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When Olivia Colman was announced for best actress at this year's Oscars, most British TV fans were somewhere between, “Of course she was!” and “Took them long enough!” She's long been a favorite of British TV lovers, and while very few of us would call The Favourite our favorite role of hers, we're thrilled to see her getting the recognition she deserves.
Whether you're new to Colman's work or you'd just like to revisit some of her performances, we've assembled a list to help you navigate the options for streaming her work online. If we've missed any (and you know of legal streaming outlets), feel free to share them in the comments!
Who is Olivia Colman?
There's no such thing as a stupid question, of course, but if you don't know who Olivia Colman is, I do question your love of British TV just a bit. Olivia Colman is a talented Norfolk-born actress who's well on her way to becoming the Judi Dench of her generation – gracious, talented, and dignified, with a sort of non-traditional beauty. She's Cambridge-educated (that's where she met her husband), and she's excelled in everything from zany comedies (like Peep Show and Green Wing) to serious dramas (Broadchurch and The Night Manager).
Where to Watch Olivia Colman: TV Shows
In Flowers, Olivia Colman plays the matriarch of a quirky British family of creatives. It's a dark comedy, so it may not be everyone's cup of tea – but the entire cast does a wonderful job with it.
Broadchurch sees Olivia Colman investigating murders alongside David Tennant in a small town in Dorset. Broadchurch is kind of a cross between the dark and atmospheric Scandi-noir murder mysteries and the brighter, more cheery English village mysteries – and it works.
- Streaming on Netflix
- Streaming on Amazon
While this is a smaller role, Colman is still delightful as the godmother of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's trainwreck character, Fleabag. Fair warning: If you're sensitive about sex, nudity, profanity, and general depravity, you'll want to skip this show. It's funny and clever, but not for the pearl clutchers among us.
The Night Manager
The Night Manager may have been “just” a six episode drama, but it made a huge impact, winning awards and accolades from both critics and the general public. The Sun called it “one of the greatest series of all time”. A second series is currently in development, but it's moving very, very slowly.
Olivia Colman played the role of Angela Burr, an intelligence operative who recruited luxury hotel manager Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) to infiltrate the inner circle of an arms dealer (played by Hugh Laurie).
Peep Show was a long running British sitcom that aired from 2003 until 2015. The series revolved around Mark and Jez (played by David Mitchell and Robert Webb) as two flatmates with very different outlooks on life. Colman plays Sophie, coworker and object of desire for Mark.
Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander starred in this quirky comedy about an Anglican priest who moves from a small village parish to a rough inner-city parish in East London. Colman plays his remarkably understanding wife.
Green Wing is a zany sort of hospital comedy where nothing particularly “medical” ever seems to happen. Olivia Colman starred as Harriest Schulenburg, an unhappy and overworked HR employee.
In this mockumentary-style sitcom, cameras follow the people responsible for making the London Olympics happen on time and budget. Colman plays the role of Sally Owen, assistant to Ian Fletcher, Head of Deliverance of the Olympic Deliverance Commission (played by Hugh Bonneville).
Olivia Colman stars alongside Lennie James in this miniseries about four struggling Londoners whose lives are woven together by a series of dark and tragic events.
The Time of Your Life
Olivia Colman doesn't play a lead role in this 2007 series, but she appears in every episode. The series is about a young woman who wakes up at 35 after having been in a coma since the age of 18. Her family has been irrevocably altered due to her condition, and her friends have all moved on without her.
For two seasons, this series told the story of Simon Doonan and his best friend Kylie. Simon is an effeminate young teenager who dreams of the day when he can leave boring 1990s Reading and move to glamorous London. It's based on the memoirs of Simon Doonan, though he was born in 1952 and certainly wouldn't have been a teenager in the 1990s. Colman plays Simon's hard-drinking mother.
This series isn't available through North American streaming services at time of writing, but you can import the DVDs from Amazon UK if you have a region-free DVD player to watch them.
In this 176-minute miniseries, John Simm plays a successful London journalist who returns to his Lancashire hometown to visit his father who's suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Olivia Colman plays his sister, their father's caretaker. The series is part mystery, part thriller, with Simm working to uncover a childhood mystery that drove him away years before.
This is a UK release, and you'll need a region-free DVD player to watch it.
In this miniseries, Olivia Colman plays the role of Maggie, a woman whose unsatisfied husband commutes on the 7.39 train to London. As so often happens, he meets a young and attractive women and the two grow increasingly intimate with one another. The two parts combine to make one feature-length series. This miniseries isn't available through US streaming outlets, but with a region-free DVD player, you can get it on an imported DVD HERE.
Look Around You
This early-2000s sketch comedy features some of Colman's earliest comedy work. While sketch comedies can be difficult to describe, you can view a fantastic clip of Colman describing “a computer for women” here. The sketch is a parody of a quirky old technology show called Tomorrow's World, which ran on the BBC from 1965 until 2003.
