She can do no wrong: BAFTA-winning actress Olivia Colman instantly elevates every one of her projects to ‘must watch’ status. With the complete series of the very-bonkers but very touching Flowers available now on demand, we look back at ten times Olivia Colman was indisputably the best thing on telly.
As the matriarch of the Flowers family – a collection of crackpot individuals who would have been rejected as Wes Anderson characters for being ‘too quirky’ – Colman brought a quiet dignity to a woman who was nonetheless slowly unravelling inside. With her husband an increasingly reclusive figure and her kids too self-absorbed to notice her, Ma Flowers couldn’t be blamed for lusting after other men – but her cringeworthy flirtation with the neighbouring builders makes the toes curl. For a show that never settles on comedy or drama, Colman walks the line with perfect balance.
Much like the mustard that bears her name, Colman is best used sparingly. As the stepmother to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s titular loafer, Colman is a picture of composed malcontent: there’s so much simmering beneath her smile. Even though she only appears briefly in four episodes, she’s perfectly grotesque creation, which – no offence to writer Waller-Bridge – was likely not on paper: it’s all down to Colman. The awkwardness with which she discusses sex with Fleabag is exquisite; other actors should watch and learn how to spin a mere cameo into televisual gold.
The Night Manager
Although she got her start in comedy roles, Olivia Colman has proven herself to be an esteemed and talented dramatic actress. As hard-nosed intelligence operative Angela Burr, Colman gives the performance of her live as she entwines star Tom Hiddleston’s humble hotel manager into the deadly world of espionage. If you were thinking a role in a John Le Carrédrama might be a bit of a stretch for Colman, you’d be wrong: she’s terrific as a woman who has to keep her calm at all costs. In fact, she was nominated for an Emmy for her performance.
It’s impossible to discuss Olivia Colman’s contribution to ITV murder mystery Broadchurch without divulging a few key details, so avert your eyes if you’ve yet to become acquainted with its seaside charms. Colman plays Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, who along with David Tennant’s fellow officer Hardy, investigates the murder of a young boy in the fictional town of the title. Her flair for intense emotional acting was brought to the fore, however, upon the reveal that the murderer was her husband all along: Colman absolutely nails two vital scenes, first when she’s informed of the killer, and second when she finally confronts him. Watch this woman in action and tell us she didn’t earn that Best Actress Bafta.
As Sophie, object of Mark Corrigan’s affection, Colman ran the full spectrum: from out-of-reach office crush to reluctant to girlfriend to spurned wife to bitter ex to passive aggressive mother to his child. Sophie once was everything normal that Mark needed in his life, but thanks to a jilting at the altar – and office halfwit Jeff leading her astray – she eventually grew to hate Mark’s cowardly guts. Having given birth to Mark’s baby and spitefully named it ‘Ian’, Sophie hit the bottle; she was last seen being shamefully buried in a ball-pit in a soft play centre. R.I.B. Sophie.
If you thought history was boring, history after a few bottles of wine and a couple of Aperol Spritzes makes it much more tolerable. That’s the concept of this ace Comedy Central show, which sees comedians neck as much booze as possible before retelling famous stories of history, acted out by famous actors. As a sozzled Josie Long narrated the story of infamous American quack Dr Harvey Crippen, Olivia Colman played his lover Ethel Le Neve, who had to disguise herself as a boy when the pair went on the run. Something about her disarming smile and toothy grin makes her the perfect candidate for a murderer’s mistress.
Nestling in between the giant egos tasked with bringing order to the chaos that was the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was Olivia Colman’s wallflower Sally Owen, personal assistant to Hugh Bonneville’s Head of Deliverance and most downtrodden doormat in the office. Most unhelpful is the fact that the Deliverance teams are all idiots, but particularly problematic is the fact that Sally is in love with her boss, and Olivia Colman plays it sweet and subtle, her ‘deer in the headlights’ act falling just the right side of simpering. We never find out if her feelings are reciprocated, but it doesn’t matter – her work is done and her mission is completed. It’s as Ian says: “She’s basically running the Olympics”.
Any British comedic actor worth his or her salt between 2004-2006 appeared in some capacity in Green Wing, the madcap medical comedy that felt like it had overdosed on methadone. Colman played HR staffer Harriet, who along with her colleagues, never really seemed to do much work. An overworked mother of four who is stuck in a romantic rut with her long-suffering husband, Harriet eventually goes all in on an affair with Paterson Jospeh’s doctor Lyndon, giggling as he man-handles her (“I nearly weed!”). Most exciting, however, is the fact that this dalliance saw Peep Show titans Sophie and Johnson come together in an unholy alliance. What would Mark say?
Look Around You
Robert Popper’s Tomorrow’s World parody was a goldmine for early 00s comedy, and Colman played one of the pseudo-science show’s hosts, Pam Bachelor. Permanently decked out in a most unflattering BHS jump-suit and with bouffant hair that’s never seen a straightener, Pam was one of four hosts who introduced amazing new inventions to the general public, like the Memory Helmet (which allows users to memorise large lists instantly, albeit with the side effect of lowering their voice several octaves) and the Petticoat 5, the computer for women (“You can see here, the space bar is an emery board”). Shows don’t come much sillier and Colman was always game for a laugh.
In one of those ‘Oh, I didn’t know she was in this’ cameo roles, Colman had a small part in The Office as Helena the reporter from Inside Paper, doomed to write up a puff piece on David Brent. Remaining professional to the last, she consistently rebuffed Brent’s efforts to annotate his own interview (“Put ‘David Brent is refreshingly laid back for a man with such responsibility’…”). Her highlight, however, is the excruciating wait she suffers between taking photos of Brent, who is wearing exactly the expression you’d expect from a man who’s just been told he’s been let go: “One more for safety,” she says, frantically waiting for the camera to reload or the sweet release of death, whichever comes first.
