30 January 1974
|Education||Homerton College, Cambridge|
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Sarah Caroline Sinclair(née Colman; born 30 January 1974), known professionally as Olivia Colman,[a] is an English actress. Known for both comedic and dramatic roles in film and television, she has received numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, three British Academy Television Awards, and three Golden Globes.
A graduate of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Colman made her breakthrough in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show (2003–2015). Her other comedic roles on television include Green Wing (2004–2006), That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006–2008), Beautiful People (2008–2009), Rev. (2010–2014), Flowers (2016–2018), Fleabag (2016–2019), and Heartstopper (2022). Colman received the BAFTA Award for Best Female Comedy Performance for the comedy programme Twenty Twelve (2011–2012) and Best Supporting Actress for the crime programme Accused (2012).
Colman gained acclaim for her performance in the ITV crime drama series Broadchurch (2013–2017), which won her a British Academy Television Award for Best Actress. She also appeared in the BBC One thriller miniseries The Night Manager (2016), for which she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film. From 2019 to 2020, she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix period drama series The Crown, for which she won the Golden Globe Award and Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Other dramatic roles on television include Les Misérables (2019) and Landscapers (2021).
For her portrayal of Anne, Queen of Great Britain in the black comedy period film The Favourite (2018), Colman won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She earned additional Academy Award nominations for her performances in the films The Father (2020) and The Lost Daughter (2021). Other notable film credits include Hot Fuzz (2007), Tyrannosaur (2011), The Iron Lady (2011), Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), Locke (2013), The Lobster (2015), Murder on the Orient Express (2017), The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021), and Empire of Light (2022).
Sarah Caroline Colman was born in Norwich on 30 January 1974, the daughter of nurse Mary (née Leakey) and Chartered Surveyor Keith Colman. 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. She cites her mother's interrupted career as a ballet dancer as an inspiration to pursue acting professionally. 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. During her time at Cambridge, she appeared in the Channel 4 series The Word in 1995, under her nickname "Colly", auditioned for the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club and met future co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb.
Colman had to adopt a different stage name when she began working professionally, because Equity (the UK actors' union) already had an actress named "Sarah Colman". "One of my best friends at university was called Olivia and I always loved her name," Colman told The Independent in 2013. "I was never Sarah; I was always called by my nickname, Colly, so it didn't seem so awful not to be called Sarah."
Colman was a subject of the UK genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? in July 2018. 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 and that he worked in London for the East India Company. 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. Slessor's passage was paid for by her paternal grandmother. 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 had died in 1810.
Colman made her professional acting debut in 2000, at the age of 26, as part of the BBC Two 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 Channel 5'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. 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. 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". She continued to appear on Peep Show, though less often, 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".
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. starring Tom Hollander. The series ran from 2010 to 2014. 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. 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.
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 found dead on a beach under suspicious circumstances. She was nominated for an International Emmy Award for Best Actress and won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her performance. Also in 2013, she starred as Margaret Lea, opposite Vanessa Redgrave, in the BBC television film The Thirteenth Tale.
In 2015, Colman starred in Yorgos Lanthimos' absurdist dystopian film The Lobster with Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell, The film premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it competed for the Palme d'Or and received the Jury Prize. For her performance Colman was nominated for the London Film Critics' Circle Award for Supporting Actress of the Year and won the BIFA Award for Best Supporting Actress.
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. That same year, she starred as Deborah Flowers in the Channel 4 black comedy series Flowers. She also provided the voice of Strawberry in the Netflix/BBC animated miniseries Watership Down. In 2017, she played Princess Dragomiroff's lady's maid Hildegarde Schmidt in Kenneth Branagh's 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. For her performance, she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Colman also won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her awe-struck and humorous Academy Awards acceptance speech was widely covered in the media.
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. In August 2019, she was confirmed as a guest star as Lily in the thirty-second season of the animated comedy series The Simpsons.
In October 2017, Colman was cast as Queen Elizabeth II in the third and fourth season of the Netflix historical drama series The Crown. The third season was released in November 2019. For her performance, she won two Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama, and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The fourth season was released on 15 November 2020, to critical acclaim.
In 2020, Colman starred alongside Anthony Hopkins in Florian Zeller's film adaptation of his stage play, The Father, which focuses on an elderly man dealing with memory loss. The film premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, was picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. The film began a limited release on 26 February 2021, after originally being scheduled to be released on 18 December 2020. Hopkins and Colman received widespread acclaim for their performances, as did the film itself for its accurate depiction of dementia. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, while Colman was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
In 2021, Colman had roles in the drama films Mothering Sunday and The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, and in the science fiction animated films The Mitchells vs. the Machines and Ron's Gone Wrong. She also executive produced and starred alongside David Thewlis in the HBO true crime limited series Landscapers, which was created by her husband Ed Sinclair. The series and Colman's performance earned critical acclaim.
Also in 2021, Colman starred in Maggie Gyllenhaal's psychological drama The Lost Daughter, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante. Her performance in the film earned critical acclaim, receiving nominations for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Academy Award for Best Actress, amongst others.
