Olivia Colman returns as a thoroughly modern vicar’s wife in the second series of Rev. The versatile actress reveals why she thinks the first series struck such a chord, how she’s beginning to turn into her Green Wing character and what she had to do to prepare for her role as Carol Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
Olivia Colman is as warm and friendly as you might expect a vicar’s wife to be. But her character in the BBC Two series Rev is a million miles away from the stereotypical clergyman’s spouse.
Alex is a hotshot lawyer with cases to fight rather than cakes to bake, and that’s precisely why the first series of the comedy – which stars Tom Hollander as harassed vicar Adam – was such a success.
“Vicars that we’ve met like the fact they’re shown to be normal humans and not ‘holier than thou’ and soulless,” says 37-year-old Colman, between mouthfuls of lunch in a break from filming at a church in east London.
Fresh from winning a Bafta for the first series, the cast has gathered again to film the next chapter in the life of the vicar of St Saviour’s.
Their dressing rooms are in a disused church just around the corner from St Leonard’s in Shoreditch, which doubles as St Saviour’s on-screen. So their canteen fittingly has stained glass windows, which are shining a hallowed light down on the tea and coffee.
As a mother of two, Colman is particularly delighted to be working on location so close to home.
“You actually get home at a normal time,” says the Norfolk-born actress, who now lives in south London. “You can usually get home before the kids are asleep. Otherwise you end up leaving before everyone’s awake and coming back after they’re in bed and you never see anybody.”
Colman has also starred in hit comedy Peep Show for eight years as Mark’s tormented love interest Sophie and so is used to trekking back and forth to set every day.
“It used to be filmed in Croydon, which was brilliant, and then the year I had to turn up with a newborn baby they moved it!” she exclaims.
Today, she’s delighted to be catching up on the gossip with the Rev cast and crew. “It’s a shame you have to film anything on the first day because you want to catch up with everybody you’ve missed for a year,” she says.
The Rev crew are all riding high on their Bafta success, but also the audience’s warm response.
“People have really taken it to their hearts and asked, ‘Is there going to be another series?’ Terribly positive, very nice,” says Colman.
In the first series, Alex was mostly shown dashing off to work or coming home late from her job as a solicitor. But in the new series we’ll see more of their home life in the vicarage.
As it opens we see Adam bracing himself for a visit from the in-laws as Alex’s parents come to stay, and there is also a visit from one of Alex and Adam’s godchildren, which doesn’t quite go to plan.
Colman sympathises that looking after children who are not your own can be challenging. “I don’t think I could possibly have looked after a five-year-old before having children,” she says.
Despite her devotion to her work in the previous series, Alex is eager to start a family herself and is putting extra demands on Adam to help her get pregnant.
The actress, meanwhile, is finding balancing her acting work with bringing up her two children easier now they are at school.
She recalls taking them to work with her when they were younger, conjuring up an image similar to her flustered character Harriet Schulenburg in Green Wing, who was forever frantically trying to juggle her children with the office job.
Colman’s professional life is showing no sign of slowing down. She has recently finished shooting the highly-anticipated film The Iron Lady, in which she plays Carol Thatcher, opposite Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher.
As part of her research for the role, Colman had to watch hours of footage of Carol Thatcher battling it out in the Australian jungle in 2005’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
“I watched all of I’m a Celebrity – she came across brilliantly. She was hilarious. And if you’re ever going to be stuck in the jungle you’d want her on your team.
“She was favourite to lose and then she ended up storming it because she was just so gung-ho. She was amazing – very funny.”
She has also just been seen on screen in Paddy Considine’s critically-acclaimed film Tyrannosaur. A gritty drama about a victim of domestic violence, the film won Colman rave reviews and several awards including the special jury prize for breakout performance at the Sundance Film Festival.
There are sure to be many more roles heading her way and fans will be praying for a third series of Rev. Perhaps showing the Reverend coping with parenthood?
“I think acting with a baby would be quite stressful,” says Colman. “But then I could always come into the vicarage just as the baby’s fallen asleep.”