Olivia Colman and I are consuming tea within the sitting room of her double-fronted south London house, speaking about faculty runs. Solely drawback is, I am distracted. As a result of on the ground, simply inches from my toes, is a pile of scripts. “Second sequence of Broadchurch,” she explains, with that open, lovable, gummy smile. “I am so frightened that somebody will pay money for them that I burn a couple of pages each time we mild a fireplace.”
Good, devastating Broadchurch. Greater than 9 million of us had been on the sting of our sofas final winter as we watched the horrible reality about who killed 11-year-old Danny Latimer unfold. Ultimately, the truth that Broadchurch didn’t disappoint was largely all the way down to the Bafta-winning brilliance of Colman’s efficiency as DS Ellie Miller. Who can truthfully say that they did not really feel her coronary heart breaking when her boss, DI Hardy (David Tennant), advised her the information that it was her husband Joe whodunnit?
And now Broadchurch is again for a second sequence. However whether or not it may be improved upon, or what on earth can occur in a tiny Dorset city the place many of the inhabitants at the moment are devastated, lifeless or below arrest, stays to be seen. For there’s a hazard right here — and it’s a actual hazard, let’s face it — that Broadchurch will flip right into a seaside model of Midsomer Murders and that the final word sufferer will probably be its personal integrity.
“Nicely, sure, I have to say my preliminary intuition was to go away it effectively alone,” admits Colman. “I assumed it was excellent because it was, and that it might be a travesty to the touch it. However then Chris [Chibnall, the show’s writer and creator] talked us by way of his concepts for the second sequence and all of us went, ‘Oh, OK… cool.'” Past this, Colman can not — and won’t — be drawn. ‘All I’ll say is that it would not disappoint,” she says quietly, in her distinctive, treacle tone. Colman — “Collie” to buddies — seems a lot youthful than her 40 years, padding round her home in leggings and socks, her hair nonetheless moist from the bathe. She talks consistently, with a rat-a-tat sweetness, as she makes countless cups of tea. And though she’s the exact same soulful eyes and heartfelt smiles you see on tv, in some way in particular person she’s smaller, regardless of insisting “by the point I completed filming Broadchurch final week, I used to be primarily consuming cake.” However her (completely false) lament that she is obese fits her love of jokes and self-deprecation. “You simply cannot inform my measurement as a result of I am carrying black,” she says. “However I truthfully virtually cancelled this shoot as a result of I could not bear the considered being the fattest particular person in Vogue.”
Whether or not she’s taking part in a battered spouse (Tyrannosaur) or a vicar’s spouse (Rev), the sister of a reluctant salsa dancer (Cuban Fury) or the mom of a murdered baby (Accused), Colman attracts us in, time and time once more, with the sheer drive of her humanity. Her extraordinary empathy — “like a watch with the mechanism seen” in accordance with her Rev co-star Tom Hollander – has seen Colman rise from comedian sidekick to tragic heroine within the area of a decade. “Olivia completely embodies all of our contradictions,” says Chibnall, who wrote Broadchurch‘s Ellie together with her in thoughts. “She’s not afraid to cry however she’s additionally extremely robust. She’s humorous, however she’s ready to enter the deepest, darkest emotional territory. She inhabits a personality from the within out and, most of all, she understands what it’s prefer to be alive – how ridiculous it’s, how heartbreaking it’s and the way great it’s.”
There’s nothing saccharine about Colman. Her wide-set, brown eyes may effectively up with the tears on the slightest factor (“I’ve no armour, I am afraid”), however in addition they flash with an clever feistiness which is, arguably, the true secret of her success. If a topic that comes up would not sit effectively together with her, she pounces on it like a cat. “Why the fuck ought to I care?” she blazes, after I ask if she was upset when Gracepoint, the American remake of Broadchurch, was solid with Breaking Dangerous‘s Anna Gunn taking part in the function of Ellie Miller reverse David Tennant. “It is not my half. I do not personal it.”
The phrase “nationwide treasure” may make her nostril wrinkle with embarrassment, however it does go some strategy to describing the best way that Colman is adored, Judi Dench fashion, by audiences and contemporaries. “I really feel a bit bit like I am not able to have that very good title on my shoulders simply but,” she says quietly. “I do know it comes from a heat and loving place, however I’m wondering if it implies that I am on the finish of my profession, and I really feel like I am solely simply getting going.” She catches herself “Nicely, at the very least, I hope I’m, anyway.” Colman’s very British modesty has its roots in a loving, middle-class Norfolk upbringing. Her chartered surveyor father and nurse mom labored laborious to ship her to Gresham’s College (alma mater of Benjamin Britten and WH Auden), the place she did not make any explicit impression till, aged 16, she took on the title function in a manufacturing of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and “instantly felt actually at house”.
