Britannia

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

Worzel Gummidge

ZoŽ plays eccentric aristocrat Lady Bloomsbury Barton in the second episode of the BBCís new adaptation of Barbara Euphan Toddís classic childrenís stories, which aired just after Christmas. It's available via the BBC iPlayer.

Shadow and Bone

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

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Hip hip hooray! ZoŽís website is 17 years old today!

30 July 2019 01:36

This website was launched exactly 17 years ago today. That means itís 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...! ZoŽís 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

Itís fantastic how ZoŽís creativity Ė her talent for bringing characters to life Ė inspires creativity among her fans, some of whom Iím 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 ZoŽ by another friend, Rachel, who's a very promising young artist. Huge thanks to Rachel for creating this detailed artwork especially to celebrate the websiteís 17th anniversary. Iím privileged to have seen some of her other drawings, and theyíre brilliant too.

Letís also celebrate this special day with one of the most beautiful, endearing interviews Iíve ever read. Youíll 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 ZoŽ 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 ĎZoŽ has become a major actressí, while she praises his Ďspecialnessí.

A sweet photo of father and daughter from ZoŽís youth, as well as a lovely portrait of them in í86, accompany the interview. You can click on the latter to see a bigger version.

Sam and ZoŽ 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 ZoŽ. He is very much involved in the plan to restore the Globe Theatre to its full Elizabethan glory. ZoŽ, 37, is the middle child, and has just been in John Mortimerís Paradise Postponed on Thames Television, and at the National Theatre in David Hareís double-hander The Bay at Nice and Wrecked Eggs. She lives in London.

Sam Wanamaker: ZoŽ 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. Sheís been brought up to all intents and purposes as an English person although, because of me and my wife, I think sheís got an American quality about her; her personality is so outgoing and unrestrained, itís 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 werenít 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 didnít have to encourage her Ė 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.

ZoŽ 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 wasnít too keen on any sort of nose-to-the-grindstone process. I would try and help her and sheíd 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 wouldnít hear a word of what I was saying. I gave up trying to help her, because she just wasnít 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, itís almost inevitable for the children to drift into it, not because theyíve got the talent, but because they have the connections.

So when she wanted to go to drama school we said no. Itís a terrible profession, itís 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, ĎI am going to be an actress, I want to go to drama school,í 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 sheís an insecure person, primarily due to the nature of our profession. Thatís despite the fact that sheís had the kind of success which is rare for a woman Ė to have been in almost continuous employment since she left drama school is an extraordinary achievement.

ZoŽ 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. Thereís something about her that you like, you instinctively like ZoŽ.

ZoŽ Wanamaker: Ever since I went to school I was aware that I was different, I had a funny name for a start, Wanamaker. ZoŽ 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 wasnít reticent or shy about it. People would say, ĎOh, I recognise you, youíre Sam Wanamaker,í and he would say, ĎYeah, thatís right.í An Englishman would be shuffling his feet and saying, ĎWell, actually, erÖí 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, ĎWhere did you get that?í because they were very different. And I would say, ĎAmerica,í 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 heíd 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 Ė I am lazy Ė and I would look out of the window and Iíd be away with the fairies, and he would try and make me come back to reality.

I tried not to resent it, but Iím 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 didnít 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 Ė 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 werenít like my father at all. My parents would try to be casual, but theyíd have to go through a grilling of some sort. My father would turn around, ĎSo what do you think?í he would say, and they would feel, ĎOh God, itís like Mastermind time.í

All children of actors have a problem because they either have to be better or as good as where theyíve come from. I didnít want to let my father down if he came to see a show. Iíd be very nervous about it because I didnít 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 doesnít bother me because Iíve finally found my own ways of doing things.

Sometimes weíve had times together where we would have a drink, and he would loosen up and talk about himself. He feels when heís 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 donít have tact because he loses his temper. We have discussions like that, and theyíre very revealing, I look forward to those.

I respect his love for me, but I want to earn it. I suppose thatís 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 Globeís Sam Wanamaker 100 campaign

Adding the interview to the website at this point feels particularly appropriate, given that 2019 marks 100 years since Sam Wanamakerís birth. To celebrate that milestone, the theatre he built, Shakespeareís Globe, has launched the Wanamaker 100 campaign, aiming to raise £100,000 in his honour (as ZoŽ explains in the video above). In the spirit of celebrating both the centenary and my websiteís anniversary, Iíve 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 Globeís team :-)

Thank you, everyone!

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

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In celebration of Sam Wanamakerís centenary

14 June 2019 21:47

Shakespeareís Globe is today celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Sam Wanamaker CBE. The theatre has been sharing insights about the life and career of ZoŽís dad, who was an accomplished actor and director, on social media. You can join the discussion and share your own memories by using the hashtag #Wanamaker100.

Yesterday, The Globeís companion theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, hosted the annual Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture, which was introduced by the Director of Education, Patrick Spottiswoode. Fittingly, the subject was Zoe's dad himself. The Deputy Chair of Shakespeareís Globe Council, Dr Diana Devlin, addressed an enthusiastic audience - including many people who had known Sam Wanamaker and are involved with The Globe - about his many achievements in theatre.

