High-Spirited Facts About Olivia Colman, TV's Iconic Queen

January 10, 2020 | Mehroo S.

High-Spirited Facts About Olivia Colman, TV's Iconic Queen

From period dramas like The Favourite and The Crown to modern shows like Fleabag and Broadchurch, Olivia Colman has officially made her mark on screen. But she's more than an amazing actor. Colman also has a wonderfully down-to-earth and refreshing personality. Let's get to know Olivia Colman, everyone's favorite TV queen.

Olivia Colman Facts

1. Smart Software?

If not an actor, Colman could have been…what else but a truck driver?! In college, a careers-advice software suggested that she would make a wonderful HGV driver. This was “because I have 100% spatial awareness. I’d be able to back them into tight parking spots.”

Olivia Colman facts Shutterstock

2. The Original Role Models

Colman was born Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman In January 1974. Her mother, Mary (nee Leakey) was a nurse and her father, Keith Colman, was a chartered surveyor. Her parents had a strong work ethic and her mother was someone to look up to because of her selflessness and will to make people’s lives better.

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

3. It’s in the Genes

It is unanimous that Colman pretty much wears her heart on her sleeve because she’s a “superhuman empath descended from two empaths.” Apparently, her father cries while watching anything on television and she is “constantly on the verge of tears at the thought of anything sad, or happy—or anything, really.” She had a “boringly happy” childhood in Norfolk.

Olivia Colman factsPxHere

4. Meant to Be

Forget fairy-tale romance, Colman and her husband Ed Sinclair have a modern and real love story! They met at Cambridge when they were both part of a student production, Alan Ayckbourn's Table Manners. Colman knew she’d met her man as soon as she saw him. Sinclair didn’t reciprocate her feelings instantly, but our girl knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to wait for it. “I stuck with him and made him realize he could only be happy with me.”

Married for over 18 years, the couple are now parents of three children.

Olivia Colman facts Getty Images

5. Royal Souvenir

Sinclair has proven to be a loyal and loving husband. So, when Colman was recently invited to Buckingham Palace and told him to get some toilet paper from one of the royal bathrooms, he dutifully obliged. “He got two squares of loo roll, just to say, we got it from Buckingham Palace.” Take notes men, that is how you fulfill your lady’s wishes.

Olivia Colman factsWikimedia Commons

6. The School Life

Colman went to Norwich High School for Girls and Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk. She was 16 and in high school when she realized how much she enjoyed acting. She played Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and “felt really at ease, and at home.” She didn’t think about making acting a career at that point though.

Olivia Colman factsFlickr, John Fielding

7. Bad Teacher

Her original plan was to become a teacher, and to achieve that dream she enrolled in a teacher’s training college at Homerton College. She soon realized she wasn’t cut out for the job though. “I would have been a terrible teacher. I liked having a lark more.”

Olivia Colman facts Wikimedia Commons

8. Actor-in-Waiting

Although Colman tried being a teacher, and even toyed with the idea of being a midwife at one point (!), she had always dreamed of being an actor. She kept it a secret though and thought it was as far-fetched as “talking to animals.” Luckily, she answered an audition call for Footlights, an amateur Cambridge University drama club, when things weren’t going too well at teacher’s college.

Realizing this was her true calling, she dropped her teaching course to study drama at Bristol Old Vic Theater School.

Olivia Colman factsWikimedia Commons

9. Act One, Scene One

Things weren’t hunky dory in the beginning of Colman's acting career. She was unable to find any acting job after graduating in 1999. Remember her resolve in getting the man she loved? Well, that attitude helped here too, and despite being discouraged, she told her mother she would “give it ten years” before she dropped the acting idea. Thankfully, it didn’t take that long for her to get her break.

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

10. Finally

Colman’s breakthrough was with a supporting role in the sitcom Peep Show in 2003. She went on to play slightly bigger roles in other comedies like That Mitchell and Webb Look and Look Around You. “It was a lovely way to spend your time, mucking about with all these lovely people.” She feels she might not be where she is now if it wasn’t for friends like David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

Olivia Colman factsPeep Show (2003–2015), Objective Productions

11. Mini Naps

What’s your first car memory? For Colman, it is of her mother’s Mini. Mom would be out and about, tending to sick patients, while Colman slept or lazed at the back, on a bed of cushions fashioned for her on the backseat.

