Britannia

Sky Atlantic's epic drama about the Romans invading ancient Britain, starring Zoë as vengeful Queen Antedia, returned for a second series on 7 November. Both series are available via Sky and NOW TV.

Worzel Gummidge

Zoë plays eccentric aristocrat Lady Bloomsbury Barton in the second episode of the BBC’s new adaptation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s classic children’s stories, which aired just after Christmas. It's available via the BBC iPlayer.

Shadow and Bone

Zoë recently finished filming this major new fantasy series for Netflix, based on Leigh Bardugo’s novels. She's been cast as Baghra, a ruthless teacher. The release date hasn't yet been announced.

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Zoë to appear in BBC’s ‘charming and inventive’ Worzel Gummidge revival

19 September 2019 18:44

Last month, I mentioned on Twitter that Zoë has been cast in a TV show aimed at a family audience. I can now confirm that show is Worzel Gummidge, BBC One’s new adaptation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s classic children’s stories. The adventures of Scatterbrook Farm’s walking, talking scarecrow are billed by the BBC as ‘the TV event of the season’ with ‘a host of both accomplished and brilliant actors’.

Having filmed Worzel Gummidge earlier this summer, Zoë will appear in the second of its two magical, hour-long programmes, ‘The Green Man’. We can look forward to her portrayal of the eccentric aristocrat Lady Bloomsbury Barton, whose country fete features a scarecrow competition that Worzel (played by Mackenzie Crook, who also wrote and directed the show) sets his sights on winning.

‘The whole thing is so charming and inventive,’ remarks Zoë. ‘It’s the sort of thing I’d watch. I’m sure it will be a huge success. I know it will – it’s divine.’

The distinguished cast also includes Michael Palin and Steve Pemberton.

Worzel Gummidge airs in the UK later this year; the exact dates haven’t yet been announced, though there’s a suggestion it could be a Christmas TV treat.

Brilliant Britannia is back – on 7 November

There's more exciting TV news...

Sky recently revealed the broadcast date for Britannia II, in which Zoë will also be seen alongside Mackenzie Crook. Queen Antedia, Zoe’s fabulous, fierce clan leader, returns in the historical epic on 7 November (the exact time has not yet been confirmed).

All ten episodes of Britannia’s hotly anticipated second series will be released on that date via Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW TV.

Thanks to Janet for her help.

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Praise for Two Ladies’ ‘extraordinary’ first preview

15 September 2019 19:26

Yesterday evening, Zoë and the rest of the Two Ladies cast wowed the audience during the production's sold-out first preview at London’s Bridge Theatre. It was the first time Nancy Harris’ political-meets-personal play had been staged.

Theatregoers have praised the ‘extraordinary performance’ given by Zoë and her co-star, Zrinka Cvitešic. In short, the two leads were ‘on fire’. They’re ‘powerful women in a powerful play’ exploring the role of First Ladies, the wives of world leaders, on the international stage.

Here’s a peek at the Two Ladies set – it suggests a play grounded in reality.

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What if... #TwoLadies #foodforthought #londontheatre #instatheatre #womenbehindpowerfulmen #openingnight

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Dressed head to toe in polka dots, Zoë posed for photos with cast and crew, as well as lucky theatregoers, after the performance. The sweet pic shared by Raghad Chaar (who plays Fatima) is my favourite – two very happy ladies!

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\u2018Two Ladies\u2019 preview yesterday...excellent little punchy play. And when Zo\u00eb Wanamaker poses with a glass on your head \ud83d\ude06 . . #twoladies #keepyourenemiesclose #keepyourwivescloser #zoewanamaker #zrinkacvitesic #nancyharris #theatre #play #culture #london

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The next milestone is the press night: 25 September.

If you’d like to see the show for yourself, head to the theatre’s website for Two Ladies tickets. Performances are taking place until 26 October.

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Two Ladies' sold-out first performance is tonight!

14 September 2019 17:16

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Can\u0026#39;t wait to welcome in the first audience to see Two Ladies this evening. Let us know if you\u0026#39;re coming! . . . . . #LondonTheatre #BridgeTheatre #TheBridgeTheatre #WhatsOnLondon #FirstPreview #FirstPerformance #Audience #TwoLadies

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Zoë makes her Bridge Theatre debut tonight, starring in the sold-out, world premiere performance of Two Ladies, alongside Zrinka Cvitešic. The political and personal collide when Zoë's Hélčne and Zrinka's Sophia, who are both married to world leaders, meet in the midst of an international crisis.

