Olivia Colman

Olivia Colman

Born Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman
(1974-01-30) 30 January 1974
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Occupation Actress
Spouse(s) Ed Sinclair
Children 3

Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman (born 30 January 1974),[1] known professionally as Olivia Colman, is an English actress who first came to prominence for her supporting role as Sophie Chapman in the Channel 4 comedy series Peep Show (2003–15). Her other TV comedy roles include Green Wing (2004–06), Beautiful People (2008–09), Rev. (2010–14) and Twenty Twelve (2011–12). She also played various roles in That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006–08), 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 Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011), Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), and Locke (2013). 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.

Early life

Colman was born in Norwich, Norfolk, to a nurse mother and a chartered surveyor father.[4][5] 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 performance of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the age of 16. She then realised that was what she wanted to do.[6]

Colman went on to spend a term studying primary teaching at Homerton College, Cambridge. During this time, at the age of 20,[7] she auditioned for the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club (Footlights) and first met future co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb, as well as Peter Serafinowicz.[8][9][10] "I'd never heard of Footlights", she said in 2013, "I think Rob and David probably thought I was quite game because they said, 'Find something in here and try and sell it to us', and I picked up a cigarette butt and was trying to sell it to them as nutritious and then ate it. Instead of laughing they just looked slightly shocked."[11]


Television and radio

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.[12] Colman has also appeared alongside former Grange Hill actor Mark Burdis in advertisements for the AA (Automobile Association) in the early 2000s. Colman has worked with the comedians Mitchell & Webb on several projects. Colman met the duo when they were all students at Cambridge University.[13] 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".[14] 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 third-series 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 played "Mother" 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. In 2011–12 she played Sally Owen, the love-lorn secretary to Hugh Bonneville's character Ian Fletcher in Twenty Twelve, a successful television comedy series about planning for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In 2013, Colman played DS Ellie Miller in the hit ITV drama Broadchurch. This eight-part drama set in the fictional Dorset town of Broadchurch follows the reaction of a tight-knit community when a young boy is killed under suspicious circumstances.[15][16]

Colman was praised for her performance as Angela Burr in the 2016 BBC series The Night Manager.

Colman has also made numerous television appearances as a guest on The Graham Norton Show (10 May 2013, 17 January 2014, 16 January 2015, 23 January 2016), Duck Quacks Don't Echo and Would I Lie to You? (Series 2, Episode 5).


Colman's film credits include the British mockumentary film Confetti (in which she plays a naturist with Robert Webb, a role she described as "the worst experience of my life"),[13] Alice in Grow Your Own, Doris Thatcher in Hot Fuzz, and I Could Never Be Your Woman. 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.

Colman was a leading cast member in Paddy Considine's first two films: Dog Altogether and Tyrannosaur. Colman has worked several times with Considine, having acted together in Hot Fuzz, where they met, and also in Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee.[17] She also acted alongside him in the second The Suspicions of Mr Whicher film in 2013.

Colman played Carol Thatcher in the Academy Award-winning 2011 film The Iron Lady. In her BAFTA acceptance speech for Best Actress, lead actress Meryl Streep thanked Colman and described her as "divinely gifted". In 2012 she was nominated twice in the "Best Actress" category at the British Comedy Awards.[18]

Since 2013, Colman has been a judge on the panel of the Norwich Film Festival.[19]

Personal life

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.[20][21] Colman fell in love with Sinclair at first sight, adding that she thought "there's the bloke I'm going to marry"[22] and that "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."[7] Crediting Sinclair for helping her get through tough times,[7] Colman has said that "[Sinclair] was gorgeous, the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen", suggesting that the feeling was not instantly mutual, and added that "I stuck with him and made him realize he could only be happy with me. I still feel like I'm punching above my weight."[23] Colman and Sinclair married[24] and they have two sons and a daughter.[25][26]


In January 2011, Colman won a Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Breakout Performances for her role in the film Tyrannosaur.[27] Her performance also received the 2012 Kermode Award for Best Actress.

Colman was recognised for her versatility at the 2013 BAFTAs, receiving awards for Best Supporting Actress for her turn in The Accused and Best Female Comedy Performance in Twenty Twelve.[28][29]

In 2014, Colman's role as Ellie Miller in the ITV programme Broadchurch earned her Best Leading Actress awards from BAFTA, Broadcasting Press Guild, Crime Thriller Awards, Royal Television Society, as well as nominations for several other awards.[30][31][32][33]

Charitable work and activism

In 2013, Colman presented two awards at the Mind Media Awards,[34] 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.[6]

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.[35] 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.[36] Colman has also added her voice to charity campaigns for Marie Curie Daffodil Day (care for the terminally ill)[37] and Anthony Nolan (blood cancer), charity which Colman says helped a friend of hers[38]

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.[39]

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.[40] 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 warns that the UK must not abandon Afghan women to the Taliban. She says, "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."