Olivia Colman factsPxHere

12. Struggles with Depression

Life is not always sunny and cheery, no matter who you are or how much you have. Colman may have been the rare teenager who was always smiling, but she had some bad days when she would struggle with her body image. She also had postpartum depression, but she recognized the love she had for her baby, even in those black days.

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

13. Work, work, work

While waiting to land an actual acting job, Colman worked as a cleaner and also as a secretary.

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

14. The Age Page

Wikipedia gets it wrong too sometimes, you know. For years, Colman’s age on the people’s online encyclopedia was listed as being eight years older than what it really was. She had to argue with them to get it changed, and they refused to do it unless they saw an actual birth certificate. That really annoyed her, enough for her to ask whose “[insert expletive] birth certificate have you looked at in the first place to make me eight years older?”

Olivia Colman factsWikimedia Commons

15. Stage Tales

Another stage mishap was in 2012, when Colman was performing with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag!) and Jeremy Northam. They were all acting in a high-profile production of Hay Fever and Colman forgot her lines and then got a fit of the giggles. She was suitably chastened though, because she realized that the West End audience hadn’t paid to see her character forget her lines or dissolve into a fit of laughter.

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

16. All My Children

Everyone who has worked with Colman knows that she is “a woman who feels strongly, immediately and without cynicism.” She accepts that she is an extremely sensitive being and claims that becoming a mom has done a number on her “emotional equilibrium.” Colman and Sinclair have two boys, Finn and Hall, and one girl, whose name has not been released.

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

17. It’s All Good

When life gives lemons, we make lemonade. And when one of your main cast members is pregnant, you modify the script to make the character she’s playing pregnant as well! Susanne Bier, director of The Night Manager, was not thrilled when she discovered Colman was expecting. However, she quickly got over the “bump” and decided to include it in the script. She felt it “added to the drama.”

The script was modified further to include lots of chairs in each scene, so Colman would always have a place to sit of course!

Olivia Colman factsThe Night Manager (2016), BBC

18. Award Loot

Colman has won numerous awards. Her most recent one is the prestigious Oscar, which she won for playing Queen Anne in The Favourite. She has also won three British Academy Television Awards, a British Academy Film Award, two Golden Globes, two Critic’s Choice Movie Awards, and three Satellite Awards. She was also awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to drama. Phew. That’s quite a list!

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

19. Life with Ed

Remember the thunderbolt that hit Colman when she met Sinclair? It seems like she hasn’t stopped feeling its effects even now. “I still feel like I’m punching above my weight,” she claims. Sinclair is a screenwriter for TV and film, though he also spends most of his time as “the general fort-holder at home for his growing family.” Family is Colman’s top priority though, and she’s even been known to leave an awards function (the BAFTAS in 2013) after-party to go home, relax and have tea with her husband!

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

20. Weight, What?

You know those actors who spend hours researching the character they’re supposed to play? Not Colman. She claims she doesn’t have a method to play her characters; she just follows the script. She did, however, gain 35 pounds to play the role of Queen Anne in The Favourite. It was either put on the weight or use prosthetics, and Colman chose the former. She found the indulgence “quite fun.”

Olivia Colman factsThe Favourite (2018), Fox Searchlight Pictures

21. The Fit Bit

Naturally, Colman didn’t want to sustain her Queen-Anne-size, and so she engaged Dalton Wong, the owner of TwentyTwo Training, to help her get back to her original weight. She said it wasn’t as easy to lose the pounds that had been a piece of cake to put on, and it was “quite depressing” when the weight just wouldn’t go away. Wong was a great motivation though and helped her get fit by “focusing on her posture” and by mixing cardio with resistance training.

Olivia Colman factsThe Favourite (2018), Fox Searchlight Pictures

22. Dress Up!

Colman describes getting dressed for award functions as “thrush from your armpits to your knees.” I guess it’s safe to say she doesn’t enjoy dressing fancy for parties, or at least award ceremonies!

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

23. Playing Evil

When Colman found out Phoebe Waller-Bridge was writing the first season of Fleabag, she begged the comedian to write a role for her in it. She also told Waller-Bridge that she wanted to play a classic “baddie” and is extremely happy with the character she plays. “I always wanted to play the baddie and she’s written a really good one.”

Olivia Colman factsFleabag (2016–2019), BBC

24. A Bend in the Road

Colman started off doing comedies and sitcoms, but her role in Tyrannosaur could be considered a turning point of sorts because she started getting offers of different roles after it. She played the role of a domestic abuse survivor in the film and was very keen on doing it well because she didn’t want anyone who had been through the experience to watch her and think it didn’t seem genuine.