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First look rehearsal images have been released for Two Ladies at The Bridge Theatre. @_bridgetheatre #Theatre #TheatreWeekly #LondonTheatre #bridgetheatre #nicholashynter #twoladies #zoewannamaker #zrinka cvite\u0161i\u0107

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Two Ladies features prominently in the Guardian's pick of this week's UK cultural events. As the newspaper emphasises, '[director] Nicholas Hytner’s production boasts two powerhouse performers in Zoë Wanamaker and Zrinka Cvitešic'.

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To find out what drew Zoë to the play, check out her recent Telegraph interview. 'They never have a say. What are they supposed to do? Just go to dinners? Look glamorous? They appear as trophy wives, essentially outsiders,' she remarks about the role of First Ladies. On the Bridge Theatre stage, at least, they will find a voice. And with the G7 summit having taken place just last month, the play's run is particularly timely. 'Two Ladies couldn't be more apposite,' says Zoë. 'It's all playing out.'

For insights into what inspired Two Ladies and how it's been brought to life in rehearsals, head to the theatre's YouTube channel. There you'll find a series of bitesized video interviews with the playwright, Nancy Harris.

Let's wish everyone involved with Two Ladies all the best - break a leg! If you're attending tonight's first preview, enjoy! If not, there's still time to book tickets for later performances.

Two Ladies will run until 26 October and is bound to be a thought-provoking theatrical experience.

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Two Ladies: rehearsal photos and playwright insights

6 September 2019 07:15

The world premiere of Two Ladies at London’s Bridge Theatre, starring Zoë and Zrinka Cvitešic, is now just over a week away. The play, which explores the relationship between the political and personal, will have its first preview on 14 September, with the opening night around a week and a half later, on the 25th.

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Thrilled to reveal the full cast of Two Ladies. Joining the previously announced Zo\u00eb Wanamaker and Zrinka Cvite\u0161i\u0107 will be Lorna Brown, Raghad Chaar and Yoli Fuller. We can\u0026#39;t wait to welcome them all to The Bridge in the coming months! . . . . . #BridgeTheatre #zoewanamaker #CastAnnouncement #Announcement #Cast #TwoLadies #NewPlay #NancyHarris #Playwright #NewWriting #LondonBridge #TowerBridge

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As these new photos show, the cast (which also includes Lorna Brown, Raghad Chaar and Yoli Fuller) are well into rehearsals, which began in mid-August.

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A Tuesday treat for you! So excited to share these shots from the Two Ladies rehearsals, taken by Helen Maybanks. The first performance is under two weeks away, who has their tickets? . . . . . #TwoLadies #NancyHarris #ZoeWanamaker #ZrinkaCvite\u0161i\u0107 #ZrinkaCvitesic #NewPlay #NewWriting #WhatsOnLondon #LondonTheatre #BridgeTheatre #TheBridgeTheatre

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First look rehearsal images have been released for Two Ladies at The Bridge Theatre. @_bridgetheatre #Theatre #TheatreWeekly #LondonTheatre #bridgetheatre #nicholashynter #twoladies #zoewannamaker #zrinka cvite\u0161i\u0107

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The Bridge has also given us a peek at Anna Fleischle’s model of her set design.

‘Keep your enemies close, and your wives closer’: that’s Two Ladies’ compelling tagline. Zoë and Zrinka Cvitešic portray Hélčne and Sophia, respectively. They’re the (fictional) First Ladies of France and the US, and they’re in the middle of an international crisis. Who can they trust? Can their husbands trust them?

Two Ladies’ writer, Nancy Harris, discusses her inspiration for the play in an insightful article published by the Guardian. Watching the real French and American First Ladies at the 2017 Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, Harris wondered, ‘what’s it like to be in such close proximity to power but not – in the direct sense at least – to have power yourself?’ As she points out, ‘the balance of world power is overwhelmingly in the hands of men’. Where does that leave the wives of world leaders? What’s their role? How much influence do they exert? Is there a personal price to pay for supporting their husbands’ political ambitions?

‘The play presents an alternative reality involving a heightened global crisis,’ Harris explains. She adds: ‘The two ladies in question are fictional characters, but admittedly share similarities with certain real-life ones. Wanamaker plays the English wife of a fictional French president, while Cvitešic plays the Croatian wife of a fictional American one. Both bring their considerable theatrical abilities and cultural backgrounds to roles that present two first ladies in a high-stakes situation.’

Two Ladies sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s been named by both the Evening Standard and Tatler (which praises ‘the renowned Zoë Wanamaker’) as one of the best shows to see in London.

Zoë will make her Bridge Theatre debut in this production. She’s worked with its director, Nicholas Hytner, very successfully before, perhaps most notably for the National Theatre’s revival of Much Ado About Nothing in 2007-8.