Having been a long-time friend and colleague of ZoŽís dad, Dr Devlin spoke knowledgeably about his commitment to Ďbelievable, meaningfulí performances and talent for inspiring other performers. His vision and attention to detail led to a new dawn in British theatre during the fifties.

Dr Devlin pointed out that Sam Wanamakerís desire to rebuild Shakespeareís Globe on London's south bank didnít stem solely from his awareness of the historical significance of our greatest writerís theatre. ZoŽís dad felt that the open-air performance space, supported by an indoor Jacobean-style theatre, educational work and related activities, would also have immense value as a community arts hub.

As Dr Devlin explained, Sam Wanamaker was convinced that plays performed in a recognisably Shakespearean theatre would Ďspeak powerfully and directly to a modern playgoerí. And, of course, heís been proved right.

The launch of Sam Wanamaker's first biography

ZoŽ was joined by her elder sister, Abby, at the special event. In addition to the lecture, the evening saw the launch of the first full-length, illustrated biography of its subject. Sam Wanamaker: A Global Performer has been written by Dr Devlin and is published by performing arts specialist Oberon Books.

As its author emphasised, the book aims to highlight Sam Wanamakerís work on stage and screen, in addition to celebrating his tireless struggle to rebuild Shakespeareís theatre.

That struggle is something the actor Keith Baxter remembers well. The Telegraph has today republished his poignant account of his friendship with Sam Wanamaker, written in 1996.

'It is difficult to express how much pleasure it was just to be with him,' Baxter writes. 'And no-one could be with him for a moment without being swept away by his enthusiasm, by his passionate conviction that he had been vouchsafed a task which must be completed, no matter what it cost.'

The Globe's 22nd anniversary

The centenary of Sam Wanamakerís birth comes just days after The Globe marked another milestone: its 22nd anniversary. On 12 June 1997, ZoŽ became the first person to speak on the stage. During the official opening ceremony, she performed the Prologue to Henry V in the presence of the Queen and Prince Philip, as featured in the documentary below.

The anniversary reminds me of this lovely photo of ZoŽ and her dad from 1992, which The Globe shared online a couple of years ago. Theyíre pictured in the Forest of Dean alongside one of the oak trees that would be used to build the theatre, which is nicknamed the Wooden O.

Fundraising for The Globe's future

As well as looking back over its founderís achievements and 22 years of amazing productions, Shakespeareís Globe is looking to the future. The theatre has launched the Sam Wanamaker centenary fundraising campaign, with the aim of raising £100,000 to continue the incredible work its founder began for the benefit of the millions of theatregoers it entertains and inspires.

ZoŽ appears in this short video designed to raise awareness of the campaign, celebrating her dadís achievements and thanking those who support The Globe.

If youíd like to play a part in the theatreís future, you can make a donation on Shakespeareís Globeís website.

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News round-up: ZoŽ on stage, Killing Eve UK air date, Refugee Week portrait and more

31 May 2019 02:43

Wow, it's been an incredibly busy few weeks for ZoŽ Wanamaker fans, as this huuuge news update makes clear.

ZoŽ returns to the theatre for Two Ladies

The Bridge Theatre in London has announced that ZoŽ will make her first appearance there later in the year, starring in Two Ladies. This will be the world premiere of Nancy Harrisí new play focused on the wives of heads of state. It has the intriguing tagline ĎKeep your enemies close, and your wives closer.í

The women of the title are the (fictional) First Ladies of France and the US. Politics gets personal when ZoŽís character, HťlŤne, comes face-to-face with Sophia (played by Zrinka Cviteöic). Hereís a brief summary from the theatre:

'As their husbands clash over an international crisis, the first ladies of France and America find themselves alone together in a side room.

'Friends, or enemies? When the stakes are so high, can they trust each other?

'Can they trust their husbands?'

The news that ZoŽ is returning to the stage following the success of Pinterís The Birthday Party in 2018 has been warmly received by the press and fans alike.


Two Ladies sees ZoŽ reunited with her friend Nicholas Hytner, a director sheís worked with on a number of previous plays, most recently the acclaimed and well-remembered revival of Much Ado About Nothing, just over ten years ago.

The play is due to have a limited run of around six weeks. Previews begin on 14 September, with the opening night scheduled for the 25th. Performances continue until 26 October.

If youíre a Priority Member of the Bridge Theatre, you can buy Two Ladies tickets now. Advance Members can do so from 4 June and everyone else from 5 June.

Killing Eve series two begins 8 June

Fantastic news for UK fans! As reported by the Radio Times, the eagerly awaited second series of thriller Killing Eve begins on 8 June (BBC One, 9:15pm).

Immediately afterwards, the full series will be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer. That means we donít have long to wait to enjoy Zoeís star turn in episode four, ĎDesperate Timesí, as a senior Ė and irate Ė spy boss, Helen Jacobson.

The series has already delighted viewers in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

New portrait for Refugee Week

A brilliant new portrait of ZoŽ by talented photographer Jillian Edelstein appears in You, Me and Those Who Came Before, an exhibition created for Refugee Week 2019, the UKís largest festival celebrating the contribution refugees make to society.

