Olivia Colman

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Olivia Colman
Olivia Colman at Moet BIFA 2014 (cropped).jpg
BornSarah Caroline Olivia Colman
(1974-01-30) 30 January 1974 (age 44)
Norwich, England
Alma materHomerton College, Cambridge
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Years active2000–present
Ed Sinclair (m. 2001)

Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman (born 30 January 1974)[1] is an English actress. She has won three BAFTA Awards, three BIFA Awards, one Golden Globe Award, and has been nominated twice for an Emmy Award.

Colman first came to prominence for her supporting role as Sophie Chapman in the Channel 4 comedy series Peep Show (2003–2015). Her other TV comedy roles include Green Wing (2004–2006), Beautiful People (2008–2009), Rev. (2010–2014) and Twenty Twelve (2011–2012). She also played various roles in That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006–2008), alongside her Peep Show co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Colman's move to drama saw her receive critical acclaim for her performance in Paddy Considine's film Tyrannosaur (2011).[2] Her other film roles include PC Doris Thatcher in Hot Fuzz (2007), Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011), Queen Elizabeth in Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), Bethan Maguire in Locke (2013), Margaret Lea in The Thirteenth Tale (2013), and the Hotel Manager in Yorgos Lanthimos's The Lobster (2015). In 2018, she re-collaborated with Lanthimos in The Favourite. Her portrayal of Anne, Queen of Great Britain in the film garnered widespread critical acclaim, and won her the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival.

A three-time BAFTA TV Award winner, she won Best Female Comedy Performance for Twenty Twelve and Best Supporting Actress for Accused in 2013,[3] before winning Best Actress in 2014 for her role as DS Ellie Miller in the ITV crime series Broadchurch. Colman was also nominated for the International Emmy Award for Best Actress for Broadchurch. For her performance in the AMC/BBC miniseries The Night Manager, she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.

Early life[edit]

Colman was born in Norwich, the daughter of Mary (Leakey), a nurse, and Keith Colman, a chartered surveyor.[4][5][6] She was educated at two independent schools, Norwich High School for Girls in Norwich and Gresham's School in Holt. Her first role was Jean Brodie in a school production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at age 16. She then realised acting was what she wanted to do.[7]

Colman went on to spend a term studying primary teaching at Homerton College, Cambridge. During this time, at the age of 20,[8] she attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School which she graduated from in 1999 and also auditioned for the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club and first met future co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb, as well as Peter Serafinowicz.[9][10][11][12][13]


Television and radio[edit]

Colman has appeared in roles in numerous BBC, ITV and Channel 4 television programmes, such as Bruiser, People Like Us, Look Around You, Black Books, The Office, The Time of Your Life and provided the voice-over for Five's poll for Britain's Funniest Comedy Character. She regularly features in BBC Radio 4 comedies, such as Concrete Cow, Think the Unthinkable, The House of Milton Jones and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. She is also the voice of Minka, the Polish secretary in the Radio 4 comedy Hut 33, set in a fictional codebreaking hut of the real-life Bletchley Park during World War II.[14] Colman appeared as Bev, alongside Mark Burdis as Kev, in a series of television adverts for AA car insurance. She provided voices for the Andrex "be kind to your behind" adverts and Glade fragrance adverts, where her character is a gorilla.

She has worked with the comedians Mitchell and Webb on several projects. Colman met the duo when they were all students at Cambridge University.[15] She has appeared with them in numerous TV and radio series, such as radio's That Mitchell and Webb Sound, and the television version That Mitchell and Webb Look. She decided to leave the programme after her agent suggested that she was becoming too closely associated with their work and needed to widen her horizons: a decision that was made "with tears".[16] She continued to appear on Peep Show until 2015.

