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Colman at the 2014 <a href="/content/British_Independent_Film_Awards" style="color:blue">British Independent Film Awards</a>
Colman at the 2014 British Independent Film Awards

Sarah Caroline Olivia Sinclair CBE (née Colman; 30 January 1974), better known as Olivia Colman, is an English actress. Deemed a "national treasure",[1][2] Colman is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, four BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, four British Independent Film Awards, the Volpi Cup for Best Actress, and a BFI Fellowship.[3]

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 series Twenty Twelve (2011–2012), Best Supporting Actress for the anthology crime series Accused (2012),[4] and Best Actress for the ITV crime drama series 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 the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. For her performance in the comedy series Fleabag (2016–2019), she received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

In film, Colman is known for playing 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).[5] 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[6] was born on 30 January 1974[7][8] in Norwich, Norfolk, the daughter of nurse Mary (née Leakey) and chartered surveyor Keith Colman.[9][10] 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.[11] She cites her mother's interrupted career as a ballet dancer as an inspiration to pursue acting professionally.[12] Colman spent a term studying primary teaching at Homerton College, Cambridge before studying drama[13] at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, from which she graduated in 1999. During her time at Cambridge, she auditioned for the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club and met future co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb as well as Peter Serafinowicz.[14][13][15][16][17]

In July 2018, Colman was a subject of the UK genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?[18] 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 St. Helena[19] and that he worked in London for the East India Company.[20] 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.[20] Slessor's passage was paid for by her paternal grandmother.[21] The episode speculated that Slessor's 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 her name was Seraphina Donclere, evidently of European origin, and that she died in 1810.[22]


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. 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.[23] 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.[24] 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".[25] She continued to appear on Peep Show, though in a reduced capacity, until it ended in 2015.

Colman had a recurring role in the surreal comedy Green Wing from 2004 to 2006. 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.

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.[26][27] She was nominated for an International Emmy Award for Best Actress and won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for her performance.[28] Also in 2013, she starred as Margaret Lea, opposite Vanessa Redgrave, in the BBC television film The Thirteenth Tale.[29] 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.[30] That same year, she starred as Deborah Flowers in the Channel 4 black comedy series Flowers.[31] She provided the voice of Strawberry in the Netflix/BBC animated miniseries Watership Down.[32] In October 2017, Colman was cast as Queen Elizabeth II in the third and fourth season of the Netflix historical drama series The Crown.[33] She also received praise for her supporting role as Madme Thénardier in the 2018 BBC miniseries Les Misérables.[34] In August 2019, she was confirmed as a guest star for Season 31 of The Simpsons.[35]

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"[24] – 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.[36]

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.[37] Since 2013, she has been a judge on the panel of the Norwich Film Festival.[38] She starred in Yorgos Lanthimos' 2015 absurdist dystopian film The Lobster with Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell,[39] 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.[40] 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.

In 2018, she starred as Queen Anne in Lanthimos' film The Favourite, opposite Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. In preparation for the role, Colman gained 16 kg (2st 7 lb or 35 lb) in weight.[41] For her performance, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress,[42][43] the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical,[44] and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[45]

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.[46][47][48] Colman and Sinclair married in August 2001[49] and have three children together.[50]

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.[51]


In 2013, Colman presented two awards at the Mind Media Awards,[52] 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.[11]

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.[53] 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.[54] Colman has also added her voice to charity campaigns for Marie Curie Daffodil Day (care for the terminally ill).[55] Colman became Patron of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan in 2018,[56] which Colman says helped a friend of hers.[57]

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.[58]


Awards and nominations

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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