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Olivia Colman

Last updated 06 September 2015

Olivia Colman - Image Credit: Startraks/REX
Image Credit: Startraks/REX (this image appears for illustrative purposes only and no attempt is made to supersede any copyright attributed to it)

Sarah Caroline Colman

Born: Wed 30th January 1974 (age: 41)

United Agents

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 (2003–10). 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 the 2011 film Tyrannosaur. 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, 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. 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. In her BAFTA acceptance speech in 2013, Colman thanks her drama teacher at Gresham's, Paul Hands. She says that if it was not for him she might still be wondering what to do when she grew up. Of Colman, Hands says: "I think she's one of the great British actors of her generation... she was very popular and kind. That not only made her a better person, but a better actor. I remember occasions when her performances were so powerful the audience would leave in tears. She was that good, which was extraordinary at that age."

Colman went on to spend a term studying primary teaching at Homerton College, Cambridge. During this time, at the age of 20, 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. "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."

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. 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. 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". She continued to appear on Peep Show until 2010.

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.

Colman has also made numerous television appearances as a guest on The Graham Norton Show (10 May 2013, 17 January 2014, 16 January 2015), 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"), 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. 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.

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

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. Colman fell in love with Sinclair at first sight, adding that she thought "there's the bloke I'm going to marry" 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." Crediting Sinclair for helping her get through tough times, 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." Colman and Sinclair married and they have two children. In February 2015, Colman announced that she was expecting her third.


In January 2011, Colman won a Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Breakout Performances for her role in the film Tyrannosaur. 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.

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.


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.

Charitable work

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

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. 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."

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 post natal depression after the birth of her first child.

Biography from the wikipedia article, licensed under CC-BY-SA