ARTS / Show People: In the middle and on the edge: 62. Zoe Wanamaker

WHEN YOU get to Addis Ababa, you know you've arrived. Zoe Wanamaker flew there before Christmas, courtesy of the organisers of Comic Relief, to shoot a segment for their Red Nose Day in March. She has always had a distinctive face. Now, at 43, she has a famous one.

The reason is Love Hurts, the painless BBC series in which she falls in and out of love with an engagingly wooden Adam Faith. The show is in its second season, and draws an audience of 8 million. This week Zoe Wanamaker returns to the theatre, and an audience of 500, playing a woman addicted to Valium in Arthur Miller's new play, The Last Yankee.

Unusually, the play has two premieres, one at the Manhattan Theatre Club, the other at the Young Vic. As the holder of a US passport, Wanamaker could have been in either, but she is in the London one. We meet in a dressing-room backstage, the day after the first preview. She greets me with a warm, firm handshake that dispels all thought of the nervous hand-wringer who gripped the preview audience. She takes the large red armchair, places her script, her tobacco pouch and liquorice Rizlas down by her feet, and beams.

She has 50 credits on the stage alone, including two awards - for Kattrin in Mother Courage and May Daniels in Once in a Lifetime - and eight nominations. She has been in an Arthur Miller before, and at the Young Vic before.

How had the preview been for her? 'I'm half-way there.' She has just been running lines with the cast. How will tonight differ? She attempts one answer, then another, then closes her eyes and turns her head from side to side. 'Acting is such a terribly odd thing to talk about. I find it really rather silly.' She laughs.

We discuss The Last Yankee, and she flicks to the back of her script, where she has pencilled some rehearsal notes: 'I wrote, 'Trying to hang on to reality in the face of the pressures in society, which are likely to force you to go under'. ' She closes the script. 'That's basically it.'

The challenge here was 'getting into the mind and body of someone who has been on Valium for 15 years'. The cast visited the Ealing Drug Advisory Service. 'One girl I saw did this all the time,' says Wanamaker, wringing her hands like a wet handkerchief, something she does in the play. 'And taking the sweat off her palms.' She scrubs her palms on her jeans. 'And her pockets were stuffed with tissues.' The thing is, she says, 'to make it real without making it a turn'. If she has a trademark, that is it.

Zoe Wanamaker was born in New York. Her parents lived in the country, in Connecticut; when she was three they moved to England. Her father, the actor, director and Globe Theatre campaigner Sam Wanamaker, was blacklisted during the McCarthy period. Her mother, Charlotte Holland, is a former actress. There are three daughters, Abby, Zoe in the middle, and Jessica. Does she have any memories of America? 'No. None at all. I can't remember what happened last week.' Does she feel American? 'Everyone asks me that.' Sorry. 'No. It's OK. I feel slightly alien in both countries.'

She grew up in Hampstead, went to a Quaker school, though she is Jewish, and studied painting before going to ballet school. Her parents didn't want her to act, but she's been doing so now for more than 20 years. Although she has had several long-term relationships, she has neither married nor had children.

When the run ends in March she will spend eight months filming the third series of Love Hurts, which includes location shooting in Tel Aviv. 'Then that'll be it.' She'll look for other parts. Charity executive, prostitute, countess's daughter, Valium addict: a typical Zoe Wanamaker character is atypical. The woman in The Last Yankee is one in a line of strong, idiosyncratic, damaged characters. 'I was never the ingenue,' she says, using her fingers as quote marks. When she played Emilia in Trevor Nunn's Othello, 'Trevor had me coming on with a dope pipe at the beginning of the second act.' As the prostitute married to the prime suspect in Prime Suspect, she displayed surly defiance shot through with lonely suspicion, and won a Bafta nomination.

There's a feline swish to her figure that matches the tough purr of her voice. The image does not go away as you take in her slow eyes, long, ski-jump nose and thin upper lip. Cheshire smile one moment, claws the next. The looks give her a grainy vulnerability, and mixed feelings. In another interview she said she had contemplated liposuction and collagen injections. When I raise the subject of looks, she groans, the only hiccup in a cheerful, brisk half-hour. 'You're not going to ask me this] Ugh. I said it once and . . .' She sighs. OK, let's move on then. 'Yes, let's move on. That's a boring one. Let's talk about the play.'

'The Last Yankee' (Young Vic, 071-928 6363) is reviewed by Irving Wardle in the main paper. 'Love Hurts' continues on BBC1 on Friday (9.30-10.10pm).

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine