Olivia Williams
Williams in 2014
Olivia Haigh Williams

(1968-07-26) 26 July 1968 (age 55)
North London, England
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Years active1992–present
(m. 2003)

Olivia Haigh Williams (born 26 July 1968) is a British actress who appears in British and American films and television. Williams studied drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for two years followed by three years at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her first significant screen role was as Jane Fairfax in the British television film Emma (1996), based on Jane Austen's novel.

She made her film debut in 1997's The Postman, followed by Rushmore (1998) and The Sixth Sense (1999). Williams also acted in the British films Lucky Break (2001), The Heart of Me (2002) and An Education (2009). She continued acting in films such as The Ghost Writer (2010), Hanna (2011), Anna Karenina (2012), Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), Sabotage (2014), Maps to the Stars (2014), Victoria & Abdul (2017), and The Father (2020).

From 2017 to 2019, she played Emily Silk in the science fiction television series Counterpart. From 2022 to 2023, Williams portrayed Camilla Parker Bowles in Netflix's historical drama The Crown in its final two seasons.

Early life and education

Williams was born in North London.[1] Both her parents are barristers.

Williams was educated at South Hampstead High School, an independent school for girls in Hampstead in north London, and Newnham College, Cambridge, where she graduated with a degree in English literature. She then studied drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for two years and spent three years at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[2]


Williams at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival, 2010

After graduation, Williams worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London. In 1995, she toured the United States in the National Theatre production of Shakespeare's Richard III starring Ian McKellen. Her first significant appearance before the cameras was as Jane Fairfax in the British TV film Emma (1996), based on Jane Austen's 1816 novel.[2]

Williams made her film debut in the 1997 movie The Postman, after doing a screen test for Kevin Costner.[2] She later won the lead role of Rosemary Cross in Wes Anderson's Rushmore (1998).[3] She then starred as Bruce Willis' wife in the blockbuster The Sixth Sense (1999),[4] a film she would later parody during her brief appearance in the British sitcom Spaced. Since then, Williams has appeared in several British films, including Lucky Break (2001), The Heart of Me (2002), for which she won the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress,[5] and An Education (2009). She played Mrs. Darling in the 2003 film adaptation of Peter Pan. Williams was uncredited for her role as Dr. Moira MacTaggert in the 2006 film X-Men: The Last Stand.[6][7]

On TV, Williams portrayed British author Jane Austen in Miss Austen Regrets (2008) and was cast as Adelle DeWitt in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, which ran on Fox from 2009 to 2010.[8]

In 2010, she won acclaim for her performance as Ruth Lang in Roman Polanski's Ghost Writer, winning the National Society of Film Critics Award, London Critics Circle Film Award for best supporting actress and was runner-up for best supporting actress at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 2010.

In Hanna (2011), she played Rachel, a bohemian mother travelling across North Africa and Europe, who comes into contact with the eponymous teen assassin, who is on the run. The film starred Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, and was a critical and sleeper hit. In 2014, Williams co-starred in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, a dark comic look at Hollywood excess.[9] In 2014 she portrayed Meg Hamilton in the British mystery film Altar.[4]

In 2017, Williams began appearing in the Starz science-fiction series Counterpart, playing Emily, the wife of lead character Howard Silk. In one universe she is still married to him, but her counterpart in the other universe is divorced from him. In 2021, she was cast as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, for the final two seasons of The Crown.[10]

In 2000, Williams wrote the short story "The Significance of Hair" for BBC Radio, and read it on the air.[11]

Personal life

Williams had a seven-year relationship and then engagement to the actor Jonathan Cake which ended two weeks before their planned wedding. In 2003, she married the actor and playwright Rhashan Stone, with whom she has two daughters.[12]

After filming The Postman, she spent time in Bolivia studying spectacled bears in the rainforest.[13][14]

Williams was diagnosed with VIPoma in 2018 and, after treatment, became an ambassador for Pancreatic Cancer UK.[15]


