As Olivia Colman’s name was read out for the Best Actress Oscar, British hearts exploded with pride. Our Sophie from Peep Show had won top gong – the first British woman to do so since Kate Winslet in 2009. And she didn’t let us down with her humble, hilarious and tear-jerking “oh so Olivia Colman” acceptance speech.
She may have only just captured hearts worldwide with her incredible performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite, but a generation of us have always known she was destined for stardom, ever since she made us snort with laughter in the show that brought us the Mummy the dog incident and “suck mummy’s finger”.
She first came into our lives in September 2003 (yes, nearly 16 years ago!) when episode one of the cult British sitcom Peep Show arrived on Channel 4.
Sophie, played by Olivia, was introduced as Mark’s (David Mitchell) work crush. If you haven’t watched Peep Show yet (you can, and should, on Netflix) then I warn you now, the rest of this blog contains SPOILERS.
The first scene that I remember making me snort with laughter was when Mark decides not to tell Sophie she’s sitting on his hand during a particularly awkward bus ride.
You may think Olivia showcased her expressive face in The Favourite, but wait until you see the close-ups in Peep Show, she’s been putting in Oscar-worthy performances for years – from that horrified look when she sees Mark chasing off children with a metal pole in the street in the first episode, to her crying all the way through their wedding in Series four (told you there were spoilers).
Sophie, like Queen Anne, was a hilarious, multi-faceted character and Olivia breathed humour into every part of her. She was sometimes sneaky (the job application and “discovering” the engagement ring), often sassy, strong, spiritual (yep, she was responsible for the Rainbow Rhythms invite), irresponsible, spoilt (Nana’s cottage – and the Happy Birthday down-the-stairs hat dance), not to forget kind and thoughtful.
The Favourite might have included some exposing sex scenes, but over the course of nine series, Olivia laid the groundwork for her Oscar-winning performance. She navigated not only several excruciatingly awkward sex scenes, but heartbreak, being cheated on and childbirth – all similar themes to her recent blockbuster. She also got high at work and battled alcoholism. Mark covering her in coloured balls at the soft play was darkly funny.
Olivia, like David Mitchell and Robert Webb – who were the lead characters Mark and Jez, broke the conventions of the one-dimensional sitcom character, with so many very human layers.
And it’s those human layers that underpin every character I have seen Colman play, which is perhaps a reflection of how human and down-to-earth she seems IRL. I hate to admit I have never watched Broadchurch, but standout Colman performances for me include Hannah in Tyrannosaur, Deborah in Flowers and the evil godmother in Fleabag. And we have so much more of her to look forward to with Fleabag season two and The Crown season three, in which she plays the Queen.
She said to her kids in her speech: “This is not going to happen again.” But I for one hope it does. So Hollywood, watch this space.