Mark Lawson talks to Zoe Wanamaker about inheriting a showbusiness name and making it even more celebrated in her own right. In this warm and funny interview, Wanamaker reveals insecurities about her looks and talents and also how her charismatic father, the American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, was a hard act to follow. An ex-patriot in Britain, he campaigned tirelessly and fundraised for decades to rebuild a recreation of Shakespeare's Globe in London. Zoe describes how, in spite of her parents' advice not to, she threw herself into the uncertain world of acting.
Zoe Wanamaker was born in America, but left at the age of three when her father was blacklisted by the McCarthyism sweeping the country in the 1950s. Zoe battled with undiagnosed dyslexia and struggled at school. She was allowed to drop maths on the grounds that "there was no point ... I was away with the fairies!".
Bitten by the acting bug at her Quaker boarding school, Zoë went to RADA and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. She enjoyed early success with a Tony award for her role in the American play Once in a Lifetime. Her breakthrough roles in television included the ITV series Love Hurts, co-starring Adam Faith.
Zoe recounts her first encounter with the power of television when she caused a minor car accident after someone spotted her in the street. But greater recognition awaited her as one of Britain's best-loved matriarchs, the dentist's wife Susan Harper in the top-rated BBC1 sitcom My Family, a part she played for over ten years opposite Robert Lindsay. Admitting she'll never retire, she now urges writers to consider including more parts for older women... "Well, over 40 would help!".