Olivia Colman

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Olivia Colman

Olivia Colman at Moet BIFA 2014 (cropped).jpg
Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman

(1974-01-30) 30 January 1974 (age 46)
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Education Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
OccupationActress and narrator
Years active2000–present
Ed Sinclair
(m. 2001)
Awards Full list

Sarah Caroline Olivia Sinclair, CBE (née Colman; 30 January 1974), known professionally as Olivia Colman, is an English actress and narrator. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, four BAFTA Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, four British Independent Film Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Volpi Cup, and a BFI Fellowship.


A graduate of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Colman first came to prominence for her work in television. She made her acting breakthrough as Sophie Chapman in the Channel 4 comedy series Peep Show (2003–2015). Her other comedic roles in television include Green Wing (2004–2006), That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006–2008), Beautiful People (2008–2009), Rev. (2010–2014), and Flowers (2016–2018). Colman received the British Academy Television Award for Best Female Comedy Performance for the comedy programme Twenty Twelve (2011–2012), Best Supporting Actress for the anthology crime programme Accused (2012), [1] and Best Actress for the ITV crime drama programme Broadchurch (2013–2017). For her performance in the thriller miniseries The Night Manager (2016), she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. For her performance in the comedy programme Fleabag (2016–2019), Colman received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress. In 2019, she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix period drama programme The Crown , for which she received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama.

Colman's major film roles include PC Doris Thatcher in Hot Fuzz (2007), Hannah in Tyrannosaur (2011), 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), the Hotel Manager in The Lobster (2015), and Hildegarde Schmidt in Murder on the Orient Express (2017). For her portrayal of Anne, Queen of Great Britain in the period black comedy film The Favourite (2018), she received critical acclaim and won numerous accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Early life

Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman [2] was born in Norwich on 30 January 1974, [3] [4] the daughter of nurse Mary (née Leakey) and chartered surveyor Keith Colman. [5] [6] She was privately educated at Norwich High School for Girls and Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk. Her first role was Jean Brodie in a school production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the age of 16. [7] She cites her mother's interrupted career as a ballet dancer as an inspiration to pursue acting professionally. [8] Colman spent a term studying primary teaching at Homerton College, Cambridge before studying drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, from which she graduated in 1999. [9] During her time at Cambridge, she auditioned for the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club and met future co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb. [10] [9] [11] [12] [13]

Colman was a subject of the UK genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? in July 2018. [14] Although she expected that her family tree would mainly relate to Norfolk, it was discovered that her fourth great-grandfather, Richard Campbell Bazett, had been born on the island of Saint Helena [15] and that he worked in London for the East India Company. [16] Bazett's son, Colman's third great-grandfather Charles Bazett, married Harriot Slessor. Researchers discovered that she was born in the Indian city of Kishanganj, lost her British father when she was aged three, and then made the journey to England alone. [16] Slessor's passage was paid for by her paternal grandmother. [17] The episode speculated that Slessor's mother might have been Indian, but did not present concrete proof; after the episode aired, the Berkshire Record Office published the will of Slessor's mother, which proved that her name was Seraphina Donclere, evidently of European origin, and that she died in 1810. [18] [19]


2000–2006: Career beginnings and breakthrough

Colman made her professional acting debut in 2000, at the age of 26, as part of the BBC2 comedy sketch show Bruiser . She has since appeared in roles in many BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 television series, such as 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.

Colman regularly featured 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 was 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. [20] 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.

On several projects, Colman has worked with the comedians Mitchell and Webb. [11] She joined them in 2003 to play the role of Sophie in the Channel 4 comedy Peep Show . Other joint ventures have included 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". [21] She continued to appear on Peep Show, though in a reduced capacity, until it ended in 2015.

Colman also had a recurring role in the surreal comedy Green Wing from 2004 to 2006. One of her earliest film credits include naturist Joanna Roberts in the 2006 mockumentary film Confetti  – a role she once described as "the worst experience of my life". [11]

2007–2015: Further recognition

In 2007, Colman starred as Alice in the comedy Grow Your Own , and PC Doris Thatcher in the action comedy Hot Fuzz . She also played a lead role in Paddy Considine's short film Dog Altogether .

