Olivia Colman

Olivia Colman Biography.com

Olivia Colman is a British actress best known for playing Carol Thatcher, the daughter of Margaret Thatcher, in the 2011 biopic The Iron Lady.


Olivia Colman studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and began her career appearing on several episodes of the BBC sketch comedy Bruiser in 2000. With countless TV roles paving the way, in 2011, Colman landed critically acclaimed parts in The Iron Lady and Tyrannosaur. She played Queen Mother Elizabeth in the 2012 film Hyde Park on Hudson, and then appeared in the British TV crime series Broadchurch and the 2015 dystopian film The Lobster. In 2017, she received an Emmy nomination and Golden Globe award for her portrayal of intelligence operative Angela Burr in the AMC-BBC TV series The Night Manager.

Early Years

Born in 1974 in Norfolk, England, Olivia Colman attended Homerton College, Cambridge, and spent a semester studying to be a teacher. While at Cambridge, thinking she was headed into a drama audition, she "accidentally" auditioned for, and then joined, Footlights, a theatrical club that has become a pillar in the British comedy community (it was here that she met future co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb (of The Mitchell and Webb Situation). She went on to receive her dramatic training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, but it was comedy that really launched her career, beginning with the BBC sketch comedy show Bruiser in 2000.

From Bruiser, Colman moved on to a score of other TV series, appearing on 30 shows from 2000 to 2010. Her first was The Mitchell and Webb Situation, on which she appeared several times, and she landed recurring roles on such British shows as Gash, Look Around You, Peep Show and Green Wing. With her work on Green Wing (2004–2006) and Peep Show (2003–2010), her comedic reputation really took hold. For her work on Peep Show, Colman earned a nomination for a British Comedy Awards (best television comedy actress).

Early Film Work

When not on TV, Colman has made several forays onto the big screen. With her first effort, Terkel in Trouble, only her voice made it into the animated film, but it was quickly followed by the movies Buried Alive and Confetti (in which she plays a nudist), both low-budget comedies. Hot Fuzz, a comedy that found big success with international audiences, was released in 2007. In the film, Colman plays an overzealous, hypersexed policewoman—a role that shined a spotlight in Colman's comedic chops on the silver screen.

Film work then became more regular for the actress, and she would appear in two more theatrical releases in 2007: I Could Never Be Your Woman and Grow Your Own. Although her acting had been chiefly in comedic and TV roles, and she remained a regular on TV even while making movies, 2011 found Colman landing films that would send her career to a different level.

A Change in Direction

In 2011, Colman got the role of Carol Thatcher, the daughter of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (played by Meryl Streep) in The Iron Lady, a film that went on to earn several award nominations and wins, bringing the entire cast critical acclaim. Next up was the role of Hannah in Tyrannosaur, which earned Colman a Sundance Film Festival Breakout Performance Award (shared with costar Peter Mullan) and a nomination for a British Independent Film Award.

These two roles seem to have changed the trajectory of Colman's acting career—from TV to film—and 2012 saw her taking roles in three more theatrical releases, including the comedy Cuban Fury, about a fallen salsa dancer, and Hyde Park on Hudson. Colman played the Queen Mother Elizabeth, the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, starring opposite Bill Murray (Franklin D. Roosevelt) in Hyde Park on Hudson.

In 2013, Colman began starring in the crime series Broadchurch. She appeared in the dystopian film The Lobster in 2015, and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and won a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of intelligence operative Angela Burr in the AMC-BBC TV series The Night Manager, based on a John le Carré novel. 

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