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Zoë Wanamaker CBE (born 13 May 1949) is a British-American actor. She has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company; in films, including the Harry Potter series; and in a great number of television productions, including a long-time role as Susan Harper in the sitcom My Family.

Early life and family

Wanamaker was born in New York City, the daughter of Canadian-born actress and radio performer Charlotte Holland (died 1997), and American-born actor, film director, and radio producer Sam Wanamaker, who decided not to return to the United States after being blacklisted in 1952.[1]

Wanamaker's parents were Jewish, though she was raised without religion.[2] Her family originated in Ukraine.[3] The BBC documentary Who Do You Think You Are? broadcast on 24 February 2009, revealed that Wanamaker's paternal grandfather Maurice Wanamaker (originally Manus Watmacher) was a tailor (born 1895) in Nikolaev in what is now Ukraine.

Wanamaker was educated at the independent King Alfred School in Hampstead, London and at Sidcot School, a Quaker boarding school in Somerset. She trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[4]

In November 1994, Wanamaker married the actor and dramatist Gawn Grainger.



Wanamaker's career got started in the theatre. From 1976 to 1984 she was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. She won an Olivier Award in 1979, for her performance in Once In a Lifetime. Her stage performance in Sophocles' Electra, for which she won another Olivier Award, was widely acclaimed. 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. Each of her appearances on Broadway has led to a nomination for a Tony award, including, in 2008, her performance in Awake and Sing!.

Since 19th May 2010, Wanamaker has appeared in Arthur Miller's play All My Sons, portraying the role of Kate Keller at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in London.[5]


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.

She played Madame Hooch in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Successful television series have included Love Hurts (1992–94) with Adam Faith.

She played Clarice, one of the dimwitted twin sisters of Lord Groan in Gormenghast (2000), a BBC television adaptation of Mervyn Peake's trilogy.

Wanamaker portrayed Susan Harper in UK television sitcom My Family since 2000.

Wanamaker 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".


Wanamaker holds both American and British nationalities, having become a British citizen in 2000, specifically so that she could receive a CBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace rather than an honorary decoration from the British Foreign Secretary.[6]

Charity Work

Zoe has been a Patron of the UK charity Tree Aid,[7] 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.

She is a Patron of Dignity in Dying, The Lymphoedema Support Network,[8] Youth Music Theatre: UK and of the Young Actors Theatre, Islington. She is also one of the Honorary Patrons of the London children's charity Scene & Heard.[9]


  • Between the Wars (1973) (TV)
  • Spy Trap (1973) (TV)
  • Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974) (TV)
  • The Confederacy of Wives (1975) (TV)
  • Village Hall (1975) (TV)
  • Crown Court (1975) (TV)
  • A Christmas Carol (1977) (TV)
  • BBC Play of the Month (1978) (TV)
  • The Devil's Crown (1978) (TV)
  • Doctor Who (1980) (TV)
  • Strike: The Birth of Solidarity (1981) (TV)
  • Baal (1982) (TV)
  • Inside the Third Reich (1982) (TV)
  • The Tragedy of Richard III (1983) (TV)
  • Edge of Darkness (1985) (TV)
  • Paradise Postponed (1985) (TV)
  • Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story (1987) (TV)
  • Tales of the Unexpected (1987) (TV)
  • The Raggedy Rawney (1988) (TV)
  • The Dog It Was That Died (1989) (TV film)
  • Ball-Trap on the Cote Sauvage (1989) (TV)
  • Othello (1990) (TV)
  • Theatre Night (1990) (TV)
  • Inspector Morse (1991) (TV)
  • Prime Suspect (1991) (TV)
  • The Blackheath Poisonings (1992) (TV)
  • Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (1992) (TV)
  • Memento Mori (1992) (TV)
  • The Countess Alice (1992) (TV)
  • Love Hurts (1992–94) (TV)
  • Performance (1995) (TV)
  • The English Wife (1995) (TV)
  • Wilde (1997)
  • Swept from the Sea (1997)
  • A Dance to the Music of Time (1997)
  • Creatures Fantastic (1997)
  • The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (1998)
  • Norman Ormal: A Very Political Turtle (1998) (TV)
  • David Copperfield (1999) (TV)
  • Gormenghast (2000) (TV)
  • My Family (2000–present) (TV)
  • Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years (2001) (TV)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
  • The Dark (2001) (animation, short)
  • Five Children and It (2004)
  • Britain's Best Sitcom (2004) (TV) (narrator)
  • Marple: A Murder is Announced (2005) (TV)
  • Doctor Who: "The End of the World" (2005) and "New Earth" (2006)
  • Agatha Christie's Poirot Cards on the Table (2005), Mrs McGinty's Dead (2008), Third Girl (2008) and Hallowe'en Party (2010) (TV)
  • A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets (2005) (TV)
  • Johnny and the Bomb (2006)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (2007) (TV)
  • Fable 2 (2008) (video game)
  • It's a Wonderful Afterlife (2010)
  • Fable 3 (2010) (video game)

