Man at His Best

The Roles That Led Olivia Colman To An Oscar

What to watch now you've caught Colmania.

BY TOM NICHOLSON | Feb 27, 2019 | Film & TV

Olivia Colman's Best Actress Oscar win for her role as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite is the first bit of completely unironically, heart-swelling good news we've had since that fortnight last summer when it looked like Harry Maguire's forehead could probably have won a snap election if you'd stuck a rosette on it.

The wave of goodwill has been pretty overwhelming. If you're reading this from overseas, let us fill you in: there've been street parties, everyone's had the last two days off, and the Red Arrows have been doing celebratory flypasts every 20 minutes. The lads are shattered, but they recognise that living through this wave of Colmania is a truly special thing.

If The Favourite and the very well-deserved Oscar nod is your first introduction to Olivia Colman though, now's the time to get acquainted with our nation's newest national treasure's greatest hits. Consider this a visual Now! That's What I Call Olivia Colman.

Peep Show (2003-2015)
Channel 4

Obviously. The stages of Sophie's disintegration - from Mark's performatively breezy but unattainable love object, to steady if slightly distant girlfriend, to extremely distant and disillusioned sort-of-wife, to hard-drinking party animal and general liability - could have felt cartoonish. Colman, though, invested Sophie with so much inner unhappiness (even before she bursts into tears at her wedding with Mark) that it made all the characters around her richer and more interesting for the fact that they didn't realise it. Seasons four and five are peak Sophie, for our money.

Buy Peep Show here

Tyrannosaur (2011)

Paddy Considine's debut as a writer-director was an extremely bleak kitchen sink drama about a widower whose uncontrollable rage forces everyone away from him, until Colman's Hannah reaches out to him while he hides behind a clothes rail in her charity shop. They become friends, and she tries to leave her own abusive marriage. It had a pretty low-key release, but Tyrannosaur has grown in stature since partly thanks to Colman's extraordinary performance: you get her bravery, her warmth and her faith in people, but it's all shot through with fragility and lingering self-doubt.

Stream Tyrannosaur here

Broadchurch (2013)
Patrick Redmond/ITV

So much more than your average whodunnit police procedural, Chris Chibnall's drama explored how the death of an 11-year-old boy and the rampant suspicion, media interest and mutual grief tears apart a seaside town. David Tennant's DI Alex Hardy and Colman's DS Ellie Miller are a great double-act - him dour and cynical, her warm, bloody-minded and generally up for an ice cream - and Colman's Miller holds the thread of the first series' revelation through to the bitter conclusion, gradually hardening against an increasingly dark world.

Buy Broadchurch here

Fleabag (2016)

Fleabag's faux-bohemian godmother is very clearly horrible (in fact, the character sprung from Colman's request to play "a real bitch" after becoming mates with Phoebe Waller-Bridge on the set of The Iron Lady), but Colman plays her with such an underhand slyness you completely buy how she can navigate the world getting exactly what she wants without anyone noticing quite how nasty and vindictive she is. Colman relishes the chance to work against her general air of sunny trustworthiness, and makes the most of Waller-Bridge's juicy script.

Stream Fleabag here

The Office (2001)

A tiny cameo, but a very important one. Colman plays a reporter from Inside Paperwho's profiling David Brent, and while Brent has all the best lines in some of Ricky Gervais' best work in The Office, it wouldn't work as well without Colman's subtle shading. Her rapidly dwindling patience is laced with with some well disguised but obvious (to the viewer) confusion and bemusement that makes the whole scene work. So many things flash across her face at the line: "Put... David Brent is refreshingly laidback for a man with such responsibility." It's genuinely masterful.

Buy The Office here

From: Esquire UK