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 lovelorn secretary to Hugh Bonneville's character Ian Fletcher, in Twenty Twelve , a comedy series about planning for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Colman reteamed with Considine for his feature directorial debut, Tyrannosaur (2011). For her role in the film, she won the BIFA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film and the Empire Award for Best Actress. [22] Also in 2011, Colman played Carol Thatcher in the 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. [23]

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. [24] [25] She was nominated for an International Emmy Award for Best Actress and won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her performance. [26] Also in 2013, she starred as Margaret Lea, opposite Vanessa Redgrave, in the BBC television film The Thirteenth Tale . [27]

In 2015, Colman starred in Yorgos Lanthimos' absurdist dystopian film The Lobster with Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell, [28] 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. [29]

2016–present: Critical acclaim and awards success

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 received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film. [30] That same year, she starred as Deborah Flowers in the Channel 4 black comedy series Flowers . [31] She also provided the voice of Strawberry in the Netflix/BBC animated miniseries Watership Down . [32] In 2017, she played Princess Dragomiroff's lady's maid Hildegarde Schmidt in the remake of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express .

In 2018, Colman starred as Queen Anne in Lanthimos' film The Favourite , opposite Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. In preparation for the role, she gained 2st 7 lb (35 lb or 16 kg) in weight. [2] For her performance, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, [33] [34] the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, [35] and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. [36] Her awe-struck and humorous Academy Awards acceptance speech was widely covered in the media. [37] [38] [39]

Colman also received positive reviews for her supporting role as Madame Thénardier in the 2018 BBC miniseries Les Misérables , an adaptation of the novel of the same name. [40] In August 2019, she was confirmed as a guest star as Lily in the thirty-second season of the animated comedy series The Simpsons . [41]

In October 2017, Colman was cast as Queen Elizabeth II in the third and fourth season of the Netflix historical drama series The Crown . [42] The third season was released in November 2019. For her performance, she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

Personal life

In the late 1990s, while performing in a Footlights production of Alan Ayckbourn's Table Manners , Colman met Ed Sinclair, then a third-year law student who had become disillusioned with law and preferred to write. [43] [44] [45] Colman and Sinclair married in August 2001, [7] and have three children together. [46] They live in south London. [47]

Since 2013, she has been a judge on the panel of the Norwich Film Festival. [48] 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. [49]


In 2013, Colman presented two awards at the Mind Media Awards, [50] 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 postnatal 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. [51] 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. [52] Colman has also given support to charity campaigns for the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal (care for the terminally ill). [53] Colman became Patron of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan in 2018, [54] which Colman says helped a friend of hers. [55]

In December 2014, Colman was involved in a BBC Radio documentary about the plight of women in Afghanistan on behalf of Amnesty International UK. 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. [56]



2004 Terkel in Trouble Terkel's MotherVoice; English dub
2005ZemanovaloadTV Producer
One DayIan's MotherShort film
2006 Confetti Joanna Roberts
2007 Hot Fuzz PC Doris Thatcher
Grow Your Own Alice
I Could Never Be Your Woman Hairdresser
Dog Altogether AnitaShort film
2009 Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee Olivia
2011 Tyrannosaur Hannah
Arrietty HomilyVoice; UK dub
The Iron Lady Carol Thatcher
2012 Hyde Park on Hudson Queen Elizabeth
2013 I Give It a Year Linda
Locke Bethan MaguireVoice
2014 Cuban Fury Sam Garrett
Pudsey the Dog: The Movie Nelly the HorseVoice
Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave MarionVoice; English dub
The Karman LineSarah
2015 The Lobster Hotel Manager
Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure MarionVoice; English dub
London Road Julie
2017 Murder on the Orient Express Hildegard Schmidt
2018 The Favourite Queen Anne
2019 Them That Follow Hope Slaughter
2020 The Father Anne
Connected PALVoice; Post-production