She said she was grateful to the director for casting her because she had wanted to try as many different things as possible.

Olivia Colman factsTyrannosaur (2011), Inflammable Films

25. “Shelock”

Before she became a spy in Night Manager, Colman played Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, a crime drama series. The show ran for three seasons and Colman won a BAFTA for Best Actress for Season One.

Olivia Colman factsBroadchurch (2013–2017), Kudos Film and Television

26. Exotic Lineage

You may know who your grandparents were, but do you know who their grandparents were? Colman was certain that all her ancestors were solidly English and Irish, and that she came from “fairly boring stock.” However, on an episode of BBC’s Who do You Think You Are?, she discovered that her ancestors included people of Indian and French descent.

She said it made her feel “exotic” and motivated her to honor them by “trying to be braver” and more adventurous than she actually was!

Olivia Colman factsWho do You Think You Are?, BBC

27. Spotlight Shy

Not a fan of being in the spotlight, Colman prefers staying at home rather than going out. She “hates the loss of anonymity” and doesn’t like the fact that strangers know who she is. She feels it puts them on unequal footing and no one has taught her how to deal with that!

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

29. Charity Now

With her sensitive heart and emotional soul, it is no wonder that Colman is very involved in charity work. She is a patron of Tender, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of abuse among young people. In 2014, she was also part of Amnesty International’s documentary about the struggles of Afghani women. She recently recorded a song on an album for BBC Children in Need and is a patron of Anthony Nolan, a blood cancer charity.

She feels it is important to stand for a cause you are passionate about, because even the best actor couldn’t fake enthusiasm for a charity working on something that wasn’t close to their heart.

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

30. Playing Elizabeth

The first thing Colman did when she was offered the part of the Queen in The Crown was to teach her parents how to operate Netflix while she was away. She wanted them to “binge-watch” the series before she made her appearance. Her parents, according to her, were nervous that Claire Foy would be better than her!

Dumbest Arguments Lost FactsPexels

31. Naughty!

The British sense of humor can be quite wicked at times. While playing Queen Anne in The Favourite, Colman also played a prank on fellow actor and friend, Emma Stone. Stone had to put her arm under the queen’s nightgown, but was worried her hand might travel too far. Colman came up with a quick fix: she put a damp sponge somewhere “up there” and assured Stone she’d put a “physical barrier” that would help her know how far ahead her hand had to travel.

At the next take Stone had to contend with touching the sponge and not knowing what it really was until later!

Olivia Colman factsThe Favourite (2018), Fox Searchlight Pictures

32. One Regret

You might not believe it now, but there was a time when Colman was desperate for work. It was at such a point in her career that she signed a low-budget film called Confetti, which was about a naturist couple who wanted to get married…in their birthday suits. She later described the movie as “the worst experience” in her life because she had been misguided and lied to about how much of her body would show in the final cut.

She was going to sue the filmmakers, but later decided they weren’t worth the attention and thought it was better to ignore the incident altogether. Considering how many people have heard of, or watched, Confetti, I’d say that was a smart move.

Olivia Colman factsConfetti (2006), BBC Films

33. I Have a Dream…

Colman used to dream of an open plan kitchen with a huge dining table. She was thrilled, therefore, when The Crown’s executive producer Suzanne Mackie declared that no character would earn more than the one playing the queen (this, of course, came after it was revealed that Claire Foy had earned less for playing the Queen than Matt Smith had earned for playing Prince Philip). Colman has grand plans about what she’s going to do with the extra money coming in from her salary: Home improvements.

“We can fix the loo, which hasn’t worked for about three years.” And maybe it’s time to renovate the kitchen as well!

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

34. The Magical Earpiece

It can be difficult for an actor to always wear her heart on her sleeve, and Colman is well aware of that. There have been several episodes of her sobbing while reading a script or while playing a character who’s supposed to be in complete control of her emotions. Luckily, a wise person figured out a solution to this problem. Now, Colman wears an earpiece playing weather forecasts while filming sad scenes in which she must keep her composure, such as while she plays the queen in The Crown.

Olivia Colman factsThe Crown (2016– ), Netflix

35. With Great Power…

Colman was the most powerful person in British television in 2018, according to The Radio Times. She topped a list that also featured the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba, and David Attenborough.

