regent's Park, next month.

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