2000 Bruiser Various characters6 episodes
2001 The Mitchell and Webb Situation Various characters5 episodes
People Like Us Pamela EliotEpisode: "The Vicar"
Mr CharityDistressed MotherEpisode: "Nice to Feed You"
Comedy Lab LindaEpisode: "Daydream Believers: Brand New Beamer"
2002 Rescue Me PaulaEpisode: "1.4"
Holby City Kim PrebbleEpisode: "New Hearts, Old Scores"
The Office HelenaEpisode: "Interview"
2003 Gash Various characters3 episodes
Eyes Down Mandy FosterEpisode: "Stars in Their Eyes"
The Strategic Humour InitiativeVarious charactersTelevision film
2003–2015 Peep Show Sophie Chapman32 episodes
2004 Black Books TanyaEpisode: "Elephants and Hens"
Swiss Toni Linda ByronEpisode: "Troubleshooter"
NY-LON LucyEpisode: "Something About Family"
Coming UpReceptionistEpisode: "The Baader Meinhoff Gang Show"
2004–2006 Green Wing Harriet Schulenburg18 episodes
2005Angell's HellBelindaTelevision film
Look Around You Pam Bachelor6 episodes
The Robinsons ConnieEpisode: "1.3"
Murder in Suburbia EllieEpisode: "Golden Oldies"
ShakespeaRe-Told UrsulaEpisode: "Much Ado About Nothing"
2006–2008 That Mitchell and Webb Look Various characters13 episodes
2007The Grey ManLinda DoddsTelevision film
The Time of Your Life Amanda6 episodes
2008 Love Soup PennyEpisode: "Integrated Logistics"
Hancock and Joan MarionTelevision film
Consuming Passion Janet Bottomley / Violetta KissTelevision film
2008–2009 Beautiful People Debbie Doonan 12 episodes
2008, 2018 Would I Lie to You? Herself2 episodes
2009 Skins Gina CampbellEpisode: "Naomi"
Midsomer Murders BerniceEpisode: "Small Mercies"
Mister Eleven Beth Paley2 episodes
2010 Doctor Who Prisoner ZeroEpisode: "The Eleventh Hour"
2010–2014 Rev Alex Smallbone19 episodes
2011 Exile Nancy Ronstadt3 episodes
2011–2012 Twenty Twelve Sally Owen10 episodes
2012 Accused Sue BrownEpisode: "Mo and Sue's Story"
Bad Sugar Joan CauldwellTelevision film
2013–2017 Broadchurch DS Ellie Miller24 episodes
2013 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder In Angel Lane Susan SpencerTelevision film
Run Carol2 episodes
The Thirteenth Tale Margaret LeaTelevision film
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot HerselfTelevision film
2014 Big Ballet Narrator3 episodes
The 7.39 Maggie Matthews2 episodes
W1A Sally OwenEpisode: "1.4"
The Secrets PippaEpisode: "The Dilemma"
Mr. Sloane Janet Sloane6 episodes
This is Jinsy Joan JenkinsEpisode: "The Golden Woggle"
2014–2018 Thomas & Friends MarionVoice; 9 episodes
2016 Drunk History Ethel Le Neve Episode: "2.7"
The Night Manager Angela Burr6 episodes
We're Going on a Bear Hunt MumVoice; television short
2016–2018 Flowers Deborah Flowers12 episodes
2016–2018 The Secret Life of the Zoo Narrator35 episodes
2016–2019 Fleabag Godmother9 episodes
2017Inside DiorNarrator2 episodes
2018 Flatpack Empire Narrator3 episodes
Natural World NarratorEpisode: "The Super Squirrels"
Watership Down StrawberryVoice; 4 episodes
2019 Les Misérables Madame Thénardier 4 episodes
2019–present The Crown Queen Elizabeth II [57] 10 episodes
TBA The Simpsons LilyVoice; Episode: "The 7 Beer Itch"


2000 Long Day's Journey Into Night Cathleen Lyric Theatre, London
2009 England People Very Nice Philippa Royal National Theatre, London
2012 Hay Fever Myra Arundel Noël Coward Theatre, London
2017MosquitoesJenny Royal National Theatre, London

Awards and nominations

Colman has received various awards throughout her career, including an Academy Award, three British Academy Television Awards, a British Academy Film Award, four British Independent Film Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, two Critics' Choice Movie Awards, three Satellite Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Volpi Cup, and a BFI Fellowship. [58]

For her performance in the miniseries The Night Manager (2016), she won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. She received another Primetime Emmy Award nomination for the comedy series Fleabag (2016–2019). For her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix period drama series The Crown (2019), she received a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, among others.

For her portrayal of Anne, Queen of Great Britain in the period black comedy film The Favourite (2018), she received the Academy Award for Best Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, among numerous others.

Colman was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to drama. [59] [60]

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