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Zoë Wanamaker

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Zoë Wanamaker
Wanamaker in 2013
Born (1949-05-13) 13 May 1949 (age 75)[1][2]
New York City, U.S.
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Alma materRoyal Central School of Speech and Drama
Years active1970–present
(m. 1994)
RelativesMarc Wanamaker (cousin)

Zoë Wanamaker CBE (born 13 May 1949) is an American-British actress who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. Wanamaker was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001 by Queen Elizabeth II. She has received numerous accolades including a Laurence Olivier Award and nominations for three BAFTA Awards, and four Tony Awards.

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).

She has acted in the films Wilde (1997), Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), and My Week with Marilyn (2011). She was twice nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress, for Prime Suspect (1991) and Love Hurts (1992–1994). She portrayed Susan Harper in the sitcom My Family (2000–2011), and appeared in the ITV dramas Agatha Christie's Poirot (2005–2013), Mr Selfridge (2015), and Girlfriends (2018).

Early life and education[edit]

Zoë Wanamaker was born in New York City on 13 May 1949,[4][5] the daughter of Canadian actress and radio performer Charlotte Holland and American actor, film director, and radio producer Sam Wanamaker (born Samuel Wattenmacker). Her father was of Ukrainian-Jewish descent, although she had a secular and non-observant upbringing. The BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, broadcast on 24 February 2009, revealed that her paternal grandfather Maurice Wanamaker (originally Manus Watmacher) was a tailor from Mykolaiv.[6]

Whilst working in the United Kingdom in 1952, Wanamaker's father found out he had been blacklisted in Hollywood. Her parents therefore decided to remain in the UK.[4] She was educated at the independent King Alfred School in Hampstead and at Sidcot School, a Quaker boarding school in Winscombe, Somerset. Zoe attended Hornsey College of Art for the Pre-Diploma Course[7] before she trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[4][8]



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[9] and a second for Sophocles' Electra in 1998.[10] 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!.[11][12]

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.[13] This was in recognition of the role played by her father in founding the new theatre. She subsequently became Honorary President of the Globe.[14]

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.[15]

Wanamaker appeared in Terence Rattigan's All On Her Own from 24 October 2015 until 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.[16] In 2016 she appeared in the world premiere production of Elegy at the Donmar Warehouse.[17]

She returned to the Broadway stage in the 2023 Sharr White memory play Pictures From Home alongside Nathan Lane and Danny Burstein. The play is adapted from photographer Larry Sultan's photo memoir of the same name.


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.[18]

Television series have included Paradise Postponed (as Charlotte Fanner-Titmuuss, 1986) and Love Hurts (1992–94) with Adam Faith. She appeared with Wendy Hiller in The Countess Alice in 1992, playing a rebellious woman searching for the truth about her past in war-torn Germany. 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. She played Madam Hooch in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001).[19] She did not reprise the role in the rest of the sequels, accusing the producers of underpaying their actors.[20]

Wanamaker portrayed Susan Harper in the BBC situation comedy My Family from 2000 to 2011.[19] 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 played Ariadne Oliver in six episodes of Agatha Christie's Poirot. In 2011, she played Paula Strasberg in Simon Curtis' My Week with Marilyn, which depicts the making of the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. In 2015, she joined the cast of Mr. Selfridge as Princess Marie, the Russian mother-in-law of Rosalie Selfridge/Bolotoff. In 2021, she played Baghra, Alina Starkov's strict teacher and knowing adviser in Shadow and Bone.


Wanamaker was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2001 New Year Honours for services to drama. She also received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia on 19 July 2012.[21]

Public advocacy[edit]

Wanamaker has been a Patron of the UK charity Tree Aid,[22] 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.[23]

She is a patron of Dignity in Dying, the Lymphoedema Support Network,[24] Youth Music Theatre UK[25] and of the Young Actors' Theatre, Islington. She is also one of the Honorary Patrons of the London children's charity Scene & Heard.[26] Wanamaker also supports Survival International's campaign to save the threatened native tribes in Brazil.[27]

In August 2014, Wanamaker was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.[28]

Wanamaker is one of nine presidents of The Young People's Trust for the Environment.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Wanamaker lived for many years with fellow Royal Shakespeare Company actor David Lyon.[30] In November 1994, she married actor/dramatist Gawn Grainger.[4] Wanamaker holds both British and American citizenship, having become a British citizen in 2000.[31]



Year Film Role Notes
1988 The Raggedy Rawney Elle
1997 Wilde Ada Leverson [32]
Swept from the sea Mary Foster [33]
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Madame Hooch [34]
2004 Five Children and It Martha [35]
2010 It's a Wonderful Afterlife Mrs. Goldman [36]
2011 My Week with Marilyn Paula Strasberg [37]


