If AMC’s The Night Manager is the first time you’ve given your full attention to Olivia Colman, you’ll know her as John le Carré’s incorruptible–and very pregnant–spy Angela Burr. But at home in the UK, Colman has already attained national treasure status, with three BAFTAs under her belt for Accused, Twenty Twelve and Broadchurch.
As a student, Colman started out with the famous Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, before launching into comedy with the critically-acclaimed Peep Show in 2003. By 2014, The Radio Times had named her one of the 30 most powerful women on UK TV, and the following year, she gained US notice with her role in The Lobster alongside Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. But it is The Night Manager, and Colman’s subsequent Emmy nom, that has thoroughly thrust her into the Hollywood spotlight.
Currently shooting the hotly-awaited third season of Broadchurch, Colman is still very much dedicated to her British television work and has no immediate plans to make a move stateside, saying, “It would be an upheaval. I wouldn’t say no, but at the moment there’s no need for me to.”
Can you dish anything about Broadchurch Season 3?
Not really. We’ve filmed up to Episode 5 but we haven’t seen the scripts yet to 6, 7 and 8. It’s a bit of a whodunit, like the first series, and this time we’re trying to find the perpetrator of a sexual assault. They’ve got lots of new cast in it and lots of old faces as well. It’s really lovely.
How surreal have the last few years been for you with BAFTAs and all this attention?
I can’t quite get my head around that yet, really, especially as, if you can picture it, we’re now driving on the motorway back home to three kids that have all made a mess, and the cat that’s probably vomited somewhere on the kitchen floor. It’s that thing going on somewhere in another world–it’s just not me. It’s scary.
When you first saw The Night Manager script, what appealed about Angela Burr?
I loved the fact that Burr had been a man before that [the novel had Angela Burr as Leonard Burr]. That fairly impressed me, since that’s not really expected. I loved that they didn’t change Burr too much either, and it’s a woman who’s absolutely equal with all the men. There’s this thing I say about Burr–it’s from my husband. He said, “Imagine how freaked out the lions would be by a zebra that’s not scared.” It sort of suited quite well what I thought Burr is. I liked her. I wanted to be her.
Your being pregnant for real when you shot it made her more of a zebra as well. But the writing barely mentioned that, which only seemed to add to her equality.
You’re not ill when you’re pregnant. You’re a perfectly normal person, and I’m really grateful to them for not making a deal of it. Actually, lots of women when they’re pregnant feel like steel. They feel incredible. It doesn’t need to be mentioned and fussed about and so I appreciated that.
How was the experience of working with Susanne Bier?
I loved working with her. So much of The Night Manager is about class and upper class in the UK, with Pine and Roper. But Burr is from the North and didn’t go to the schools that these men did. And Susanne looked at it from an outsider point of view: that it’s just ridiculous. She looked at it very clearly and she could see it for what it was, and I think that added enormously to the telling of the story. And also, she was very black and white. She says, “No, I don’t like it, do it again,” or, “Yeah, I like it.” So, you knew where you were. There was no smoke being blown up anybody’s ass. I just loved that about her.
The Burr role seems like an unusual opportunity. How do you feel about the state of female roles right now?
On UK television there’s been a massive shift. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s got an awful lot better. Off the top of my head there’s Happy Valley with Sarah Lancashire and also Marcella with Anna Friel. That was a woman taking the lead. So, there’s much, much more and it’s improving. There are many more parts over here now and there needs to be. To be a lead here you don’t have to be breathtakingly gorgeous, because stories are written for every woman and that creates just many more parts, many more people. It gets slightly daunting if you’re watching the telly and everybody’s gorgeous. It’s just so rubbish. And I’m grateful that it’s not so much anymore–it’s great to see.
Can you say anything about Season 2 of The Night Manager yet? There’s also been some talk of an Angela Burr spinoff.
I haven’t heard that. I think I’d probably be fine with that! I don’t know. I had such a lovely time. It’s such a lovely story. It’s such a great part to play. You’d have to be a complete idiot to say no. I think that if they called we’d all say yes. But I don’t know. I haven’t heard yet if they’re doing this or not.
After The Night Manager you got a lot of Twitter support that you should be the next Bond. What do you think of that idea?
Yeah. I did hear that. But I think that’s sort of a comedy tweet.
They were very serious. But since we’re on the subject, what do you make of Tom Hiddleston for Bond?
I mean, he would be perfect wouldn’t he? He’s the perfect specimen for Bond. I like M. I’d love to be M one day. Well, maybe when Ralph Fiennes doesn’t want to do it anymore, maybe he’ll give me a ring.
You have the role of Queen Anne coming up in the film The Favourite. When do you start shooting?
That’s next summer or next spring. I’m just so excited about that. One of the movies I’m most excited about over the next year is doing that.
And you’ll be working with Rachel Weisz again.
Yes. I love her. She’s utterly delicious. She’s lovely fun.
What was it about that role that really grabbed you?
Well, I didn’t know before that Queen Anne had 13 children and they all died. That incredible pain on the back of what’s going on. She was also virtually blind. I mean, it’s all these things to play in one character, it’s incredible. I can’t wait to have a crack at it. I hope I do it justice, but I’m really excited about it.