In 1969 England, everyman Nick Sloane has had enough. His wife has left him, he's been sacked from his job, and he's come to learn he can't even kill himself properly. The series follows his attempts to get life back on track – including his hope for getting his wife, played by Olivia Colman, back in his life. It's worth noting that this one comes from the director of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
I'm not aware of any streaming options for this one in North America, but if you have a region-free DVD player, you can pick up a copy of the imported DVD.
Olivia Colman only appeared on one episode of Midsomer Murders, but it was a good one. In Series 12, episode 5, we can see Colman in an episode titled “Small Mercies”, where a villager opens his model village to the public, only to get a most unpleasant surprise.
Where to Watch Olivia Colman: Movies
Given her Oscar win, I'd say The Favourite goes without mention. It's currently available for digital purchase HERE.
Murder on the Orient Express: Colman plays Hildegarde Schmidt in this 2017 adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic. Streaming HERE
The Lobster: In a strange version of the future, single humans are transferred to a hotel where they're forced to find mates or be transformed into animals and released into a nearby forest. Colman plays the hotel manager. It's also worth noting that this is the only time we (the IHBTV editors) have walked out of a movie theater mid-film. Streaming HERE
Hyde Park on Hudson: Olivia Colman stars alongside Bill Murray and Laura Linney in this film about the Queen Elizabeth and King George VI visiting FDR's upstate New York home. Colman plays the role of Queen Elizabeth. Streaming HERE
Tyrannosaur: In this film, an unemployed, violent widower encounters Hannah (Colman), a kind charity shop worker who might just be his salvation. Streaming
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: The Murder in Angel Lane: Inspector Jack Whicher of the newly-formed Scotland Yard detective division offers to help a woman find her missing niece, unwittingly getting himself in the middle of a high-profile murder case. Colman plays Susan Spencer, the wealthy woman in search of her niece. Streaming HERE
The Thirteenth Tale: This made for television movie was based on the Diane Setterfield novel of the same name, and while the book was a commercial success here, very few Americans have actually seen this film.
The story is one of a reclusive writer known for a collection of twelve stories she's written over the course of her life. Facing old age and death, she calls upon a young biographer to take down the story of her tragic past – her thirteenth tale. It has elements of du Maurier's gothic creepiness, and while the movie certainly isn't on par with the book, the trio of Colman, Vanessa Redgrave, and Sophie Turner is not to be missed.. You can't stream this in the US, but if you have a region-free DVD player, you can pick up an imported DVD copy HERE.
Confetti: Three British couples try to earn the title of “Most Original Wedding of the Year”. This relatively successful comedy also included Martin Freeman, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Robert Webb, and Alison Steadman, among others you'll likely recognize from other British shows. Streaming HERE.
Zemanovaload: This film isn't likely to go down as one of Colman's greatest performances, but if you're a huge fan, you may enjoy the light, slightly raunchy/adult comedy. Ed Byrne stars as a man with obsessive compulsive disorder who's recently been dumped. Instead of replacing her the normal way, he develops an obsession with a Czech model, Veronika Zemanova. Olivia Colman plays the role of a TV producer. To watch this one, you'll need a region-free DVD player. You can order the imported DVD HERE.
The Iron Lady: This biographical film about the life of Margaret Thatcher earned quite a lot of praise and awards for lead actor Meryl Streep. It was Colman she called out during her BAFTA Awards acceptance speech, though, calling her “divinely gifted” after she played the role of Thatcher's daughter, Carol.
I Give it a Year: Though not highly rated in the US, this 2013 rom-com is likely to go down a little easier for those with an appreciation of British humour. The story focuses on a newly married couple that seems doomed, and they're the only ones who don't seem to realize it. Colman's role is relatively small, but fans of British actor Stephen Merchant (and Australian Simon Baker) will be delighted with their wealth of screen time. Streaming HERE.
Upcoming Olivia Colman Performances
This performance has already aired in the UK, it won't arrive on PBS stations until April 14th (though that may vary by local station). As most fans of period dramas will know, it's based on Victor Hugo's classic following Jean Valjean as he evades capture by the determined Inspector Javert. The story is set against the backdrop of post-Napoleonic France, with unrest growing in the city.
Them That Follow
Olivia Colman stars in this Appalachia-set series about devoutly religious people who handle deadly snakes to prove their faith. In this small, insulated community, a pastor's daughter holds a dark secret. Colman plays a gas station attendant whose non-believing son is the object of the pastor's daughter's affection. The film has premiered at Sundance and SXSW, but it won't hit normal theaters until June 21st.
In 2019, Colman takes over for Claire Foy in her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, and she'll star alongside Tobias Menzies. The two will pick up sometime around 1964, continuing on into the 70s. Series 3 will end somewhere around 1970, with Series 4 continuing on to about 1976.
What's Your Favorite Olivia Colman Performance?
While we didn't cover them all, we did hit the majority of Colman's more substantial performances. Do you have a favorite? Did we miss a great one? Let us know in the comments!