Williams at the Berlin Film Festival 2010


Olivia Williams film roles
Year Film Role Notes
1997 Beck Karen Quinn
Gaston's War Nicky
The Postman Abby
1998 Rushmore Rosemary Cross
1999 The Sixth Sense Anna Crowe
2000 Four Dogs Playing Poker Audrey
Born Romantic Eleanor
Dead Babies Diana aka Mood Swingers
2001 The Body Sharon Golban
Lucky Break Annabel Sweep / Lady Hamilton in show
The Man from Elysian Fields Andrea
2002 The Heart of Me Madeleine
Below Claire
2003 To Kill a King Anne Fairfax
Peter Pan Mrs. Darling
2005 Valiant Victoria (voice)
Tara Road Ria
Mockingbird Mother
2006 X-Men: The Last Stand Moira MacTaggert Uncredited[16]
2008 Flashbacks of a Fool Grace Scott
Broken Lines Zoe
2009 An Education Miss Stubbs
2010 The Ghost Writer Ruth Lang
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Betty Dury
2011 Collaborator Emma Stiles
Hanna Rachel
Wild Bill Kelly
2012 Anna Karenina Countess Vronskaya
Now Is Good Mother
Hyde Park on Hudson Eleanor Roosevelt
2013 The Last Days on Mars Kim Aldrich
Justin and the Knights of Valour Queen (voice)
2014 Sabotage Caroline Brentwood
Maps to the Stars Cristina Weiss
Altar Meg Hamilton
2015 Seventh Son Mam Ward
Man Up Hilary
2016 The White King Sophia (voice)
2017 Victoria & Abdul Jane Spencer
2020 The Father The Woman
2023 The Trouble with Jessica Beth [17]
2024 Another End Juliette


Olivia Williams television roles
Year Title Role Notes
1992 Van der Valk Irene Kortman Episode: "Still Waters"
The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Jennifer Norris Episode: "The Speaker of Mandarin"
1996 Emma Jane Fairfax Television film
1998 Friends Felicity 2 episodes
2000 Jason and the Argonauts Hera 2 episodes
2001 Spaced Knocked-down cyclist Episode: "Help"
2004 Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures Agatha Christie Television film
2006 Krakatoa: The Last Days Johanna Beijerinck Television film
2007 Damage Michelle Cahill Television film
2008 Miss Austen Regrets Jane Austen Television film
2009–2010 Dollhouse Adelle DeWitt Main role
2010 Terriers Miriam Foster Episode: "Change Partners"
2011–2012 Case Sensitive Charlie Zailer 4 episodes
2014 Salting the Battlefield Belinda Kay Television film
2014–2015 Manhattan Liza Winter Main role
2017 The Halcyon Lady Hamilton 8 episodes
2017–2019 Counterpart Emily Burton Silk Main role
2020 Homemade Queen (voice) Episode: "Voyage Au Bout De La Nuit"
2021–2023 The Nevers Lavinia Bidlow Main role
2022 Ten Percent Olivia Williams Episode #1.2
2022–2023 The Crown Camilla Parker Bowles[18] Main role (seasons 56)
2023 Funny Woman Gloria Episode #1.6
TBA Dune: Prophecy Tula Harkonnen Upcoming series


Olivia Williams theatre roles
Year Production Role Venue
1995 Richard III Maid / Nurse / Mistress
2003 Love's Labour's Lost[19] The Princess Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London
The Hotel in Amsterdam[20] Annie Donmar Warehouse, London
2006 The Changeling[21] Beatrice-Joanna Cheek by Jowl production at the Barbican Centre, London
2011 In a Forest, Dark and Deep[22] Betty Vaudeville Theatre, London
2015 Waste Amy O'Connell Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London
2017 Mosquitoes[23] Alice Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre, London
2019 Tartuffe Elmire Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London
2022 Marys Seacole[24] May Donmar Warehouse, London

