Joanna Vanderham: from The Paradise to Dancing on the Edge

"I've started a list of British actors I'd love to work with, so I'm going to try and tick them off by the end of my career!"


Joanna Vanderham raises her voice above the rasp of a hairdryer. “I’ve started a little list of British actors that would love to work with so I’m going to try and tick them all off by the end my career!” At this rate she’ll be able to retire by the time she’s 25. While still at drama school Vanderham starred in The Runaway with fellow Scots Alan Cumming and Ken Stott; her film debut, What Maisie Knew, was opposite Steve Coogan and Julianne Moore.


She recently squared up to Sarah Lancashire as ambitious country bumpkin Denise Lovett in The Paradise and we’ll next see her alongside Hollywood favourites Matthew Goode and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Dancing on the Edge.

To top it off, when RT tracks her down, she’s being primped for a shoot with photographer to the stars Rankin. Not bad for a 20 year-old.

Gilding that stellar CV and the highlight of a whirlwind 2012 is an Emmy nomination for The Runway in which Vanderham had to age 15 years and snort vast quantities of glucose powder (which doubled as cocaine). “To be nominated for my first job was a total surprise and very surreal,” she says. Yet the most demanding drama to date, she says, is Dancing On The Edge, which was written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff, Britain’s foremost television playwright.

Poliakoff’s latest television project follows the fortunes of a black jazz band in the 1930s and sees Vanderham as a forward-thinking aristocrat . “She comes across as quite frivolous, as if she doesn’t have a care in the world, and then you find out that she has this inner strength and morality that many people of her social standing and class in that era didn’t. It showed me that I had a depth of emotion that I didn’t think I had – but Stephen could bring out.”

The hairdryer stops and in the sudden silence she giggle’s self-consciously, and assures us that her family in Perth – most of whom are doctors – bring her crashing back to earth . “My mum barely watches television so I’ll turn round and say, ‘Mum, I’m going to be in a television show with Patrick Malahide,’ and she says ‘That’s nice, dear.'”


Dancing on the Edge will be on BBC2 later in the year