In October and November 2008, Colman appeared in the BBC sitcom Beautiful People, based on the life of Simon Doonan, as Debbie Doonan, Simon's mother. She also made a guest appearance in Skins, in the episode "Naomi" as Naomi's mother Gina. In 2010, Colman took a leading role as Alex Smallbone, the wife of an inner city vicar, in the BBC sitcom Rev. Also in 2010, she guest starred in "The Eleventh Hour" episode of Doctor Who, Matt Smith's debut as the Eleventh Doctor. In 2011, Colman appeared in the BBC drama Exile, written by Danny Brocklehurst and starring John Simm and Jim Broadbent. From 2011 to 2012, she played Sally Owen, the love-lorn secretary to Hugh Bonneville's character Ian Fletcher, in Twenty Twelve, a comedy series about planning for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In 2013, Colman began playing DS Ellie Miller in ITV's Broadchurch. The crime drama series is set in the fictional Dorset town of Broadchurch, and follows the residents of a tight-knit community after a young boy is killed under suspicious circumstances.[17][18] She was nominated for an International Emmy Award for Best Actress and won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her performance.[19] Also in 2013, she starred as Margaret Lea, opposite Vanessa Redgrave, in the BBC television film The Thirteenth Tale.[20] In 2016, Colman received praise for her performance as Angela Burr in the AMC/BBC miniseries The Night Manager, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and won a Golden Globe Award.[21] That same year, she starred as Deborah Flowers in the Channel 4 black comedy series Flowers.[22] She will provide the voice of Strawberry in the upcoming Netflix/BBC animated miniseries Watership Down.[23] In October 2017, Colman was cast as Queen Elizabeth II in the third and fourth season of the Netflix historical drama series The Crown.[24]


Colman's film credits include naturist Joanna Roberts in the 2006 mockumentary film Confetti – a role she described as "the worst experience of my life",[15] Alice in the 2007 comedy Grow Your Own, and PC Doris Thatcher in the 2007 action comedy Hot Fuzz. Colman played a lead role in Paddy Considine's first two films, the short Dog Altogether (2007), and his feature directorial debut Tyrannosaur (2011). For her role in the latter, she won the BIFA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film and the Empire Award for Best Actress.[25]

Colman played Carol Thatcher in the 2011 Academy Award-winning drama film The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent, for which she was awarded the London Film Critics' Circle Award for British Actress of the Year.[26] She then starred in Yorgos Lanthimos' 2015 absurdist dystopian film The Lobster with Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell,[27] for which she was nominated for the London Film Critics' Circle Award for Supporting Actress of the Year and won the BIFA Award for Best Supporting Actress.[28] In 2017 Colman played Hildegarde Schmidt in the remake of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Hildegarde Schmidt works for the Princess Dragomiroff as her lady's maid. She has been cast as Queen Anne in Lanthimos' upcoming film The Favourite, opposite Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Colman met her future husband, Ed Sinclair, then a third-year law student who had become disillusioned with law and preferred to write, in a production of Alan Ayckbourn's Table Manners (from the Norman Conquests trilogy) at Footlights.[30][31] Colman fell in love with Sinclair at first sight, adding that she thought, "There's the bloke I'm going to marry."[32] She has also said, "My husband and I were very lucky. We met when we had nothing and we loved each other then. So we were all right. We were 20 and he was also an actor. If you meet at that age then you are fine. For me, it was thunderbolts straight away."[8] Crediting Sinclair for helping her get through tough times,[8] Colman has said that "[Sinclair] was gorgeous, the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," suggesting that the feeling was not instantly mutual. She added, "I stuck with him and made him realise he could only be happy with me. I still feel like I'm punching above my weight."[33] Colman and Sinclair married in August 2001[34] and have three children together.[35]

Since 2013, Colman has been a judge on the panel of the Norwich Film Festival.[36]

In July 2018 Colman was a subject of the UK genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?. The episode unearthed a number of surprises.[37] Although Colman expected that her family tree would mainly relate to Norfolk, this being the county in which her father's family have been resident for generations, in the course of research undertaken into her mother's family it was discovered that her 4 x great grandfather Richard Campbell Bazett who had been born on the Island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic.[38] Records show that he would go on to work in London for the East India Company.[39] Bazett's son, Colman's 3 x great grandfather Charles Bazett, married Harriot Slessor. Researchers discovered that she was born in the city of Kishanganj, in north-eastern India, lost her British father when she was aged 3 and then made the journey to England alone;[39] this passage was paid for by her paternal grandmother.[40] The episode speculated that her mother might have been a local Indian woman, but did not present concrete proof; after the episode aired the Berkshire Record Office published the will of Slessor's mother, which proved that she was one Seraphina Donclere, evidently of European origin, who died in 1810.[41]

Charitable work and activism[edit]

In 2013, Colman presented two awards at the Mind Media Awards,[42] which celebrate accurate, responsible and sensitive portrayals of mental health across all areas of the media. Colman believes that "the media industry has huge influence and with that comes a responsibility to contest the stigma that sadly still exists, through accurate representation." Colman has spoken openly to the Big Issue about her experience of post-natal depression after the birth of her first child.[7]

