Olivia trivia: the Colman files

Eight things you (probably) never knew about the double Bafta-winning actress

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The Independent Culture

1. Her first ever acting role was as Miss Jean Brodie

Despite Colman’s sunny disposition, at 16 she found herself playing the manipulative lead in a school production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. “I  immediately thought this is what I want to do; I don’t want to do anything  else.”

2. Colman should have really been a lorry driver

Although she secretly dreamt of a life in front of the camera, at school she would tell everyone that she wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. After taking a computerised career test, the results informed her that she’d make an excellent HGV lorry driver because of her high spatial awareness. Fortunately transport’s loss was  acting’s gain.

3. You won’t find her bothering with method acting

Despite raw and searing  performances in films such as the award-winning Tyrannosaur, Colman insists she isn’t about to go all Daniel Day-Lewis on us. “I can’t see myself following the LAPD around for nine months or something. You can over-think things. If the script’s good, everything you need is in there. I just try and feel it, and do it  honestly,” she says.

4. She believes in love at first sight

After walking into a rehearsal for a student production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Table Manners at Cambridge University, she saw Ed Sinclair in profile and immediately thought, “I’m going to marry him”. They have been together ever since and have two sons.

5. Bill Murray left her a voicemail on her phone

During the filming of the Roosevelt biopic, Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray, in which Colman plays the Queen Mother, Murray left her a voicemail inviting her to go for a drink at The Groucho. She couldn’t make it. “More’s the pity,” she told one newspaper. “I could have got pissed with Bill Murray... I’ve still got it. I’ll never erase it!”

6. She once ate a cigarette in an audition

Colman’s long-standing working relationship with David Mitchell and Robert Webb began when she attended an audition for the Cambridge University Footlights. The pair told her to find something in the room and try and sell it to them. She picked up a cigarette butt and pretended it was nutritious, eventually eating it. Colman has gone on to work with them on That Mitchell and Webb Sound, That Mitchell and Webb Look, and, most notably, Peep Show.

7. Olivia’s not her real name

Her birth name is Sarah Colman  but because of an Equity clash with another actress with the name she decided to go with Olivia after a best friend from university. She has never found it strange to lose Sarah because all her friends still refer to her by her nickname, Colly.

8. Even Meryl Streep thinks  she’s rad

Having played Carol Thatcher to Streep’s Maggie in The Iron Lady, on accepting her Best Actress Bafta, Streep thanked Colman in her speech, calling her “divinely gifted”. High praise indeed.