Year Film Role Notes
2004 Terkel in Trouble Terkel's mother Dub of Danish film
2005 Zemanovaload TV Producer
One Day Ian's mother Short film
2006 Confetti Joanna
2007 Hot Fuzz PC Doris Thatcher
Grow Your Own Alice
I Could Never Be Your Woman Hairdresser Direct-to-DVD release
Dog Altogether Anita Short film
2009 Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee Olivia
2011 Tyrannosaur Hannah
Arrietty Homily English dub
The Iron Lady Carol Thatcher[41]
2012 Hyde Park on Hudson Queen Elizabeth (later The Queen Mother)
2013 I Give It a Year Marriage Counsellor
2014 Locke Bethan
Cuban Fury Sam
Pudsey the Dog: The Movie Nelly the Horse Voice (UK)
Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave Marion Voice (UK/US)
2015 The Lobster Hotel Manager
Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure Marion Main Role; Voice (UK/US)
London Road Julie
2016 Thomas & Friends: The Great Race Marion Voice (UK/US)


Year Series Role Notes
2000 Bruiser Various characters 6 episodes
2001 The Mitchell and Webb Situation Various characters 5 episodes
People Like Us Unnamed character Episode 2.1: "The Vicar"
Mr Charity Distressed mother Episode 1.5: "Nice to Feed You"
Comedy Lab Linda Daydream Believers: "Brand New Beamer"
2002 Rescue Me Paula Episode 1.4
Holby City Kim Prebble Episode 4.45: "New Hearts, Old Scores"
The Office Helena Episode 2.6
2003 Gash Various characters 3 episodes
Eyes Down Mandy Foster Episode 1.3: "Stars in Their Eyes"
The Strategic Humor Initiative Various characters
2003–15 Peep Show Sophie Chapman 32 episodes
2004 Black Books Tanya Episode 3.2: "Elephants and Hens"
Swiss Toni Linda Byron Episode 2.1: "Troubleshooter"
NY-LON Lucy Episode 1.5: "Something About Family"
Coming Up Receptionist Episode 2.1: "The Baader Meinhoff Gang Show"
2004–06 Green Wing Harriet Schulenburg 18 episodes
2005 Angell's Hell Belinda
Look Around You Pam Bachelor 6 episodes
Help Unnamed character Episode 1.6
The Robinsons Connie Episode 1.3
Murder in Suburbia Ellie Episode 2.6: "Golden Oldies"
ShakespeaRe-Told Ursula Episode 1.1 "Much Ado About Nothing"
2006–08 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 2.2: "Integrated Logistics"
Hancock and Joan Marion TV film
Consuming Passion Janet/Nurse Violetta Kiss TV film
2008–09 Beautiful People Debbie Doonan 12 episodes
2009 Skins Gina Campbell Episode 3.6: "Naomi"
Midsomer Murders Bernice Episode 12.5: "Small Mercies"
Mister Eleven Beth 2 episodes
2010 Doctor Who Mother/Prisoner Zero Episode 5.1: "The Eleventh Hour"
2010–14 Rev Alex Smallbone 19 episodes
2011 Exile Nancy Ronstadt 3 episodes
2011–12 Twenty Twelve Sally Owen Eight episodes
2012 Accused Sue Epidode 2.2: "Mo's Story"
Bad Sugar Joan Cauldwell
2013–present Broadchurch Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller
2013 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder In Angel Lane Susan Spencer TV Film
Run Carol
The Thirteenth Tale Margaret Lea TV Film
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Herself
2014 Big Ballet Narrator
The 7.39 Maggie Matthews
W1A Sally Owen (cameo)
The Secrets Pippa Episode 1: The Dilemma
Mr. Sloane Janet
This is Jinsy Joan Episode 2.8: The Golden Woggle
2014–present Thomas & Friends Marion Recurring role; Voice (UK/US)
2016 The Night Manager Angela Burr 6 episodes
Our Queen at Ninety Narrator
The Story of Cats Narrator ITV series
Flowers Deborah Channel 4 series
Fleabag Godmother
2017 Watership Down Strawberry Voice

Miniseries; pre-production;