In April 2021, Colman was tapped to play the lead role in the romantic drama film Empire of Light, directed by Sam Mendes. In the same month, she joined the cast of the Disney+ limited series Secret Invasion, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show is set to premiere in 2023. In September 2021, Colman was added to multi-starrer musical Wonka, a film which serves as a prequel to the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, exploring Willy Wonka's origins. It is scheduled for release on 15 December 2023. She is set to star in the coming-of-age comedy film Joyride and as Miss Havisham in the FX and BBC limited series Great Expectations, based on Charles Dickens' novel of the same name. She will also voice-star in the DreamWorks animated film Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and in Netflix's Scrooge: A Christmas Carol.
In the late 1990s, while performing in a Footlights production of Sir 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. Colman and Sinclair married in August 2001, and have three children together. They live in South London.
Since 2013, she has been a judge on the panel of the Norwich Film Festival. In August 2014, Colman was one of 200 public figures who signed a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to the September 2014 referendum on the issue. In November 2020, she signed an open letter condemning violence and discrimination against trans women.
In 2013, Colman presented two awards at the Mind Media Awards, 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.
Inspired by her research for the film Tyrannosaur (2011), 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. 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. Colman has also given support to charity campaigns for the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal (care for the terminally ill). Colman became Patron of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan in 2018, which she said helped a friend of hers.
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. An ambassador for UNICEF UK since 2015, she became its president in 2020.
|Denotes works that have not yet been released|
|2004||Terkel in Trouble||Terkel's Mother||Voice; English dub|
|One Day||Ian's Mother||Short film|
|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|
|Arrietty||Homily||Voice; UK dub|
|The Iron Lady||Carol Thatcher|
|2012||Hyde Park on Hudson||Queen Elizabeth|
|2013||I Give It a Year||Linda|
|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|
|2017||Murder on the Orient Express||Hildegard Schmidt|
|2018||The Favourite||Queen Anne|
|2019||Them That Follow||Hope Slaughter|
|2021||The Mitchells vs. the Machines||PAL||Voice|
|Mothering Sunday||Mrs. Clarrie Niven|
|The Electrical Life of Louis Wain||Narrator|
|The Lost Daughter||Leda Caruso||Also executive producer|
|Ron's Gone Wrong||Donka Pudowski||Voice|
|Empire of Light||Hilary Small|
|Puss in Boots: The Last Wish||Mama Bear||Voice; post-production|
|Scrooge: A Christmas Carol||Ghost of Christmas Past|
|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||Television 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||Television 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||Television film|
|The Time of Your Life||Amanda||6 episodes|
|2008||Love Soup||Penny||Episode: "Integrated Logistics"|
|Hancock and Joan||Marion||Television film|
|Consuming Passions||Janet Bottomley
|2008–2009||Beautiful People||Debbie Doonan||12 episodes|
|2008, 2018||Would I Lie to You?||Herself||2 episodes|
|2009||Skins||Gina Campbell||Episode: "Naomi"|
|Midsomer Murders||Bernice||Episode: "Small Mercies"|
|Mister Eleven||Beth Paley||2 episodes|
|2010||Doctor Who||Prisoner Zero||Episode: "The Eleventh Hour"|
|2010–2014||Rev.||Alex Smallbone||19 episodes|
|2011||Comic Relief: Uptown Downstairs Abbey||O'Brien||Television film|
|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||Television film|
|2013–2017||Broadchurch||DS Ellie Miller||24 episodes|
|2013||The Suspicions of Mr Whicher:
The Murder In Angel Lane
|Susan Spencer||Television film|
|The Thirteenth Tale||Margaret Lea||Television film|
|The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot||Herself||Television 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"|
|2014–2018||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 special|
|2016–2018||Flowers||Deborah Flowers||12 episodes|
|The Secret Life of the Zoo||Narrator||35 episodes|
|2017||Inside Dior||Narrator||2 episodes|
|2018||Flatpack Empire||Narrator||3 episodes|
|Natural World||Narrator||Episode: "The Super Squirrels"|
|Watership Down||Strawberry||Voice; 4 episodes|
|2019||Les Misérables||Madame Thénardier||4 episodes|
|2019–2020||The Crown||Queen Elizabeth II||20 episodes|
|2020||The Simpsons||Lily||Voice; Episode: "The 7 Beer Itch"|
|Becoming You||Narrator||6 episodes|
|Cinderella: A Comic Relief Pantomime for Christmas||Fairy Godmother||Television special|
|2021||Trip Hazard: My Great British Adventure||Narrator||4 episodes|
|Landscapers||Susan Edwards||Also executive producer|
|2022||Heartstopper||Sarah Nelson||6 episodes|
|2023||Secret Invasion||Sonya Falsworth||Upcoming miniseries|
|TBA||Great Expectations||Miss Havisham||Upcoming miniseries|
|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|
|2017||Mosquitoes||Jenny||Royal National Theatre, London|
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Olivia Colman
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, five Satellite Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Volpi Cup, and a BFI Fellowship.
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 (2019–2020), she received two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy 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. For her performance in the drama film The Father (2020), she received nominations for numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Critics' Choice Movie Award, and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. For her performance in the psychological drama film The Lost Daughter (2021), Colman was nominated for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Academy Award for Best Actress.
Colman was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to drama.
Olivia Colman was searching to find Harriet Slessor's mother. Well we can reveal that her mother was in fact a lady called Seraphina Donclere, who died in 1810. We hold a copy of her will which mentions 'her beloved daughter Harriet Slessor'.
Stealing the show in BBC1's Les Misérables, ascending to the throne in The Crown and maybe bagging an Oscar for The Favourite… next year could be the versatile actor's best yet
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