You can get your tickets for Two Ladies from The Bridge Theatre’s website. Performances are scheduled until 26 October, and the play runs for just under two hours. As there’s no interval, Two Ladies will probably be a pretty intense show.

Enjoy! And if you get the chance, please drop me a line or send me a tweet about what you think of it.

With thanks to Karoline for the link to the Guardian article.

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Hip hip hooray! Zoë’s website is 17 years old today!

30 July 2019 01:36

This website was launched exactly 17 years ago today. That means it’s now the same age as I was when I sat down at my desk back in 2002 and put together the first version of it...! Zoë’s many fans are certainly as enthusiastic as they were years ago, and her work (most recently a star turn in international TV hit Killing Eve) goes from strength to strength.

Special art and special words for a special day

It’s fantastic how Zoë’s creativity – her talent for bringing characters to life – inspires creativity among her fans, some of whom I’m delighted to be able to call friends. I treasure a Britannia-themed pencil case a friend, Karoline, made for me last year, while below you can see a wonderful portrait of Zoë by another friend, Rachel, who's a very promising young artist. Huge thanks to Rachel for creating this detailed artwork especially to celebrate the website’s 17th anniversary. I’m privileged to have seen some of her other drawings, and they’re brilliant too.

Let’s also celebrate this special day with one of the most beautiful, endearing interviews I’ve ever read. You’ll love it too, I guarantee. Originally published in 1986 (when she was just a little older than I am now and already tremendously successful), the interview features Zoë and her dad, Sam Wanamaker, talking warmly about each other and family life, in addition to offering candid insights about the acting industry. Sam remarks proudly that ‘Zoë has become a major actress’, while she praises his ‘specialness’.

A sweet photo of father and daughter from Zoë’s youth, as well as a lovely portrait of them in ’86, accompany the interview. You can click on the latter to see a bigger version.

Sam and Zoë Wanamaker interviewed in 1986

Actor and director Sam Wanamaker was born in Chicago and has lived in London for the past 35 years. He is married to Charlotte Holland, a former actress, and has three daughters, Abby, Jessica and Zoë. He is very much involved in the plan to restore the Globe Theatre to its full Elizabethan glory. Zoë, 37, is the middle child, and has just been in John Mortimer’s Paradise Postponed on Thames Television, and at the National Theatre in David Hare’s double-hander The Bay at Nice and Wrecked Eggs. She lives in London.

Sam Wanamaker: Zoë was about three when I brought her over here and she has no recollection as far as I know of New York, which is where she was born. She’s been brought up to all intents and purposes as an English person although, because of me and my wife, I think she’s got an American quality about her; her personality is so outgoing and unrestrained, it’s very un-English.

When she was a child, you always felt this lovely outgoing personality which was delightful. She exuded charm, she gave her affection freely and openly, and she laughed a lot and enjoyed giggling and having fun. She was always performing, dancing or skipping or singing. She could pretend very well, and you could see there was talent there, of what kind we weren’t sure, but I was concerned it might lead to her wanting to go into the theatre, and we worried about that. We sent her to dancing school and she loved to wear the tutu and dance around in it at home, dancing for you at the drop of a hat, you didn’t have to encourage her – it was this constant irrepressibility that kept bubbling. She was not a child that complained, or was difficult, or sulky.

She was the kind of child everybody adored because she was so outgoing and warm and friendly, she had an instinct for giving love or friendship, and she knew what other people needed, and was able to give it freely.

Zoë was not a good student, she was much more interested in the social aspect of school, the friends and the playing around and so forth. She wasn’t too keen on any sort of nose-to-the-grindstone process. I would try and help her and she’d always give the impression that she was paying a great deal of attention, but you could see that it was an acted concentration: she could look me right in the eye, but she wouldn’t hear a word of what I was saying. I gave up trying to help her, because she just wasn’t really interested.

Anything to do with theatre or the entertainment world she loved and adored; we took her to the theatre a lot.

Of course it was inevitable, and a growing fear, that she would want to go into the theatre, and what we were concerned about was that where you have family from the theatre, it’s almost inevitable for the children to drift into it, not because they’ve got the talent, but because they have the connections.

So when she wanted to go to drama school we said no. It’s a terrible profession, it’s soul-destroying, especially for women, it destroys your confidence, it feeds insecurities, the employment situation is appalling, the risks are so great. Finally she said, ‘I am going to be an actress, I want to go to drama school,’ and we threw up our hands and said OK. But I told her that I would not do anything to help her, that if she was going into this profession she had to make it on her own, on the basis of talent and not on the basis of nepotism. And she has proved us wrong: certainly she had the talent, certainly she did it on her own.