The photo is one of a series featuring prominent first and second-generation refugees. It appears on some of the Refugee Week leaflets, posters and postcards designed to help you promote the festival, which runs from 17-23 June, and any related events in your community.

In its preview of You, Me and Those Who Came Before, the Guardian noted that ĎZoŽ Wanamaker was three when her family came to Britain to escape McCarthyism in the US. Her father, Sam Wanamaker, went on to found Shakespeareís Globe theatre, while ZoŽ became an award-winning actorí.

The exhibition previewed at Londonís Tate Exchange towards the end of May, and there are two more chances to see it in the Capital. From 17-23 June (i.e. during Refugee Week), it can be seen in the V&A Museumís main entrance, as well as at the Southbank Centre (where the portraits will be projected onto the side of the building).

On a related note, Shakespeare's Globe and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse will host a series of special performances for Refugee Week.

Talk at the prestigious Oxford Union

Oxford University students were treated to a Q&A with ZoŽ on 29 May, when she made a welcome return to Oxford Union, the prestigious debating society.

The Union shared extracts from the conversation and photos via Twitter.

Bees for Development charity auction

ZoŽ is among dozens of public figures whoíve created bee-inspired, postcard-sized artworks for the Bees for Development charity auction. The artworks are being auctioned anonymously Ė can you guess which one is Zoeís?

Bees for Development helps impoverished families in countries such as Ethiopia and Ghana to earn a living through sustainable bee-keeping while benefitting the environment.

You have until 7:30 pm (UK time) on 12 June to place your bids. Good luck!

ZoŽ voices Prostate Cancer UK advert

Speaking poignant lines from Hamlet about the nobility of man, ZoŽ provides the voiceover for the charity Prostate Cancer UKís powerful advert.

Featuring footage of prostate cancer patients and the families of those affected, the advert premiered on 14 May and is accompanied by the social media hashtag #MenWeAreWithYou.

ĎOur main aim with this campaign is to inspire people to join with us and be a part of solving the problem Ė stopping a man dying every 45 minutes from prostate cancer,í the charity emphasises. ĎAnd not just because the disease is so devastating, but because what it can take from us Ė the value of men and their lives Ė is so great.í

Zoeís beautiful voiceover will help to ensure that the ad is one people wonít forget.

Celebrating Dame Gillian Lynne

ZoŽ and her PA, Vanessa, have drawn attention to a forthcoming celebration of the late Dame Gillian Lynneís illustrious career, To Gillie, With Love, which is due to be held on 2 July in London. Lynne worked on the RSCís Once in a Lifetime (1979), for which ZoŽ won her first Olivier award.

The event will also launch the Lynne and Land Foundation, which Lynne and her husband, Peter Land, established to enable talented young performers to achieve their potential with the help of scholarships and bursaries.

To Gillie, With Love will be held at the theatre named after the dancer, choreographer and director on Drury Lane. Tickets are available now.

Pictured with artist Philip Sutton

And finally, here's a lovely, playful photo of Zoe and her friend Philip Sutton RA. It was taken when she opened the popular artistís My Shakespeare exhibition at Dorsetís Bridport Arts Centre in March but not published online till just recently.

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Birthday wishes for ZoŽ!

13 May 2019 00:13

Sending all good wishes to the one and only ZoŽ Wanamaker Ė sheís every bit as talented, kind, witty and compassionate as you could wish an actress you admire to be.

Happy birthday, ZoŽ, and many happy returns!

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News round-up: Rosmersholmís red carpet, Killing Eve praise and Cambridge Union update

2 May 2019 21:09

On Rosmersholmís red carpet

Hereís ZoŽ and her husband, Gawn Grainger, on the red carpet today at Rosmersholmís opening night in Londonís West End. Ibsenís masterpiece, newly adapted by Duncan Macmillan, is being staged at the Duke of Yorkís Theatre and stars Tom Burke, Hayley Atwell and Giles Terera.

Rosmersholmís director is Ian Rickson, who you may remember worked with ZoŽ on the hugely successful 2018 West End revival of Pinterís The Birthday Party.

More praise for ZoŽ in Killing Eve

Entertainment website Culturess has responded enthusiastically to the introduction of quirky Helen Jacobson, Ďplayed by the always amazing Zoe Wanamakerí, in Killing Eve episode four, ĎDesperate Timesí.

The article highlights the female-centric dramaís refreshing gender dynamics, remarking that ĎHelen has a male receptionist... and anger problemsí, the latter being a trait often associated with male bosses on screen.

British newspaper The Telegraph is also keeping an eye on the BBC America show, remarking that ĎDesperate Timesí was Ďenlivened by a cameo from ZoŽ Wanamakerí.

Zoe has made a big impression on Decider, a TV and film resource: it calls her performance 'fantastic [and] immediately three-dimensionalí.

Update on ZoŽís Cambridge talk

Zoeís talk at the prestigious Cambridge Union, originally scheduled for 1 May, has been postponed.

Iíll let you know when I hear more.

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