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 Carol Belle TV film
1978 BBC Play of the Month Lucille/Dorinda Danton's Death / The Beaux' Stratagem
The Devil's Crown Berengaria of Navarre 3 episodes
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 Lifetime 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 Moyra 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)
1992–1994 Love Hurts Tessa Piggot/Carver 30 episodes
1995 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
1999 The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns Mary Muldoon TV miniseries
David Copperfield Miss Jane Murdstone TV miniseries
2000 Gormenghast Clarice Groan TV Mini-Series (3 episodes)
2000–2011 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
A Waste of Shame Countess of Pembroke BBC Four film
2005–2013 Agatha Christie's Poirot Ariadne Oliver 6 feature-length episodes:
2005, 2006 Doctor Who Cassandra 2 episodes: "The End of the World" and "New Earth"
2006 Johnny and the Bomb Mrs Tachyon 2 episodes
2007 The Old Curiosity Shop Mrs Jarley TV film
2013 Wodehouse in Exile Ethel Wodehouse
2015 Mr Selfridge Princess Marie 10 episodes
2017 Babs Joan Littlewood TV film
2018 Inside No. 9 Paula Episode: "And the Winner Is..."
Girlfriends Gail Stanley 6 episodes
2018–2021 Britannia Queen Antedia Main role (10 episodes)
2019 Killing Eve Helen Jacobsen Episode: "Desperate Times"
Worzel Gummidge Lady Bloomsbury Barton Episode: "The Green Man"
2021–2023 Shadow and Bone Baghra Main role (11 episodes)
2022 The Man Who Fell to Earth Watt 2 episodes
2023 The Cleaner Lucille Episode: "The Statue"
Black Ops Celia Herrington 3 episodes
2024 Criminal Record Maureen 5 episodes

Video games[edit]

Year Video Game Role Note
2008 Fable II Theresa
2010 Fable III Theresa
2012 Fable: The Journey Theresa
2018 Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Madam Hooch


Year Play Role Location
1970 A Midsummer Night's Dream Hermia University Theatre, Manchester
Creditors Tealk
The Cherry Orchard Anya Stables Theatre Club, Manchester
1971 Pictures in a Bath of Acid Fanny Falkner West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Family Album Emily Valance
Twelfth Night Olivia
Dick Whittington Tommy the Cat Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
The Hostage Teresa
1972 The Birthday Party Lulu
When Thou Art King Lady Percy/Doll Far East Tour
Guys and Dolls Miss Adelaide University Theatre, Manchester
1973 The Provoked Wife Belinda Watford Palace Theatre
Twelfth Night Viola Tour
Jack and the Beanstalk Margery, the Baron's daughter Cambridge Arts Theatre
1974 She Stoops to Conquer Constance Neville Tour
French Without Tears Jacqueline Maingot Tour
Cabaret Sally Bowles Redgrave Theatre, Farnham
Tom Thumb Princess Huncamunca The Young Vic
Much Ado About Nothing Hero
1975 Kiss Me Kate Bianca Oxford Playhouse
The Taming of the Shrew Katherina Tour
The Beggar's Opera Mrs. Vixen/Lucy Locket Nottingham Playhouse
Jug Eva Hirst
A Streetcar Named Desire Stella Kowalski
1976 Pygmalion Eliza Doolittle
The Servant of Two Masters Smeraldina
The Devil's Disciple Essie Aldwych Theatre
Ivanov Babakina, Marfa Yegorovna
Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman Jane
1978 The Taming of the Shrew Bianca The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon
Captain Swing Gemma Beech
1979 Piaf Toine
Once in a Lifetime May Daniels Aldwych Theatre
1981 Piaf Toine Plymouth Theatre, New York City
1982 The Importance of Being Earnest Gwendoline Royal National Theatre
1983 The Time of Your Life Kitty Duval The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon
Twelfth Night Viola Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Comedy of Errors Adriana
1984 Mother Courage and her Children Kattrin Barbican Centre
1986 Loot Fay Manhattan Theatre Club
Music Box Theatre, New York City
The Bay at Nice and Wrecked Eggs Sophia/Grace Royal National Theatre
1988 Mrs Klein Paula Royal National Theatre
Apollo Theatre
1989 Othello Emilia The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Young Vic
1990 The Crucible Elizabeth Proctor Royal National Theatre
1993 The Last Yankee Patricia Hamilton The Young Vic
1994 Dead Funny Eleanor Hampstead Theatre
Vaudeville Theatre
1995 The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield Donmar Warehouse
Comedy Theatre
1996 Sylvia Sylvia Apollo Theatre
1997–1999 Electra Electra Minerva Theatre
Donmar Warehouse
McCarter Theatre, Princeton
Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City
1998 The Old Neighbourhood Jolly Duke of York's Theatre
1999 Battle Royal Queen Caroline Royal National Theatre
2001 Boston Marriage Anna Donmar Warehouse
Ambassadors Theatre
2003 His Girl Friday Hildy Johnson Royal National Theatre
2006 Awake and Sing! Bessie Belasco Theatre, New York City
2007 The Rose Tattoo Serafina del Rose Royal National Theatre
Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice
2010 All My Sons Kate Keller Apollo Theatre
2011 The Cherry Orchard Madame Ranevskaya Royal National Theatre
2013 Passion Play Eleanor Duke of York's Theatre
2014–2015 Stevie Stevie Minerva Theatre
Hampstead Theatre
2015 All On Her Own and Harlequinade Rosemary/Dame Maud Gosport Garrick Theatre
2016 Elegy Lorna Donmar Warehouse
2018 The Birthday Party Meg Harold Pinter Theatre
2019 Two Ladies Helene Bridge Theatre
2021 Constellations Marianne Vaudeville Theatre
2023 Pictures From Home Jean Studio 54, New York City

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 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.[38]

Year given is year of ceremony.