In her core she’s an insecure person, primarily due to the nature of our profession. That’s despite the fact that she’s had the kind of success which is rare for a woman – to have been in almost continuous employment since she left drama school is an extraordinary achievement.

Zoë has become a major actress in this country and recognised as such in America. She is an asset to have in any production because she always produces something very special and individual. There’s something about her that you like, you instinctively like Zoë.

Zoë Wanamaker: Ever since I went to school I was aware that I was different, I had a funny name for a start, Wanamaker. Zoë was a funny name too. Kids used to come back to my home, and I was slightly embarrassed because we seemed to live in a kind of luxury, our house had central heating, which was not normal in the Fifties and Sixties.

People used to stop my father in the street, and he would joke with them, he wasn’t reticent or shy about it. People would say, ‘Oh, I recognise you, you’re Sam Wanamaker,’ and he would say, ‘Yeah, that’s right.’ An Englishman would be shuffling his feet and saying, ‘Well, actually, er…’ He would be very bold and that always embarrassed me.

He would come back from America and bring clothes which I wore to school. They were always bright colours and stripes and checks and people would ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ because they were very different. And I would say, ‘America,’ and that was thought of as something quite hip. They were eccentric clothes, my father has eccentric taste.

I thought he was very impressive, and I really thought he was somebody to be in awe of, always working with interesting people and interested in art and music. There was this thing of self-education, which I think is kind of a leftover from being a first generation American. He grew up in Chicago in the ghetto area, and there are romantic stories about him having to fight his way out of school because he was a Jew, and how he’d have to protect his older brother who was not very strong, and about being knocked around a bit. I thought those things were glamorous and eccentric and outrageous, and that made him have a specialness.

He always tried to make me learn because I had the concentration of a flea. He would try and make me do my times-tables at home and he used to frighten me. I was lazy – I am lazy – and I would look out of the window and I’d be away with the fairies, and he would try and make me come back to reality.

I tried not to resent it, but I’m sure I did because I felt such a dunce and I wanted so much not to be. I would try to avoid him so I didn’t have to have these sessions with the text book out on the dinner table, being humiliated. He would end up being angry with me and I would end up in tears.

He knew I wanted to be an actress, and he resisted it quite strongly. But he had to resign himself to it in the end. By that time I had started to rebel against him. It was a resentment, a great anger, and it went on until I left home. I felt he was obstructive, although I admired him and loved him. But part of growing up is going through those stages when you view your parents firstly as providers, then as obstructors, then you resent them and dislike being treated like a child, and then gradually you start to view them as people.

With boyfriends his attitude was that nobody was ever good enough – it was always, do they measure up? All daughters look to their father as a role model, and it always seemed that I got the ones who weren’t like my father at all. My parents would try to be casual, but they’d have to go through a grilling of some sort. My father would turn around, ‘So what do you think?’ he would say, and they would feel, ‘Oh God, it’s like Mastermind time.’

All children of actors have a problem because they either have to be better or as good as where they’ve come from. I didn’t want to let my father down if he came to see a show. I’d be very nervous about it because I didn’t want to screw up, I wanted it to be right. He was part of a whole new wave of acting, and I wanted it to be as good as I could in that way. Now that doesn’t bother me because I’ve finally found my own ways of doing things.

Sometimes we’ve had times together where we would have a drink, and he would loosen up and talk about himself. He feels when he’s talking about something he really believes in, like The Globe for instance, that his sense of humour goes out of the window, which is absolutely true, it does. Also his dealings with people don’t have tact because he loses his temper. We have discussions like that, and they’re very revealing, I look forward to those.

I respect his love for me, but I want to earn it. I suppose that’s a child thing again, you have to prove yourself worthy, and I want to do that, but not as much as before when I used to get cross or upset, because it seemed I was never good enough in his eyes.

Supporting The Globe’s Sam Wanamaker 100 campaign

Adding the interview to the website at this point feels particularly appropriate, given that 2019 marks 100 years since Sam Wanamaker’s birth. To celebrate that milestone, the theatre he built, Shakespeare’s Globe, has launched the Wanamaker 100 campaign, aiming to raise Ł100,000 in his honour (as Zoë explains in the video above). In the spirit of celebrating both the centenary and my website’s anniversary, I’ve donated today. I invite you to do the same, if you can spare anything, and am sure any donations will be much appreciated by The Globe’s team :-)

Thank you, everyone!

Finally, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who visits this website and, in particular, to Zoë and her PA, Vanessa, for their encouragement and support.

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