On the Stage

  • The Devil's Disciple, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976
  • Wild Oats; or, The Strolling Gentleman, Royal Shakespeare Company,1976
  • Ivanov, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, London, 1976
  • The Taming of the Shrew, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978
  • Captain Swing, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978
  • Piaf, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978
  • Mary Daniels, Once in a Lifetime, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1979
  • (Broadway debut) Toine, Piaf, Plymouth Theatre, 1981
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Royal National Theatre, London, England, 1982
  • The Time of Your Life, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1983
  • Twelfth Night, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1983
  • Comedy of Errors, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1983
  • Mother Courage, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1984
  • Wrecked Eggs, Royal National Theatre, 1986
  • The Bay at Nice, Royal National Theatre, 1986
  • Fay, Loot, Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I, then Music Box Theatre,both New York City, 1986
  • Mrs. Klein, Royal National Theatre, London, 1988, then Apollo Theatre, London, 1989
  • Othello, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1989
  • The Crucible, Royal National Theatre, 1990
  • The Last Yankee, Young Vic Theatre, London, then New York City production, 1993
  • Dead Funny, New York City, 1994
  • The Glass Menagerie, Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London, then ComedyTheatre, London, 1995
  • Sylvia, Apollo Theatre, 1996
  • The Old Neighborhood, Royal Court Theatre, London, 1997
  • Title role, Electra, Donmar Warehouse Theatre, 1997, then McCarterTheatre, Princeton, NJ, then Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City, 1998–1999
  • Battle Royal, National Theatre, London, 1999
  • Boston Marriage, Donmar Warehouse, London, 2001
  • The Women, Old Vic, London, 2001
  • His Girl Friday, National Theatre, London, 2003
  • One Knight Only, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, 2005
  • Awake and Sing!, Belasco Theatre, New York, 2006
  • The Rose Tattoo, National Theatre, London, 2007
  • Much Ado About Nothing, National Theatre, London, 2007
  • All My Sons, Apollo Theatre, London, 2010

Also appeared in Henry V, Globe Theatre; and Made in Bangkok, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles.

Awards And Nominations

  • Nominated for a 1981 New York City Drama Desk Award for featured actress for her performance in Piaf
  • Won the 1984 London Critics Circle Award (Drama Theatre Award) for best supporting actress in Mother Courage
  • Nominated for a 1986 New York City Drama Desk Award for featured actress for her performance in a revival of Joe Orton's Loot
  • Won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actress of the 1997 season for her performance in Electra at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Nominated for a 1999 New York City Drama Desk Award for outstanding actress for her performance in Electra
  • Nominated for a 2002 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actress of 2001 for her performance in Boston Marriage performed at the Donmar Warehouse and at the New Ambassador's Theatres, London
  • Nominated for a Tony Award in 2006 for best performance by a featured actress in a play for Awake and Sing!
  • Won the 2006 New York City Drama Desk Award for outstanding ensemble performance for the Belasco Theatre production of Awake and Sing!


External links

Template:OlivierAward PlayBestActress

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