Olivia Colman — things you didn't know about the Great Expectations star

Olivia Colman at the the 73rd British Academy Film Awards in London.
(Image credit: Matt Crossick/PA Archive/PA Images)

Olivia Colman made her acting breakthrough in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show, before going on to appear in hit TV series such as That Mitchell and Webb Look, Rev., Flebag, Twenty Twelve, The Iron Lady and Accused to name but a few. 

She won high praise for her role as DS Ellie Miller in Broadchurch (which made our best 100 TV shows list), and has been awarded Golden Globes for her roles in The Night Manager and for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. As well as also winning a Golden Globe for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite, Olivia also won an Oscar for the part in 2019.

Olivia was also appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019 for her services to drama.

Now, she is appearing in major new drama Great Expectations...

Olivia Colman in costume as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

Olivia Colman as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (Image credit: BBC/FX Networks/Pari Dukovic)

But what else is there to learn about the much-loved TV star? Here are a few things you might not know.

1. Her real name isn't Olivia.

Despite becoming a household name as Olivia Colman the actress was born Sarah Caroline Colman, but is known professionally as Olivia. She changed her name when she launched her acting career because there was already a Sarah Colman registered with Actors Equity Association. 

2. She met her husband at university. 

Olivia met her husband, Ed Sinclair, at Cambridge University in 1999 when they were both cast in a student production of Alan Ayckbourn's Table Manners together. The couple got married in 2001 and now have three children. 

Olivia and her husband, Ed Sinclair, at the Oscars in 2019.

Olivia and her husband, Ed Sinclair, at the Oscars in 2019. (Image credit: Getty)

3. She had to put on weight to play Queen Anne in The Favourite

Instead of wearing costume padding, Olivia decided to gain weight to play Queen Anne in The Favourite. However, in contrast, she had to lose weight to play Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. She told OK Magazine: "I had to put on a lot of weight for Queen Anne, but I had to lose weight for The Crown. Well, I didn't have to because everyone was being very polite and nice, but I decided I needed to. It would have felt a bit wrong to play Queen Elizabeth II as the same size as Queen Anne. I probably wouldn't say yes to putting on weight again for a job because it's been very difficult to lose."

4. She trained to become a teacher. 

Before discovering her passion for acting, Olivia's first career plan was to become a teacher. She trained as a primary school teacher at Homerton College in Cambridge but later admitted that she would have been a terrible teacher because she wasn't very committed.

5. She stole toilet paper from Buckingham Palace. 

Well, technically her husband was the one who actually stole the toilet paper while at Buckingham Palace for a formal dinner, but it was all Olivia's idea. Apparently, she thought it would be fun and he came home with two squares! In fact, toilet paper is a bit of a reoccurring theme for Olivia, because she was also the voiceover for a series of Andrex adverts in 2013.

6. She's spent a huge amount of time watching 'I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!' 

Before you go thinking Olivia is a huge fan and has got every episode on record, she actually spent a lot of time watching one series in particular, which was 2005 when Carol Thatcher won the show. This was all in preparation for when Olivia played Carol in The Iron Lady, and she watched Margaret's daughter on the reality TV show to get her voice just right.

7. She loves being at home with a cup of tea. 

While Olivia is used to attending glamorous parties and award ceremonies, she has confessed that she would rather be at home with a cup of tea. Olivia told The Guardian that after she won her BAFTA for The Favourite in 2019 she turned to her husband and said, "Can we go home? I want to put my socks on and have a cup of tea." The pair were apparently home by 10 pm. 

Olivia Colman's fact file. 

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the actress.

How old is she?

Olivia Colman is 49 years old. She was born on 30th January 1974.

Is she married? 

Olivia Colman married her husband Ed Sinclair in 2001. 

Does she have children?

Olivia Colman and her husband Ed have three children. 

Where was she born?

Olivia Colman was born in Norwich, Norfolk. 

How tall is she?

Olivia Colman is 1.7 metres tall.

Instagram: @itsoliviacolman

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.