Olivia Colman Interview
Olivia Colman Interview
Olivia Colman is best known for her comedy acting roles alongside the likes of Robert Webb and David Mitchell, or in the Channel 4 series Green Wing. Having made the jump from small screen to big screen with a part in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, she recently starred in the Paddy Considine directorial debut Tyrannosaur, about an angry widower whose life is turned around when he befriends a compassionate charity worker.

Talking to View’s Matthew Turner about her experiences on set, she spoke about admiring Paddy Considine from afar, making the change from comedy to emotional drama, playing Meryl Streep’s daughter in the forthcoming Margaret Thatcher biopic, and why she should never have sent her mother a picture of herself with a black eye.
What attracted you to the film and how did you get involved?

Olivia Colman

Well, Paddy [director Paddy Considine] and I met doing Hot Fuzz, which must be nearly six years ago, and at the time he just had in mind a short film, Dog Altogether, and he decided I would suit the short film. And then it was only when people wanted to hear more about the characters – because they're the same characters in Tyrannosaur – and then he decided to extend the short and so it became a feature.
He is a very special personality as an actor and I guess also as a creator behind the camera.

Olivia Colman

He's extraordinary – he's one of the most extraordinary humans I have met.
Were you familiar also with films like Last Resort and the films he made with Shane Meadows?

Olivia Colman

Yes, yes. I'd seen everything he'd done. And when he turned up for our first rehearsal for Hot Fuzz I was sort of jumping from foot to foot and very excited and very uncool. And I'm very pleased I was uncool, because apparently he liked that.
Was there any element of improvisation in Tyrannosaur?

Olivia Colman

No, not really. His script was so good that I couldn't possibly have improved on it. I'm not a great improviser and it fills me with fear - I'd much rather have a script. But his script was so beautiful and so right. And each character does speak with their own voice – you can't hear the writer's intonations in it. And there was no point in diluting something which was already beautiful.
How much rehearsal time did you get beforehand?

Olivia Colman

Well, we had time set aside, but actually it was quite difficult – I found talking about it beforehand quite difficult, it felt like it was lifting the lid off the pressure a bit. He said we could rehearse if you want and I just wanted to keep it fresh. I was a bit anxious about rehearsing in front of Paddy because I didn't want to let him down, I didn't want to do it wrong and then to see any disappointment in his face. So I was quite relieved that we didn't really rehearse too much.
What's more challenging, a role like Hannah or a comedic role?

Olivia Colman

Hannah, definitely.
I left drama school assuming I'd be doing Lady Macbeth and Medea and it just never happened like that...
Did you have any hesitations taking the role, since you're known as a comedic actress?

Olivia Colman

Yes, because I knew it was a big deal and it was important and I didn't want to let Paddy down. He was taking quite a gamble really, with me. Although I've done little bits of drama and that's what I've always wanted to do, I have been given comedy work – that's just how it's happened. So I'd kind of lost confidence, I suppose.
Do you have any thoughts about the fact that quite a lot of people who work in comedy are actually very well equipped to do drama?

Olivia Colman

It does seem so. Kathy Burke, who was just hilariously funny and then did Nil by Mouth and shocked everybody. And Julie Walters, who can do everything, the whole gamut. And Emma Thompson started in comedy. So yes, it seems to happen a lot. I don't know why.
Was this a deliberate decision, on your part, to move away from comedy, to do something else?

Olivia Colman

It wasn't a decision – nothing has ever been planned. I never planned to work in comedy and I couldn't believe my luck that I was getting work. I left drama school assuming I'd be doing Lady Macbeth and Medea and it just never happened like that. There was no plan. And so Paddy just gave me this opportunity to do something beautiful, rather than me desperately wanting to change things. But now that I've had a taste of this, I only want to work with Paddy forever.
You say you didn't have any plans, as such, when you went into acting school but did you have any other actors you admired or any mentors?

Olivia Colman

Oh yeah. There's so many people I admire and each time you do a job and you meet someone else, you think 'That was beautiful.' So there's the obvious ones that you grow up with like Judi Dench. Watching Paddy - even when he's directing as well and he's talking and he's embodying the whole thing, he's extraordinary, he just taps into everything instantly. And Eddie Marsan said, 'You know, the ideal is to have an ordinary life and an extraordinary career.' And that's just wisdom, you get these little nuggets from so many people. There are so many thousands of people that I admire.
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Content updated: 22/10/2017 10:29

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