Olivia Colman: Five things you didn't know about the Best Actress Oscar winner

The Academy Award-acclaimed star wasn't always planning on working in the film industry

epa07397002 Olivia Colman holds her award for Bests Actress in a Leading Role for 'The Favourite' as she attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party following the 91st annual Academy Awards ceremony, in Beverly Hills, California, USA, 24 February 2019. The Oscars are presented for outstanding individual or collective efforts in 24 categories in filmmaking.  EPA/NINA PROMMER
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She charmed the globe with her endearing, beautifully British acceptance speech when she won the Best Actress Oscar on Sunday February 24. And while Olivia Colman has been somewhat of a national treasure in her native United Kingdom for years, thanks to her extensive work on the stage and small screen, she is a lesser-known name than her fellow category nominees in the United States and beyond.

The 45-year-old, who beat out stars such as Glenn Close and Lady Gaga for the gold statue, has been critically lauded for her turn as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos's period drama-comedy, The Favourite. While that role may have introduced the mother-of-two to new audiences, her award-winning career dates back decades.

Below, we detail some of Colman's past cinematic hits as well as uncover some facts about the actress for her new and existing fans alike.

1. She wanted to be a teacher and got her big break at Cambridge

The star - who was born Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman - nearly became a school teacher.  She enrolled in a primary teaching degree at Cambridge University, though switched to drama a term later. "I wasn't terribly committed, and I would have been a terrible teacher," she later told The Telegraph. 

It was at the prestigious university that Colman first met actors and comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb, after she joined Cambridge's Footlights Dramatic Club, which also boasts Stephen Fry and John Cleese among its alumni. She later went on to star with Mitchell and Webb in beloved Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show, which is widely regarded as her breakout role.

Colman also dabbled with working as a secretary and a cleaner after graduating, before finding fame as an actress.

2. You probably best recognise Colman from her TV work

A handout photo of Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, Tom Hollander as Major Corkoran, Elizabeth Debicki as Jed Marshall, Olivia Colman as Angela Burr, and Hugh Laurie as Richard Roper - The Night Manager _ Season 1, Gallery (Mitch Jenkins / The Ink Factory / AMC) *** Local Caption ***  al22fe-berlinale-nightmgr.jpg
Hugh Laurie Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander in 'The Night Manager'. Courtesy AMC

The chameleonic star might have starred alongside Meryl Streep as Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady, as well as 2007's Hot Fuzz, 2011's Tyrannosaur and 2015's The Lobster, but Colman's arguably most revered roles are from the small screen.

As well as Peep Show, the actress has appeared in political sitcom Green Wing, Ricky Gervais's The Office, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag. Her performance as detective sergeant Ellie Miller in ITV crime series Broadchurch netted Colman a Bafta in 2014, while her turn as pregnant intelligence operative Angela Burr in the 2016 TV adaptation of John Le Carre's thriller The Night Manager resulted in a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

REFILE - CORRECTING TYPO IN NAME   91st Academy Awards - Oscars Arrivals - Red Carpet - Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 24, 2019. Olivia Colman and Ed Sinclair REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Olivia Colman and husband Ed Sinclair at the 2019 Oscars. Reuters

Fun fact: Colman's character in the latter show wasn't supposed to be expecting a child, but the star's real-life pregnancy was written into the script after her casting. She shares three children with her husband Ed Sinclair, who she met at university.

3. Her influence extends beyond the screen

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge meets Olivia Colman, and director Yorgas Lanthimos, 2nd right, and writer Tony McNamara, right, after the following the EE British Academy Film Awards at Royal Albert Hall on February 10, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Tim Ireland - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge meets Olivia Colman at the 2019 Baftas. Getty Images

Colman has campaigned on numerous issues and causes during her career, throwing her weight behind non-profits such as the Alzheimer's Society, for which she completed a charity walk in 2013, and Marie Curie Daffodil Day, an annual appeal by an organisation that aids those living with terminal illnesses.

The actress is also patron of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, and Tender, a charity that delivers educational violence prevention programmes to schools.

4. She put on a lot of weight for her role in 'The Favourite'

Olivia Colman in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima / 20th Century Fox
Olivia Colman in the 'The Favourite'. Courtesy 20th Century Fox

She has described filming the historical drama as a delightful experience, and has dedicated kind words to co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz throughout her successes this awards season.

"Emily and Rachel, the two loveliest women in the world to fall in love with, and to go to work with every day," Colman said in her Oscars acceptance speech, as a crying Stone watched on. "I mean you can imagine, it wasn't a hardship."

However, the star put in some work before shooting started, gaining 16 kilograms to play Queen Anne, who ruled Britain between 1702 and 1714.

"She was very big and [director Yorgos Lanthimos] wanted to see that on camera ... and I didn't want to use prosthetics, so I spent a few months eating, which was enjoyable, but then became quite depressing," Colman told the Daily Express. "Because it goes on so easily but, gosh, it doesn't come off as easily!"

She added to The Independent that her role as the willful, attention-seeking, troubled Queen Anne was "liberating" as she "wasn't meant to look nice or be nice".

“I much prefer these sorts of roles because there is no pressure to be something you are not, and I am obviously not glamorous,” Colman said. "I think I’ve been fortunate to be cast in these roles, because it’s very difficult for young women or men who are seen in one way, and then they are not allowed to age.”

5. We imagine there'll be more awards in store for her next royal role

The Crown
Olivia Colman in season three of 'The Crown'. Courtesy Netflix

Colman has a knack for playing British royals, it seems, with the actress set to take up the mantle as Queen Elizabeth II for the third season of The Crown. The star will replace Claire Foy in the Netflix series, which charts the life of the longest-reigning monarch in the world.

"I was such a massive fan of the show, and I thought Claire Foy was just breathtaking," Colman told The Independent shortly after her casting was announced. "I had no idea they were going to recast for season three and four, so hadn't thought about the role at all."

The role scored Foy a Golden Globe and an Emmy, and season three, which will air later this year, sees Matt Smith replaced by Outlander star Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, and Helena Bonham Carter take over the role of Princess Margaret from Vanessa Kirby.

The 10-episode season will begin in 1963, and cover Great Britain during the time of Beatlemania and its 1966 World Cup win, as well as introduce characters such as Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall (who will be played by Call the Midwife's Emerald Fennell).