QUEEN OF PARTS
THE ACCLAIMED STAR BRINGS HER MAJESTY TO THE MASSES
Olivia’s royal double act
English actress Olivia Colman is rapidly cornering the market in playing queens.
She’s taken over from Claire Foy to play Elizabeth II in the third series of The Crown and also stars as Queen Anne in the movie The Favourite. But her regal roles haven’t made her immune to the real-life thrill of going to Buckingham Palace to meet actual royals.
When Olivia and her husband Ed Sinclair were invited to a charity reception at the palace in June, hosted by Prince William (unfortunately she didn’t get to meet the Queen), the Broadchurch star was so excited she instructed actor and writer Ed to bring home a souvenir.
Being a devoted husband, Ed did as he was told and helped himself to palace property from one of the bathrooms.
“We got two squares of loo roll, just to say, ‘We got it from Buckingham Palace,’” says a proud Olivia.
The mum-of-three couldn’t resist asking William if he watched The Crown. “He said, ‘No, no dear, I don’t watch it,’” recounts Olivia. “But maybe he can’t say he watches it.” One thing we do know is that when the
series returns this year, Olivia is likely to turn in a stunning performance as the Queen.
The actress (44) has admitted to feeling nervous about stepping into Claire’s shoes, as well as playing such a well-known person, “because everyone knows what the Queen looks like, what she sounds like, and everyone is in love with Claire Foy, including me.”
A huge fan of the show – “I thought Claire was breathtaking” – she had no idea the producers were planning on recasting after two seasons and it was a shock when her agent called about the role. A very excited Olivia shrieked, “The Queen!” down the phone, and was “very uncool” when she went to meet the producers. “I just said, ‘Yes please,’ and they were totally taken aback.”
She felt the only way to tackle the role after Claire had done such a good – Emmy-winning – job with it was to “plough on”, which she did after watching hundreds of hours of video of the Queen, and working with voice and movement coaches.
“I walk a bit like a farmer, not a queen, and I’m not a very good physical impersonator,” she concedes. “So there is a dollop of artistic licence.”
She may be self-deprecating, but she’s expected to nail the role. With a collection of awards that includes three BAFTAs and
a Golden Globe, she’s become one of Britain’s best-loved and most acclaimed actresses.
Her co-stars can’t speak highly enough of her.
Meryl Streep, who played her mother
Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, describes her as “divinely gifted”. Her Broadchurch co-star David Tennant says the fact she’s very emotional is part of the reason she’s so talented. “Everything is close to the surface with Olivia. She laughs more heartily than anyone, and she cries more rawly than anyone – that’s part of the key to her brilliance.”
Olivia admits she cries at the drop of a hat. “I’m constantly on the verge of tears at the thought of anything sad or happy – anything really” and her tendency to let her feelings out made it difficult at times to play the Queen, a master of the “stiff upper lip”.
“She’s got to be a rock for everyone and has been trained not to emote.”
A novel approach was found to stop Olivia from getting upset. “They gave me an earpiece and played me the shipping forecast,” reveals Olivia. “It’s somebody going, ‘And the winds are fair to middling… blah, blah’.”
So in sad scenes, she was not listening to the other actors. “I was trying hard to tune into the shipping forecast and not cry.”
Meanwhile, in The Favourite, she ruined several scenes with co-star Emma Stone tearing up when she wasn’t meant to. In one scene, Olivia’s character Queen Anne tells Emma’s courtier about losing 17 children to miscarriage, stillbirth or illness.
She was so convincing Emma’s eyes filled with tears and that in turn made Olivia cry. The scenes had to keep being refilmed.
Mum-of-three Olivia and Oscar-winner Emma (30) became close friends while filming The Favourite. “Olivia is the warmest person,” says Emma. “I’d be heartbroken if we didn’t stay friends.”
The pair may have more chance to stay in touch if Olivia’s latest work leads her to Los Angeles, where Emma is based.
She’s not generally wellknown there – other than by fans of Brit dramas Broadchurch and The Night Manager – but she is being tipped to become famous once The Crown, which is popular Stateside, airs there.
Fame is not something Olivia feels particularly comfortable with. “I hate the loss of anonymity,” she says. “No-one teaches you how to deal with that. I now tend to stay home because it’s so weird not to be on an equal footing with people. They know your face and you don’t know them. It’s not that people aren’t lovely, but it’s harder to deal with than you imagine.”
A recent holiday in the US with her husband and children – they have two sons, Finn (12) and Hall (10), but have never revealed the name of their daughter, born in 2015 – was great because she didn’t get recognised. “It was lovely to walk around and nobody does a double-take. Potentially, that might change, I suppose.”
Already a fan of the show,Olivia was beside herself about playing the Queen inThe Crown.
Right: With David inBelow: Lighting up the screen asQueen Anne inBroadchurch.The Favourite.Olivia, with husband Ed, is yet to adjust to the phenomenon on being famous.