In Spotlight: From Broadchurch to The Crown - Olivia Colman’s best TV and film roles

We round up Oscar-winning British actress Olivia Colman's top films and TV shows, including Broadchurch, The Crown, Fleabag and The Favourite.

By Sophia Moir Published: 4 June 2020 - 5.30pm
ITV

In a few short years, Olivia Colman has gone from a familiar face on British TV to international film star and bona fide national treasure. 

The British actress, born in Norwich to a nurse mother and chartered surveyor father, took Hollywood by storm when she scooped the Best Actress Oscar in 2019.

Aside from her Academy Award win for her performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite, the actress has received critical acclaim for roles in Fleabag, Broadchurch and The Lobster.

Here’s our pick of Colman's best TV and film roles to date.

The Crown

Olivia Colman The Crown Netflix

Olivia Colman plays Queen Elizabeth II in seasons 3 and 4 of Netflix's big budget royal drama, The Crown.

She follows on from Claire Foy who played Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown's first two seasons.

Colman won the 2020 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama for her portrayal of the stoic monarch.

The Crown is available to stream on Netflix.

The Favourite

Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in The Favourite 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne (Colman) occupies the throne but her close friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) effectively governs the country. When a new servant, Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.

Colman nabbed the first Academy Award nomination of her 20-year career for playing Queen Anne in the film. She then beat actresses including Glenn Close and Lady Gaga to the Best Actress Oscar.

Her emotional and acceptance speech at the prestigious film awards soon went viral, with some critics saying she “made Oscars history”.

The Favourite is available to stream now on the NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass.

Fleabag

Olivia Colman as Godmother in Fleabag BBC

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s critically-acclaimed dark comedy, adapted from her award-winning play about a woman trying to cope with life after a personal tragedy, recently came to an end after a fantastic two seasons.

The BBC Three show starred Olivia Colman as the evil Godmother, aka the stepmother of Waller-Bridge’s eponymous lead.

Waller-Bridge recently revealed she wrote the passive-aggressive, severely unlikely character specifically for Colman, after Colman told Waller-Bridge she’d “love to play a real b*tch”.

Sian Clifford, who plays Fleabag’s sister Claire, told Metro.co.uk“There was no question for Olivia; she wanted to do great work.

“Everyone’s going crazy now saying this Oscar winner is in this BBC comedy, but it’s like she wants to go where the work is juicy and nobody has written her a part like Godmother.”

Fleabag is available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.

Les Miserables

Olivia Colman as Madame Thénardier  in Les Miserables BBC

Against the backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest, the ambitious 2018 BBC adaptation of Victor Hugo's epic Les Miserables tells the story of Jean Valjean, a former convict unable to escape the shadow of his past life.

His future is threatened by his nemesis, the chilling police officer and former prison guard Javert, who is determined to bring him to justice.

Colman plays embittered, devious innkeeper Madame Thénardier – the part played by Helena Bonham Carter in the movie version of the long-running stage musical. Colman described the character as “deeply unpleasant in every way”.

Les Miserables is available to buy on Amazon Prime Video.

Murder on the Orient Express

Olivia Colman and Judi Dench in Murder on the Orient Express 20th Century Fox
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Based on Agatha Christie's classic 1934 novel, this stylish film sees Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) try to solve a murder mystery on a train, where everyone's a suspect.

Colman appeared alongside a stellar ensemble cast including Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe and Penélope Cruz.

She played Hildegarde Schmidt, who works for the Princess Dragomiroff as a lady's maid. Her character is polite, intelligent, but quiet - discreet to the point of making you wonder whether she has something to hide...

Murder on the Orient Express is available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime Video.

BT TV customers can buy or rent Murder on the Orient Express from the BT TV Film Store.

Broadchurch

Olivia Colman as DS Ellie Miller in ITV's Broadchurch ITV

This award-winning crime drama revolves around the murder of a boy in a small coastal town and the subsequent media frenzy which threatens to tear the community apart.

Colman played DS Ellie Miller, a CID officer at the fictional Broadchurch Police Station.

The actress was Broadchurch creator and writer Chris Chibnall’s first choice for the role, and she didn’t need an audition. She later won a Bafta and Royal Television Society award for her performance.

Broadchurch is back on ITV from Monday, June 8.

The Night Manager

Olivia Colman as Angela Burr in The Night Manager BBC / The Ink Factory

The night manager of a Cairo hotel is recruited to infiltrate an arms dealer's inner circle in this critically-acclaimed TV adaptation of the classic John le Carré novel.

Colman played no-nonsense MI6 intelligence officer Angela Burr (the role was adapted from a male character in Le Carre's novel).

She won a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of Burr, alongside Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston who also scooped awards.

The Night Manager is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.

The Lobster

Olivia Colman The Lobster A24 Films

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to 'The Hotel' where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into 'The Woods'.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Colman played the stern hotel manager, with The Guardian praising her “wonderful” performance in the role and The Observer saying that she “raises the biggest laughs” while “delivering dystopian lunacy”.

The Lobster is available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime Video.

BT TV customers can buy or rent The Lobster from the BT TV Film Store.

The Iron Lady

Olivia Colman as Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady The Weinstein Co.
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The Iron Lady is the extraordinary, Oscar-winning biopic about Margaret Thatcher, with Meryl Streep in the title role.

Colman physically transformed to play Carol Thatcher, the daughter of the PM, including wearing a prosthetic nose and distressed blonde wig.

The Iron Lady is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.

Tyrannosaur

Olivia Colman in Paddy Considine's film, Tyrannosaur StudioCanal UK
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Joseph, a man plagued by violence and a rage that is driving him to self-destruction, earns a chance of redemption that appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker, in this lauded 2011 film written and directed by Paddy Considine.

In the film Colman played Hannah, the charity shop worker enduring hidden domestic violence. The role earned her a best actress win at the British Independent Film Awards.

Refinery29 writes: “It was quite a surprise to see Peep Show's witty, smart-mouthed Colman step up to this particular plate, but you won't forget her award-winning performance.”

Tyrannosaur is available to buy or rent now from Amazon Prime Video.

Peep Show

Olivia Colman as Sophie in Channel 4's Peep Show Channel 4

Originally broadcast on Channel 4 from 2003 to 2015, Peep Show follows the lives of two 20-something roommates: Mark (David Mitchell), and Jez (Robert Webb).

Mark and Jez have nothing in common - except for the fact that their lives are anything but normal. Mayhem ensues as the pair strive to cope with day-to-day life.

Colman played Mark's on-and-off love interest Sophie in the British comedy with Bustle writing that the “complex, flawed character allowed the actor to show the full potential of her acting chops early in her career”.

Peep Show is available to stream now on All 4.

Green Wing

Olivia Colman in Channel 4 comedy Green Wing Channel 4

Green Wing is a British hospital-based sitcom than ran from 2004-2006 on Channel 4 and starred Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Colman played Harriet Schulenburg, an overworked mother of four trapped in an unhappy marriage who works in the hospital’s HR department.

DenOfGeek.com wrote that while Colman wasn’t one of the show’s main stars, she made Harriet “a valuable part of its weird tapestry.”

Green Wing is available to stream now on All 4.