Childhood & Early Life
Zoe Wanamaker was born on May 13, 1949, in New York City, to Charlotte Holland and Sam Wanamaker. Her mother was the prominent Canadian actress, while her father was an American film director and producer. The family moved from New York to England in 1952.
Zoe studied at the King Alfred School in Hampstead and later attended the Quaker boarding school Sidoct in Somerset. She completed a pre-diploma course from Hornsey College of Art before joining the Central School of Speech and Drama.
While studying, she started performing in plays. Her early credits include roles in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ performed in University Theatre, ‘The Cherry Orchard’ performed in Stables Theatre Club, and ‘Twelfth Night’ performed in Wes Yorkshire Playhouse.
She was also seen in contemporary plays, such as ‘The Birthday Party’, ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘The Provoked Wife’, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘Tom Thumb’, ‘Kiss Me Kate’, and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.
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Zoe Wanamaker found her calling in theatre after she graduated from college. She was a key member of the elite Royal Shakespeare Company from 1976 to 1984. Under them, she performed in a diverse selection of plays and roles and received many nominations.
While she worked in the theatre, she also appeared in a variety of TV series, including ‘ITV Sunday Night Drama’ (1971), ‘Take Three Girls’ (1971), ‘Late Night Theatre (1973), ‘Between the Wars’ (1973), ‘Spy Trap’ (1973), ‘Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill’ (1974), and ‘The Confederacy of Wives’ (1975).
In 1975, she started focusing on TV roles and took up supporting roles and guest appearances. She was seen in ‘Crown Court’ (1975), ‘Village Hall’ (1975), ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1977), and played the recurring role of Berengaria of Navarre in ‘The Devil’s Crown’ (1978).
In the early 1980s, Zoe was first seen in ‘Doctor Who’ (1980) and later made sporadic appearances in ‘Strike: The Birth of Solidarity’ (1981), ‘Baal’ (1982), ‘Inside the Third Reich’ (1982), ‘Richard III’ (1983), and ‘Enemies of the State’ (1983).
In 1985, she starred as Clemmy in the TV miniseries ‘Edge of Darkness’; next year, she played the recurring role of Charlotte Titmuss in ‘Paradise Postponed’ and appeared in nine episodes.
In 1987, she was seen only in the TV movie ‘Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story’ and later appeared in an episode of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ as Margaret Smythe. Next year, she was seen in the movies ‘The Raggedy Rawney’, ‘Five Stories of an Hour’, and ‘Once in a Life Time’.
In 1989, she starred in the TV movies ‘The Dog It Was That Died’ and ‘Ball-Trap on the Cote Sauvage.’ Her only appearance in 1990 was in the TV series ‘Theatre Night’ as Emilia in the episode titled ‘Othello.’ Next year, she was seen in the miniseries ‘Prime Suspect’ and the crime mystery ‘Inspector Morse.’
1992 proved to be a productive year for Zoe as she had several big screen appearances. She started off the year with ‘Screen Two’ and ‘Screenplay’ and followed this with a recurring role as Charlotte Collard in ‘The Blackheath Poisonings’.
At the end of the year, she was cast as Tessa Piggott in the comedy series ‘Love Hurts.’ Created by Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks, Zoe starred as the lead opposite Adam Faith. She played the role for three seasons for 30 episodes from 1992 to 1994.
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In 1995, she starred as Mrs. Holroyd in the TV series ‘Performance’ and later played the role of Caroline Griveau in the TV movie ‘The English Wife’. She took a year’s break after this and returned to the big screen only in 1997.
In 1997, she starred in the movies ‘Wilde’ and ‘Amy Foster’ and followed this with appearances in TV series such as ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ and ‘Great Performances’. In 1999, she was seen in the miniseries ‘The Magical legend of the Leprechauns’ and ‘David Copperfield’.
She began the year 2000 by playing Clarice Groan in ‘Gormenghast’. She also landed the long-running role of the lead character, Susan Harper, in the comedy TV series ‘My Family’, where she appeared for 116 episodes from 2000 to 2011. This show became one of the biggest hits of her career.
In 2001, she starred as Tania Braithwait in the adaptation of ‘Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years’. In the same year, she landed her most popular role when she was cast as Madame Hooch in ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.’ The movie was an international success.
After a brief break from acting, Zoe made a comeback with ‘Five Children and It’ (2004) and later appeared in ‘Agatha Christie’s Marple’ (2005), ‘The Real Amityville Horror’ (2005), ‘A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets’ (2005), ‘Johnny and the Bomb’ (2005), and ‘Doctor Who’ (2005-06).
For the rest of the decade, Zoe focused more on theatre and was seen in fewer projects. She was a popular Broadway star at this time. Her notable credits include ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ (2007) and ‘It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’ (2010). She also voiced the Fable series of video games as Theresa.
In 2011, she starred in the popular films ‘My Week with Marilyn’ and ‘All My Sons’. In the coming few years, she starred in ‘Playhouse Presents’ (2012), ‘Wodehouse in Exile’ (2013), and ‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot’ (2013).
In 2015, she was cast as Princess Marie in the drama ‘Mr Selfridge’ and appeared in 10 episodes. She was next seen in the TV movie ‘Babs’ in 2017. She also appeared as Queen Antedia in ‘Britannia’ from 2017 to 2018.
In 2018, she played the role of Gail in the drama ‘Girlfriends’, a role she played for six episodes. She was also seen in an episode of ‘Inside No. 9’ as Paula. She played the character of Helen Jacobson in the award-winning series ‘Killing Eve’ in 2019.
Her love for theatre remains alive and she continues to appear in popular productions, such as ‘The Birthday Party’ (2018) at the Harold Pinter Theatre and ‘Two Ladies’ (2019) at the Bridge Theatre. Zoe is currently filming for the TV series ‘Worzel Gummidge’.