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She's Plainly Successful

Katie Ekberg TV Times, 1992-02-08


She's Plainly Successful image #0She's Plainly Successful image #1

Out of love, but not hurting, down-to earth actress ZoŽ Wanamaker is content with her looks and her life.  But at 42 she still fears criticism from Dad.  Katie Ekberg reports.

Zoe Wanamaker clearly remembers the holiday spent in France as a child, sitting on a beach staring unhappily at her mother who was covered by a huge dress and a large hat.

'She was feeling extremely fat and I thought, I'll never do that, I don't care what size I am - I will never deprive myself of going for a swim or getting my body brown.  However ugly I feel, I won't do it!' she exclaims, in the kind of theatrical voice that seems to boom from floor to ceiling and fill every corner.

Today, ZoŽ Wanamaker, the actress, has kept to that childhood decision - her skirt is skimpy, but there's no excess fat here.  The chiffon scarf that billows around her shoulders is draped for decoration, not for the purpose of concealment.

She wears no make-up, but flawless skin belies her 42 years.  She sits, legs delicately crossed, while deftly rolling her own cigarettes.

Despite this contentment with her appearance, Zoe admits that she was not high up in the queue when the pert little noses and pouting mouths were handed out.

It's precisely that individuality which has won her praise and helped create her reputation.

The pain of growing up is accepting the fact that you are who you are - resigning yourself to the fact you will never be Jerry Hall, Isabella Rossellini or Meryl Streep.'

But showbizzy she is not.  She hates the glammy make-up sessions, and although we meet in the heart of the film industry in London's Soho, Zoe displays no affectations, not a jot of stardom.  It was the down-to-earth nature of Tessa Piggott in Love Hurts that attracted her to the role.  High-flier Tessa gives up her well-paid job to work for a charity, ends her affair with a married man and now spends her spare time trying to hold plumber [Frank Carver] (Adam Faith) at bay.

'She is a three-dimensional character,' says ZoŽ.  'She's feisty but vulnerable.  She's honest, she cries by herself.  She's not drippy - she even strips her own wallpaper.'

The daughter of actor-director Sam Wanamaker and Charlotte Holland, a New York radio star in the Forties, Zoe left America for England at the age of three when her father was blacklisted during the McCarthy Communist witch-hunt.  Sister Abby - six years older - is a speech therapist in America.  Her other sister Jessica, who is six years younger, is a London councillor turned lawyer.

'When I first started out it was quite a responsibility carrying on the Wanamaker name,' says Zoe.  'You don't want to let your parents down.  You want to emulate them, if not be better.'

She still turns to her father for advice and is in constant fear of him not liking her work.

'Praise from him is very important.  It's terrible when he hates something, it's one of the most awful... I mean...' she pauses, lost for words to describe how awful it is.

Zoe now lives on her own.  She shared her home with an actor for 12 years, but is philosophical about her solo status.  Today there's not even a cat to come home to.  'It's hard enough to find time to feed myself, let alone be responsible for anything else.  I'm not good on my own in that I can't fix the video if it goes wrong, but then I'm not saying I wish I had a man around.  That's boring.'

And children?  'I don't have any regrets about not having had children.  What's the point?  It's just something else to beat yourself up over,' she shrugs.


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