Grinch FactsWikimedia Commons Gage Skidmore

36. Patron of the Arts

Colman is a patron of the Norwich Film Festival and was on the panel of judges for a few years as well. She loves being a part of the festival, as her journey of artistic expression started from Norwich, and she hopes that other artists will find their true calling there as well.

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

37. Famous Fans

Meryl Streep is a fan of Colman’s acting. The ladies acted together in The Iron Lady, with Colman playing Carol Thatcher and Streep playing her mother, Margaret Thatcher. While the latter went on to win an Oscar for her performance, she acknowledged Colman’s work and called her “divinely gifted.”

Meryl Streep FactsGetty Images

38. Friends Forever

Being away from home can be hard on anyone, but Emma Stone didn’t have any trouble being the only American in the mainly British cast of The Favourite. Colman had much to do with this as well. “She wants everyone to feel like family and be in one room together.” She would invite Stone over to her house often, and always asked her to spend the night there instead of going all the way back.

Stone accepted that she would be crushed if, for some reason, Colman did not remain friends with her.

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

39. An American Holiday

You can't go all the way to California and not visit the happiest place on earth! Colman took her family to Disneyland before going to the Oscars. Must say sounds like a perfect vacation…fun with family in Disney and then winning an Oscar for Best Actress!

Olivia Colman factsFlickr, Glen Scarborough

40. Driving Miss Daisy

Colman learned to drive a car at the age of 12. She used to practice driving in a field close to where she lived in Norfolk.

Olivia Colman factsGeograph

41. Reel to Real

Helena Bonham Carter and Colman play siblings on The Crown, with the former playing Princess Margaret. Taking a cue from their reel-life relationship, Bonham Carter couldn’t resist throwing shade at Colman when they both appeared on The Graham Norton Show. When Norton mentioned that he had heard the latter didn’t do a lot of research into her roles, Bonham Carter remarked that was “the understatement of the year.”

She gave Colman a quick hug though, to make sure there were no hard feelings.

Olivia Colman factsThe Crown (2016– ), Netflix

42. Small Role in a Big Show

Colman has appeared in one episode of Doctor Who, which was before she became such a big star. Steve Moffat, the showrunner, speaks of it regretfully saying that she was “wasted” in the role, and had hardly any screen time at all. She also had a small role in The Office back when she had started her acting career.

Doctor Who FactsFlickr

43. Doggone Cute

Colman is most decidedly a dog person. Her dog is very much a part of the family, and his name is Alfred, Lord Waggyson.

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

44. A Few Good Women

While there were plenty of women who graduated from Drama School with Colman, she feels that many of them did not stick around in the industry because there wasn’t enough work for them. There were also some who stuck around then but left acting as they grew older. While this is unfortunate, it is encouraging to note that there are now more roles for women of all ages because the audience wants to see more women-centric stories.

Colman is thankful for that and for the opportunity to play these older characters whom, she finds, are more fascinating anyway.

Olivia Colman factsShutterstock

45. A Girl’s Best Friend

When Colman was in Teacher’s College, she had a Morris Minor. She named it “Moomin” and would have heart-to-hearts with it when driving back home from Cambridge. Clearly, it was a car, and not a diamond, that was Colman’s best friend.

Olivia Colman factsWikimedia Commons

46. Queen for Two Seasons

Colman is currently playing a middle-aged Queen Elizabeth in The Crown, but the role will only last for two seasons as the crew will have to find someone else to portray the Queen in the latter part of her life. When Colman's time is up, Imelda Staunton will take the role.

Olivia Colman factsThe Crown (2016– ), Netflix

46. The Queen’s Speech

Colman won her audience’s hearts as well as the Oscar after giving her acceptance speech. She appeared genuinely stunned by winning the Best Actor (Female) Award for her portrayal of Queen Anne, and said it was “hilarious.” She thanked everyone, blew a raspberry when indicated to wrap up, reached out to Glenn Close, and exclaimed “Lady Gaga” before she walked away from stage.

Later she admitted on The Graham Norton Show that she’d been drunk, so she didn’t really remember what she’d said.

Olivia Colman factsGetty Images

47. Oops!

Remember your most embarrassing moment? Yes, the most embarrassing one? I bet it can’t beat this. Colman’s most embarrassing moment was onstage, when she wet herself during a play called The Miser.

Galla Placidia factsPixabay

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28

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