Colman cuts the mustard ; Olivia Colman has garnered a string of accolades and fans, but remains refreshingly down-to-earth. As she returns to our TV screens after Broadchurch, KATE WHITING meets the extraordinary actress
IF you were to write a list of everything you wanted in a friend, 'sweet', 'funny' and 'modest' would probably all feature as desirable traits. And they're all words you could use to describe the actress Olivia Colman - who's also one of the most refreshingly honest people you could meet.
Take her thoughts on cosmetic surgery, for example. I'd love my eye bags to be sucked off, I'd love to have a chin again. I think everybody thinks that, but whether you do it or not, I don't know. If you see me next time and I look AMAZING, I'll have had something done, she says, giggling.
Colman is riding rather high at the moment. She's just starred in the runaway ITV success Broadchurch and has two Bafta nominations: for Best Leading Actress in The Accused and Best Female Comedy Performance in Olympics sitcom, 2012.
Whether she wins them both at the Bafta Television Awards tomorrow remains to be seen, but they show how versatile an actress she is.
Although she's still most recognised for the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show, in which she made her name alongside David Mitchell and Robert Webb, the 2011 film Tyrannosaur, in which she played a physically abused wife, revealed she was just as strong at drama. The role also brought her numerous awards, including a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and a British Independent Film Award. If I was allowed to do both [comedy and drama], I'd be so happy, she says today, when we meet at ITV. The more you do one, the more they forget you in the other one, it's so tricky and you don't really ever have a choice. But I love both.
If I was really pushed, if the gun was against my head, I think I might... oh, I don't know! At the moment, I'm really revelling in doing drama though, because I wasn't allowed to do it for so long.
It's drama she's about to do again, as she teams up with Tyrannosaur director Paddy Considine in ITV's follow-up to last year's The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher.
Colman readily admits the fact her friend Considine was playing Mr Whicher was a big pull factor. I said yes before I'd read it, because I heard Paddy was in it and then was pleasantly surprised to hear that I'd said yes to a good script, so that was lucky! She had watched the first drama about the 19th Century Scotland Yard detective who investigates the murder of a wealthy three-year-old boy and correctly points the finger at his jealous half-sister.
I think I've seen everything Paddy's been in! says 39-year-old Colman, excitedly, suddenly aware she sounds slightly obsessed. Luckily, we're friends, so it's all right, but before I'd met him, I was just in awe of him. I'm one of his biggest fans.
He's one of the most honest and extraordinary humans I've ever met, he's a man of integrity and he's just brilliant, his mind is fascinating. It's got some dark places in it and it's funny, he's brilliant.
It took a while for her to get used to acting alongside him, rather than being directed by him.
Because we're mates, it's lovely to play off each other. But I did take a couple of days to adjust because the last time we'd worked together, he was the best director in the world.
The lovely director [of Whicher] would give me notes and I kept checking with Paddy if that was all right and he had to tell me, 'I'm not the director'.
This feature-length one-off picks up the story some time after Jack Whicher has lost his case against Constance Kent, the half- sister of murdered Saville, who eventually confessed her guilt five years after she was acquitted. After the trial, Whicher suffered depression and quit the police force.
In this new fictional case, he rescues respectable country lady Susan Spencer (Colman) from a violent robbery in a dodgy part of London, and she then hires him as a 'private inquiry agent' to find her missing teenage niece, who she was looking after. It soon turns into a murder inquiry.
She's a woman of independent wealth, so money's not one of her worries, says Colman. She's suffered losses and heartache and he's the only friendly face she sees initially and she trusts him. They have a connection with each other. Colman, who has two children with her husband Ed Sinclair, admits she found it difficult to play the grieving aunt, but she drew on her experience of motherhood for the more emotional scenes.
As soon as they realise you can cry, that's all the parts you get. I can't stop though, it's awful. If they say, 'This scene doesn't have any crying in it', I think, 'Good luck!' If there's a dead kid in it, I'm not going to be able to stop, she says.
I imagine if that was me finding my child under a sheet... I don't picture my own children, because that would be too much, you'd never recover from that, but just knowing I love my children... the thought of it... it's not that big a leap.
My emotions have always been close to the surface and since having children, that's it, I've got no skin at all. But it's the best thing I've ever done.
Besides having children, Colman is most proud of her performance in Tyrannosaur. And then there was the moment when Meryl Streep, in her Bafta acceptance speech for best actress for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, thanked Colman (Carol Thatcher) and described her as divinely gifted.
I've rewound that and watched it quite a few times... admits the actress.
More than recognition and awards, Colman says what means most to her in the industry is being told she's got the part.
It's the best bit and then you've got to do the job and you worry you're going to do it badly. She finds it weird getting spotted in the street and deals with the fame in her own inimitable way. I don't look up much!.
I don't enjoy that bit. I do find it strange that faces you don't recognise stare at you. Coming up in the lift just now, there were two girls grinning at each other and I thought, 'I don't know if that's me, or one of them's farted' and then they went, 'scuse me, we're loving Broadchurch!' It's always nice, I don't know why I'm such a chicken about it.
Now she's conquered Britain, are her sights set on Hollywood? I don't think Hollywood have got my number, they never call me! she jokes.
Of course, it would be fun, but I'd never emigrate.
I've had lovely, lovely work here, but who wouldn't live somewhere warm for a year? I don't imagine I'd fit the mould there, maybe when I'm much older.
For now, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that she's staying on these shores.
. ? Both programmes are on tomorrow at 8pm. The Arqiva British Academy Television Awards are on BBC1 and The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher: The Murder In Angel Lane is on ITV.
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