However Colman got here from a smart world, the place individuals did not do issues like faux to be another person for a dwelling. After leaving faculty she enrolled on a educating course at Homerton School, Cambridge to purchase herself a while. “I did not know what else to do and I nonetheless could not fairly let myself need to act,” she remembers. An early audition for Footlights (the place she met her future co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb) set her on the correct path. “I instantly discovered all these individuals who had been a bit bizarre and a bit shy like me; individuals who discovered being another person simpler, in some way, than being themselves.” Quickly afterwards she met and fell in love together with her future husband, Ed Sinclair, a legislation scholar who additionally harboured desires of an appearing profession, and the deal was executed. “We skipped of collectively into this good, not-at-all-sensible world, the place you had been allowed to play endlessly.”
As soon as Colman settled on what she needed to do, the drive of her ambition burned brightly. She adopted Sinclair (now a novelist) to Bristol Previous Vic drama faculty however success didn’t instantly comply with her 1999 commencement. The 25-year-old did a typing course and labored as a temp (“fairly a jolly secretary, however not an excellent one”) and even took work as a cleansing girl. At no level, nonetheless, did she take into account giving up. “I could not and would not do the rest,” she shrugs, virtually apologetically. “Having the ability to put ‘Actor’ on my passport was all I needed on the earth.” Her dad and mom had been bemused however supportive; when her mom recommended she give it a yr, Colman replied, with that honeyed metal of hers, that she thought she would really give it 10.
Her scene-stealing performances in The Mitchell and Webb Scenario sketch present in 2001 led to bit elements in comedies akin to The Workplace and Black Books and a bigger half, as a frazzled mother-of-four within the hit 2005 Channel four sitcom Inexperienced Wing. Greater roles adopted (Sizzling Fuzz, Peep Present), however it wasn’t till actor Paddy Considine solid her as abused spouse Hannah in his harrowingly sensible 2011 directorial debut Tyrannosaur that Colman’s star really ascended.
Colman’s instincts are spot on; like an arrow to the emotional coronary heart of one thing, she wants solely to learn the primary few pages of a script to know whether or not it’s for her. “It is laborious to elucidate,” she says, “however I can simply really feel whether or not I can do it or not.” Which isn’t to say that she would not have a recreation plan. “I’ve a sneaking suspicion that audiences have seen me crying a bit bit too typically prior to now couple of years,” Colman admits. “And if individuals get actually fed up with me, then I will not get extra work. And if I am unable to do what I really like, then I’ll shrivel up and die.” So she is returning to comedy for the foreseeable future. Though stopping these tears could also be simpler mentioned than executed. “If one thing touches me, I cry. That is it. I am a bit uncooked, a bit garbage actually,” she explains. “Typically a director will say to me, ‘I do not assume this can be a scene the place your character cries.’ And all I can say is, good luck with that!” In life, it’s the similar. “It was barely embarrassing at a dad and mom’ assembly the opposite day when a trainer was good about my boy and I began to effectively up.” Nonetheless, the considered individuals turning on their televisions and seeing her, midflow, makes Colman giggle helplessly, ‘Oh look,”‘ she acts out. ‘Right here we go; she’s crying once more.'”
Fame, for Colman, has taken a little bit of getting used to — “I do discover it bizarre when individuals I do not know are taking a look at me” — however her non-public life gives the right refuge. “So long as I’ve Ed and the boys, all the pieces is all proper,” she says of her husband of 13 years and their two younger sons (eight and 6), whom she asks, politely however firmly, to not have named. Their house is a cheerful, light-filled place, adorned superbly in impartial colors. There are scooters within the newly transformed, glass-fronted kitchen and a tree home, constructed from scratch by Ed, on the backside of the backyard. They do not exit an terrible lot. On the social gathering after final yr’s Baftas — at which Colman gained the Greatest Actress Award for Broadchurch and the Greatest Supporting Actress Award for Accused (and, naturally, cried all through her acceptance speeches) — she turned to Ed and recommended they sneak house. “We had been in our socks, consuming tea by 10 o’clock.”
Each work transfer is made together with her household firmly on the entrance of Colman’s thoughts. “I do not like being away from them. It is so simple as that.” It’s not for that reason, although, that her work has been largely restricted to Britain. “If a script was good, I would go anyplace for it. Fact is, I’ve by no means been supplied a job in America.” However one thing makes me suspect that Colman — who will subsequent be seen starring alongside Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C Reilly in a “bonkers” futuristic sci-fi movie referred to as The Lobster (filmed in Dublin moderately than Hollywood) — is aware of in addition to anybody that worldwide acclaim is effectively inside her attain.
In the interim, a brand new sequence of Broadchurch will little question safe Colman’s place in British hearts. And when she will get on that aircraft to Hollywood — as she’s certain to any day now — and leaves us feeling bereft, it should definitely be with “Actor” on her passport.