Inspired by her research for the film Tyrannosaur, in 2014, Colman became the patron of the UK charity Tender, which uses theatre and the arts to educate young people about how to prevent violence and sexual abuse. Colman says that domestic violence prevention can make a real difference in the lives of young people.[43] Other charity work included participating in the Alzheimer's Society's Holkham Hall Memory Walk in September 2013. Colman's great-grandmother suffered from dementia and her mother was involved in running a nursing home for sufferers.[44] Colman has also added her voice to charity campaigns for Marie Curie Daffodil Day (care for the terminally ill)[45] and Anthony Nolan (blood cancer), a charity which Colman says helped a friend of hers.[46]

In August 2014, Colman was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September 2014's referendum on the issue.[47]

In December 2014, Colman was involved in a radio documentary about the plight of women in Afghanistan on behalf of Amnesty International for the BBC. Several women who told their stories to journalist Lyse Doucet were unable to appear because their lives might have been at risk. Colman read their stories as part of the documentary. In response to the work, Colman warned that the UK must not abandon Afghan women to the Taliban. She said, "Being a teacher, a doctor, a politician – these are important jobs but they shouldn't be dangerous ones. The brave women whose words I've voiced risk so much to educate, to care and to shape the future of their country. Women like these are the hope for Afghanistan's future and the UK must not abandon them to the Taliban now."[48]



Year Title Role Notes
2004 Terkel in Trouble Terkel's Mother Voice; English dub
2005 Zemanovaload TV Producer
One Day Ian's Mother Short film
2006 Confetti Joanna Roberts
2007 Hot Fuzz PC Doris Thatcher
Grow Your Own Alice
I Could Never Be Your Woman Hairdresser
Dog Altogether Anita Short film
2009 Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee Olivia
2011 Tyrannosaur Hannah
Arrietty Homily Voice; UK dub
The Iron Lady Carol Thatcher
2012 Hyde Park on Hudson Queen Elizabeth
2013 I Give It a Year Linda
Locke Bethan Maguire Voice
2014 Cuban Fury Sam Garrett
Pudsey the Dog: The Movie Nelly the Horse Voice
Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave Marion Voice; English dub
The Karman Line Sarah
2015 The Lobster Hotel Manager
Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure Marion Voice; English dub
London Road Julie
2017 Murder on the Orient Express Hildegarde Schmidt
2018 The Favourite Queen Anne
Them That Follow Hope Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2000 Bruiser Various characters 6 episodes
2001 The Mitchell and Webb Situation Various characters 5 episodes
People Like Us Pamela Eliot Episode: "The Vicar"
Mr Charity Distressed Mother Episode: "Nice to Feed You"
Comedy Lab Linda Episode: "Daydream Believers: Brand New Beamer"
2002 Rescue Me Paula Episode 1.4
Holby City Kim Prebble Episode: "New Hearts, Old Scores"
The Office Helena Episode: "Interview"
2003 Gash Various characters 3 episodes
Eyes Down Mandy Foster Episode: "Stars in Their Eyes"
The Strategic Humour Initiative Various characters TV film
2003–2015 Peep Show Sophie Chapman 32 episodes
2004 Black Books Tanya Episode: "Elephants and Hens"
Swiss Toni Linda Byron Episode: "Troubleshooter"
NY-LON Lucy Episode: "Something About Family"
Coming Up Receptionist Episode: "The Baader Meinhoff Gang Show"
2004–2006 Green Wing Harriet Schulenburg 18 episodes
2005 Angell's Hell Belinda TV film
Look Around You Pam Bachelor 6 episodes
The Robinsons Connie Episode 1.3
Murder in Suburbia Ellie Episode: "Golden Oldies"
ShakespeaRe-Told Ursula Episode: "Much Ado About Nothing"
2006–2008 That Mitchell and Webb Look Various characters 13 episodes
2007 The Grey Man Linda Dodds TV film
The Time of Your Life Amanda 6 episodes
2008 Love Soup Penny Episode: "Integrated Logistics"
Hancock and Joan Marion TV film
Consuming Passion Janet Bottomley / Violetta Kiss TV film
2008–2009 Beautiful People Debbie Doonan 12 episodes
2009 Skins Gina Campbell Episode: "Naomi"
Midsomer Murders Bernice Episode: "Small Mercies"
Mister Eleven Beth Paley 2 episodes
2010 Doctor Who Mother Episode: "The Eleventh Hour"
2010–2014 Rev Alex Smallbone 19 episodes
2011 Exile Nancy Ronstadt 3 episodes
2011–2012 Twenty Twelve Sally Owen 10 episodes
2012 Accused Sue Brown Episode: "Mo and Sue's Story"
Bad Sugar Joan Cauldwell TV film
2013–2017 Broadchurch DS Ellie Miller 24 episodes
2013 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder In Angel Lane Susan Spencer TV film
Run Carol 2 episodes
The Thirteenth Tale Margaret Lea TV film
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Herself TV film
2014 Big Ballet Narrator 3 episodes
The 7.39 Maggie Matthews 2 episodes
W1A Sally Owen Episode 1.4
The Secrets Pippa Episode: "The Dilemma"
Mr. Sloane Janet Sloane 6 episodes
This is Jinsy Joan Jenkins Episode: "The Golden Woggle"
2014–present Thomas & Friends Marion Voice; 9 episodes
2016 Drunk History Ethel Le Neve Episode 2.7
The Night Manager Angela Burr 6 episodes
We're Going on a Bear Hunt Mum Voice; television short
2016–present Flowers Deborah Flowers 12 episodes
Fleabag Stepmother 4 episodes
2017 Inside Dior Narrator 2 episodes
2018 The Super Squirrels Narrator Episode of Natural World
Les Misérables Madame Thénardier Limited Series
2019 The Crown Queen Elizabeth II Lead role
TBA Watership Down Strawberry Voice; in production


