For me insecurity never disappeared. It’s a good thing to have yourself as a critic, but not to let that critic get in the way
Famed for her popular television appearances, acclaimed for her classical roles in the theatre and decorated for both, from sitcoms to Sophocles, Zoë Wanamaker shines effortlessly in all she does, establishing herself at the very top of the acting profession in this country, writes Phil Matthews.
I fell in love with her first aged eleven watching Love Hurts every Friday night and then years later as a young actor from the cheap seats, when as Beatrice she parried with Simon Russell Beale's Benedick in a famous Much Ado About Nothing. Like me she trained at Central and I awarded myself a special affinity to her. If I was going to be Editor of a
drama magazine, Zoë Wanamaker would be my first choice, for my first interview for my first edition. But would she do it? After all this is the daughter of the great Sam Wanamaker for whom we have to thank for Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. This is Madame Hooch of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, this is the double Olivier award winner for Electra and Once in a Lifetime. I put in the request and the answer was, yes. Now all I had to do was hold myself together suffi ciently to get the questions out. I couldn't expect her to make it easy for me. But she did and that warmth, wit, depth, compassion and sincerity so in evidence in her stage performances, are all there in the real person. Perhaps that's one of the keys to her success, she's the real deal and I'm proud to exclusively present Zoë Wanamaker in conversation with me.
PHIL: Was it a natural progession for you to follow in your parents footsteps into the profession?
ZOE: Well as far as I was concerned it was. I don't think they were too happy about it only because of its obvious for obvious reasons. Particularly if you were a girl. I think they were just nervous for me because I am not very good at putting myself forward.
Didn’t they describe it as a “soul destroying career”?
They sort of did, yes. Having been through that themselves they knew what was to come. So in order to prove myself, I had to learn shorthand typing which I was terrible at, but I did it. Now I've forgotten it all, but that was to keep me in employment in case I didn't work as an actress.
So you auditioned for Central?
I went to Art School first for a year, to do a pre-diploma, and then discovered that was very lonely. I was very determined to become an actress.
How did you find your training at Central?
The training at that time was a conservatoire training, which it's not any more. It's much more a degree based situation now and Central had two incredible teachers, Lipz Pisk being one of them, the movement and dance teacher, who is no longer with us. And another teacher by the name of George Hall who is still with us thank God, and is still going, doing various things. It was a great privilege working with those people, I must say they were for me inspirations and extremely good. So I had a great time. I was very combative about it as well, because I kept thinking
we should be doing more. More improvisation, stuff like that, but that was not the way Central worked. But it was a very truthful time.
It certainly is a truthful time.
The thing about drama school at the moment, I feel this country doesn't believe in drama as a serious thing, it doesn't respect it. Performers really should be respected as they are in other countries in the rest of Europe, and that is a great sadness and it's reflected in the funding that they give, and I don't know if that will ever change. It's a career and a lifelong commitment to an artistic thing that we believe in. It's sort of treated as if it's “showbiz” and therefore to be sneered at.
Read the full published interview in The Drama Student Magazine to find out what advice Zoe has for current and prospective drama students. She also talks about her facinating career and admits to once causing a car crash after a TV appearance – Subscribe now
Image credit: Neil Genower (Main image above), BBC Pictures (In My Family with Robert Lindsay)