Awards and nominations


  1. ^ "Olivia Williams: The actor on poor pay for women in Hollywood, Bill Murray, and Bolivian spectacled bears" Archived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine. The independent. Retrieved 24 May 2015
  2. ^ a b c Gilbert, Gerard (15 November 2009). "Olivia Williams: 'I just do what I'm told'". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
  3. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (20 January 2001). "Dead good : Returning from Hollywood to star in British movies would be a step back for most, but Sixth Sense star Olivia Williams was tempted by sex, drugs and cruelty". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 23 June 2006. Retrieved 30 May 2006.
  4. ^ a b "Altar". 9 March 2015. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  5. ^ "British Independent Film Awards · BIFA". BIFA · British Independent Film Awards. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013.
  6. ^ Martin, Michileen (24 June 2022). "Exclusive: Gillian Anderson Joins Marvel In Major Role". Giant Freakin Robot. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  7. ^ Pereira, Sergio (19 January 2018). "15 Actors You Completely Forgot Were In X-Men Movies". ScreenRant. Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  8. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (3 April 2008). "Olivia Williams cast in 'Dollhouse'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 10 May 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  9. ^ "Mia Wasikowska & More Join David Cronenberg's 'Maps To The Stars,' Some Story Details Revealed". Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  10. ^ Smith, Julia Llewellyn (5 February 2022). "Olivia Williams: My big royal comeback — now I'm playing Camilla in The Crown". The Times.
  11. ^ "Opening Lines". Archived from the original on 4 April 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  12. ^ Costa, Maddy (9 January 2008). "Maddy Costa talks to actor Olivia Williams". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 17 June 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  13. ^ Hoggard, Liz (13 April 2003). "How we met? Olivia Williams & Susanna Paisley". The Independent on Sunday (republished on LookSmart). Archived from the original on 3 November 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2007.
  14. ^ Ojumu, Akin (4 July 1999). "Everyone's talking about... Olivia Williams". The Observer. London. Archived from the original on 18 June 2006. Retrieved 11 July 2006.
  15. ^ "Olivia Williams becomes Pancreatic Cancer UK ambassador". Pancreatic Cancer UK. 6 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Report: The Nevers' Olivia Williams Joins The Wheel of Time Season 3". Yahoo Entertainment. 28 November 2023. Retrieved 18 December 2023.
  17. ^ Ayoola, Simbiat (1 February 2023). "The Trouble With Jessica Trailer: Indira Varma Causes Chaos at Dinner". Collider. Retrieved 3 April 2024.
  18. ^ Nugent, Annabel (30 April 2021). "The Crown: Olivia Williams set to play as Camilla Parker Bowles in season five and six". The Independent. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  19. ^ Bassett, Kate (2 March 2003). "Love's Labour's Lost, NT Olivier, London; Honour, NT Cottesloe, London; The Green Man, Bush, London; Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Donmar Warehouse, London : Parting is such sugary sorrow". The Independent.[dead link]
  20. ^ Bassett, Kate (21 September 2003). "The Hotel in Amsterdam, Donmar Warehouse, London; A Woman of No Importance, Haymarket Theatre Royal, London; The Recruiting Officer, Garrick, Lichfield : Charming, funny... and totally vile". The Independent.[permanent dead link] Taylor, Paul (22 September 2003). "The Hotel In Amsterdam, Donmar Warehouse, London : Lounging around can be highly entertaining". The Independent.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Williams, Olivia (4 May 2006). "Diary of a nervous star : Olivia Williams, star of The Sixth Sense, is appearing on stage in The Changeling. In her tour diary, she says it's scarier than Hollywood". The Independent. London.[permanent dead link] Coveney, Michael (17 May 2006). "The Changeling, Barbican, London". The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 February 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2017. Bassett, Kate (21 May 2006). "The Changeling, Barbican, London : Lost in the labyrinth". The Independent.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ Billington, Michael (14 March 2011). "In a Forest Dark and Deep – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  23. ^ Billington, Michael (26 July 2017). "Mosquitoes review – sparring sisters collide in Lucy Kirkwood's science stormer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  24. ^ "Olivia Williams: 'I have unattractive knees. They have taken offence at my scathing remarks and decided to stop functioning'". TheGuardian.com. 30 April 2022.

Further reading