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2011 British Independent Film Award Best Actress
Empire Award Best Actress Won
London Film Critics Circle Award British Actress of the Year Won
Satellite Award Best Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Award British Actress of the Year
The Iron Lady
2012 British Independent Film Award Best Supporting Actress
Hyde Park on Hudson
Royal Television Society Best Actress
British Academy Television Award Best Female Comedy Performance
Twenty Twelve
2013 Won
Best Supporting Actress
Satellite Award Best Actress – Television Series Drama
2014 British Academy Television Award Best Actress Won
TV Choice Best Actress Nominated
Monte-Carlo Television Festival Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series Nominated
National Television Award Best TV Detective Nominated
International Emmy Award for Best Actress Best Actress Nominated
2015 British Independent Film Award Best Supporting Actress
The Lobster
British Academy Television Award Best Female Comedy Performance
2016 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
The Night Manager
2017 Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Pending


  1. England and Wales Birth Index 1916–2005
  2. Maloney, Alison. "Ladies in red light up Empire Awards". The Sun. London.
  3. "Olivia Colman".
  4. Fitzherbert, Henry (2 January 2012). "Olivia Colman on the fast-track to becoming a national treasure". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  5. TV and Radio (20 August 2012). "Olivia Colman interview". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  6. 1 2 "Olivia Colman interview 2013: "I immediately knew I would marry him" – Big Issue". Big Issue. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  7. 1 2 3 Watts, Halina (23 March 2013). "Broadchurch star Olivia Colman says she's lucky not to be a classic beauty". Mirror Online.
  8. "Maggie, Meryl, and my modest career". The Herald. 29 December 2011.
  9. "Sarah Dempster talks to Olivia Colman". London: guardian.co.uk. 18 June 2007.
  10. Preston, John (30 December 2013). "Olivia Colman: the star of Broadchurch on her new BBC drama". The Telegraph. London.
  11. "Class act: Is Olivia Colman Britain's most versatile actress?". The Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  12. Cary, James (3 February 2009). "Starting Writing an Episode". Hut 33 blog. Retrieved on 10 March 2009.
  13. 1 2 Dempster, Sarah (18 June 2007). "Fame is quite scary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 July 2007.
  14. "2008 Interview with Olivia Colman – Beautiful People". Entertainment.timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  15. Villarreal, Yvonne (2 August 2013). "Olivia Colman on 'Broadchurch' coming stateside, 'Doctor Who' rumors". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  16. Maerz, Melissa (15 August 2013). "Broadchurch review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  17. Matthewman, Scott (30 June 2010). "Olivia Colman: The Stage Podcast #67". The Stage. London. Retrieved 30 July 2010.
  18. "BBC News – British Comedy Awards: Olivia Colman nominated twice". Bbc.co.uk. 2 December 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  19. Freezer, David (1 May 2013). "TV star revisits Norfolk roots for Norwich Film Festival". Eastern Daily Press.
  20. Cooke, Rachel (8 December 2013). "Olivia Colman: "At the Bafta dinner, I said to my husband: Can we go home? I want a cup of tea"". The Observer.
  21. Curtis, Nick (7 February 2012). "Olivia Colman on winning Best Actress at the Evening Standard Film Awards". London Evening Standard.
  22. Lockyer, Daphne (4 May 2013). "Broadchurch sensation Olivia Colman: "I'm never cast as the love interest"". London: Mail Online.
  23. "Five facts about Broadchurch star Olivia Colman". Hello!. 14 May 2013.
  24. Graham, Jane (15 May 2013). "Olivia Colman: "I immediately knew I would marry him"". The Big Issue.
  25. WENN. "Olivia Colman — Olivia Colman Welcomes Third Child — Contactmusic.com". Contactmusic.com. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  26. http://new-magazine.co.uk/latestnews/view/73767/Olivia-Colman-welcomes-third-child/
  27. "2011 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards | Sundance Institute". Sundance.org. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  28. "BBC News – Olivia Colman wins two Bafta awards". bbc.co.uk. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  29. Olivia Colman - Both BAFTA Speeches (2013) (Video). YouTube. 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  30. "Television | Actress in 2014". British Academy of Film and television. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  31. "British Press Guild Awards 2014". Broadcasting Press Guild.
  32. "Winners of the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2013 Revealed". Crime Thriller Awards.
  33. "Winners Announced at RTS Programme Awards 2013". Royal Television Society.
  34. "Scott Mills announces winners at 20th Mind Media Awards, sponsored by Virgin Money Giving". Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  35. "Tender – Tender Welcomes New Patron Olivia Colman". Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  36. Alzheimer's Society. "Olivia Colman joins hundreds on Memory Walk to fight dementia". Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  37. "Olivia Colman and Jim Carter voice our new radio campaign". Marie Curie. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  38. "Olivia Colman's BBC Radio 4 appeal for Anthony Nolan". Anthony Nolan. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  39. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  40. Jane Wharton. "UK must not abandon Afghan women to the Taliban, warns Olivia Colman". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  41. "Make way for Maggie in the Maxi: Meryl Streep's Iron Lady gives her daughter a driving lesson". Daily Mail. London. 12 February 2011.

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