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref
1979 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Revival Once in a Lifetime Won [9]
1981 Tony Award Best Featured in a Play Piaf! Nominated [39]
1981 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Piaf! Nominated
1984 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Revival Twelfth Night Nominated [40]
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 [41]
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 [42]
1991 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role The Crucible Nominated [43]
1992 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Prime Suspect Nominated [44]
1993 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Love Hurts Nominated
1996 Olivier Award Best Actress The Glass Menagerie Nominated [45]
1998 BAFTA Film Award Best Supporting Actress Wilde Nominated
Olivier Award Best Actress Electra Won [10]
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 [46]
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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York, New York, Birth Index, 1910–1965
  2. ^ U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914–1966
  3. ^ "Zoë Wanamaker". Front Row. 2 May 2013. BBC Radio 4. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "Biography". Zoë Wanamaker Official Website. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  5. ^ Zoe Wanamaker profile Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, FilmReference.com. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  6. ^ "'Madam Hooch' rides her broomstick in from Odessa: Actress Zoë Wanamaker offers a glimpse into her family history" Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Kennaugh, Alan (10 May 1975). "No, You're Not Ugly, Zoe (from TV Times)". zoewanamaker.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  8. ^ Who's Who on Television (1982 edition).
  9. ^ a b "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1979". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 12 January 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1998". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013.
  11. ^ Buckner, Jocelyn (2015). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Stage Actors and Acting. Cambridge University Press. p. 611.
  12. ^ Wolf, Matt (2003). Sam Mendes at the Donmar: Stepping Into Freedom. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9780879109820. Archived from the original on 7 June 2018.
  13. ^ BBC Entertainment: My Family – Did You Know? Archived 12 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Shakespeare's Globe Press Release, 24 February 2012 Archived 9 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Billington, Michael (28 May 2010). "All My Sons, Apollo, London". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  16. ^ Zoë Wanamaker and John Dagleish To Appear In Harlequinade Archived 17 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, London Theatre Direct. Quoted: 27 July 2015
  17. ^ Shenton, Mark. "Casting Announcd [sic] for Donmar Warehouse Premiere of Elegy; to Include Zoë Wanamaker". Playbill. Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  18. ^ "Prime Suspect I". Zoë Wanamaker Official Website. Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  19. ^ a b Lewis, Tim (5 May 2013). "Zoë Wanamaker: 'Acting is a vicious business, it can be very humiliating'". The Observer. Archived from the original on 11 October 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  20. ^ "Zoe Wanamaker slams Potter payments". The Guardian. 12 November 2001. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  21. ^ University of East Anglia website Archived 2 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "TREE AID is a humanitarian and environmental charity working in Africa". TREE AID. Archived from the original on 14 December 2001. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  23. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Radio 4 Appeal, Tree Aid". BBC. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  24. ^ Zoë Wanamaker becomes LSN Patron[dead link]
  25. ^ "British Youth Music Theatre". britishyouthmusictheatre.org. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  26. ^ "Scene & Heard – Who We Are". sceneandheard.org. 2010. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  27. ^ "Stars line up in West End to celebrate tribal peoples". Survival International. Archived from the original on 4 July 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  28. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Archived from the original on 17 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  29. ^ YPTE: Presidents Archived 4 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Coveney, Michael (26 June 2013). "David Lyon obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  31. ^ Rees, Jasper (28 March 2007). "Why my face doesn't always fit". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 7 May 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  32. ^ Gilbert, Brian (1 May 1998), Wilde, archived from the original on 7 June 2018, retrieved 17 February 2016
  33. ^ Kidron, Beeban (23 January 1998), Amy Foster, archived from the original on 7 June 2018, retrieved 17 February 2016
  34. ^ Columbus, Chris (16 November 2001), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, archived from the original on 4 September 2016, retrieved 17 February 2016
  35. ^ Stephenson, John (15 October 2004), Five Children and It, archived from the original on 7 June 2018, retrieved 17 February 2016
  36. ^ Chadha, Gurinder (21 April 2010), It's a Wonderful Afterlife, archived from the original on 7 June 2018, retrieved 17 February 2016
  37. ^ Curtis, Simon (23 December 2011), My Week with Marilyn, archived from the original on 26 February 2015, retrieved 17 February 2016
  38. ^ "Explore the Awards | BAFTA Awards". Bafta.org. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  39. ^ "IBDB Person Awards". Ibdb.com. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  40. ^ "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1984". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013.
  41. ^ "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1985". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012.
  42. ^ "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1989/90". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011.
  43. ^ "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1991". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 2 June 2013.
  44. ^ "Explore the Awards | BAFTA Awards". Bafta.org. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  45. ^ "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1996". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014.
  46. ^ "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 2002". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013.

External links[edit]