Year Title Role Theatre
2009 England People Very Nice Philippa Olivier Theatre, London
2012 Hay Fever Myra Arundel Noël Coward Theatre, London
2017 Mosquitoes Jenny Royal National Theatre, London

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
2008 British Comedy Awards Best TV Comedy Actress Peep Show Nominated
2011 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Breakout Performance Tyrannosaur Won [49]
British Independent Film Awards Best Actress Won [50]
Chicago International Film Festival Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress Won [51]
Empire Awards Best Actress Won [52]
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Actress Won [53]
London Film Critics' Circle Awards British Actress of the Year Won [54]
Satellite Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Nominated [55]
Voices Festival of Independent European Cinema Best Acting Prize Won
London Film Critics' Circle Awards British Actress of the Year The Iron Lady Won [54]
2012 British Independent Film Awards Best Supporting Actress Hyde Park on Hudson Won [56]
Royal Television Society Best Actress Accused Won [57]
British Comedy Awards Best TV Comedy Actress Rev. Nominated [58]
Twenty Twelve Nominated [58]
British Academy Television Awards Best Female Comedy Performance Nominated [59]
2013 Won [60]
Best Supporting Actress Accused Won [60]
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama Broadchurch Nominated [61]
Royal Television Society Best Actress Won [62]
Crime Thriller Awards Best Leading Actress Won [63]
2014 British Academy Television Awards Best Actress Won [64]
Broadcasting Press Guild Best Actress Won [65]
Monte-Carlo Television Festival Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries Nominated
National Television Awards Best TV Detective Nominated [66]
International Emmy Awards Best Actress Nominated [67]
2015 TV Choice Awards Best Actress Nominated [68]
British Independent Film Awards Best Supporting Actress The Lobster Won [69]
Evening Standard British Film Awards Award for Comedy Nominated [70]
London Film Critics' Circle Awards Supporting Actress of the Year Nominated [71]
British Academy Television Awards Best Female Comedy Performance Rev. Nominated [72]
2016 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie The Night Manager Nominated [73]
Gold Derby Awards Best Movie/Miniseries Supporting Actress Nominated [74]
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Limited Series Nominated [75]
2017 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Won [76]
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Won [77]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Nominated [78]
Gracie Awards Actress in a Leading Role – Made for TV Movie or Limited Series Won [79]
British Academy Television Awards Best Female Comedy Performance Fleabag Nominated [80]
2018 Venice Film Festival Best Actress The Favourite Won
Gotham Independent Film Awards Special Jury Award – Ensemble Performance (shared with Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) Won [80]


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External links[edit]

Media related to Olivia Colman at Wikimedia Commons