Channel 4’s eccentric comedy Flowers will bloom again.
A second series of the dark comedy will see the return of Olivia Colman’s Deborah and her depressed husband Maurice (Julian Barratt), the broadcaster has announced.
The six-part run will look at a new era of their marriage and whether they can survive the challenges laid bare in series one, including Maurice’s suicide attempt and Deborah’s infidelity.
The Flowers’ twins Donald (Daniel Rigby, Black Mirror, Eric and Ernie) and Amy (Sophia di Martino, The Darkest Universe, Friday Night Dinner) will also be back, as will the character of Shun, the Flowers’ Japanese factotum played by the writer Will Sharpe.
The recommission is a sign of Channel 4’s faith in the show: it opened in April with 710,000 viewers for episode one. Overnight ratings dropped to 400,000 in the middle of the run before rallying to 680,000 for the series finale.
The show’s consolidated viewing was an average of 1m viewers per episode across the five episodes.
Deputy Head of Comedy Nerys Evans, who commissioned the show for Channel 4 said: “Covering deeply complex issues like fidelity, mental health, sexuality and fraying family bonds, Will Sharpe’s hilariously awkward and heart-breaking show offers another unmissable look at the Flowers’ messed up world.
“Will’s scripts and the show’s perfect cast are so brilliant at making you wail with laughter one minute, and well up the next. I couldn’t be more excited for the family’s return to Channel 4.”
Having recently appeared on our screens as The Night Manager’s spy boss, Angela Burr, BAFTA-winning actress Olivia Colman is back – and this time, she’s turning her hand to comedy. Stepping into the shoes of Deborah Flower in Channel 4’s new six-part series, Flowers, she’s a music teacher tasked with trying to keep her dysfunctional family together.
As Deborah’s husband, author of illustrated children’s books, Maurice, fights inner demons and dark secrets, she becomes increasingly suspicious that he’s in a secret homosexual relationship with his Japanese illustrator Shun [Will Sharpe]. But that’s just the half of it – the family live in a creaky, messy, crumbling old house with Maurice’s elderly mother Hattie (Leila Hoffman) and their maladjusted 25-year-old twins, Amy and Donald, who are both competing for the same girl.
Despite living on top of each other, the family will do anything to not communicate, pushing their struggles with love and life to extreme and ridiculous places. Can Deborah hold things together? We’ll be tuning in to find out. But in the meantime, star of the show, Olivia Colman, shed some light on the situation…
Flowers is not what you’d call a traditional sitcom, is it?
No! It goes to darker places than most would go to. A comedy about suicide and mental health is pretty unusual – they’re normally the domain of drama. It’s quite daring, and I like that.
You play Deborah – what’s her story?
Deborah is a woman of love. She loves her family desperately, although is misguided a lot of the time. If she can sense something isn’t right, she doesn’t necessarily try and sort it in the right way. It’s a symptom of the entire family that they don’t really listen to each other. Or they listen but don’t hear, which is where a lot of the comedy comes from. She’s quite eccentric, as they all are. She’s lovely, she loves her family and wants to sort them out – she just gets it a bit wrong.
There’s a very real feeling to a lot of the conversations and reactions in the series. Did you improvise much or was it all laid out in the script?
It was all there in the script. If there was a big group scene, we’d record it as it was written, and then Will would say “Okay, and now we’re going to let rip a bit.” I find that terrifying, but it was actually really quite liberating and fun, and some hilariously weird stuff came out of it.
Looking at your comedy back catalogue, with Sophie in Peep Show and now Deborah in Flowers, your characters aren’t exactly blessed with the greatest luck in love, are they?
No! I don’t know why. Maybe I find that funny. Is that awful of me? I think a good dollop of sadness is quite a useful thing in comedy sometimes. I think if everyone’s happy all the time, it’s a bit dull. It’s like salt and caramel – you wouldn’t imagine they would go well together, but they do. I think watching someone, from the comfort of your own home, doing something awful or wrong – you have the luxury to be able to laugh at it. I think it works.
Flowers and The Night Manager are such different projects – is everything a bit more exaggerated and pronounced in comedy?
Yes and I hadn’t done it for a while, so I felt quite out of my comfort zone doing Flowers. You feel more comfortable as the days go by. I felt like I was doing an awful job, really hamming it up. But then I started to care less and just enjoy it.
You seem to have been very busy for the last few years. Are you someone who feels a need to keep on working? Do you hate to turn good work down?
I do struggle. I really remember what it was like not to work, so it’s hard to willfully say ‘no’. But it also looks like I’ve been working more than I have. Apart from Flowers, I’ve just had nine months off, because I’ve been with my baby. It’s just the luck of the draw that The Night Manager and Flowers are showing fairly close together. My family is my first love and my first priority and I probably have more time at home than people with normal jobs.
How was learning lines and performing with a small child at home?
It was slightly worse! The learning lines when pregnant wasn’t too bad, but there were a few rewrites and so I might have possibly used it as an excuse to say, “I can’t do it!” But once the baby’s there, it’s quite hard. I had the car journey in the morning to try and cram it in!
Flowers starts on Channel 4 on Monday 25th April.
Olivia Colman is laughing and blushing. “I don’t often get to play the object of lust,” confesses the actress. “I don’t know how to do it. It’s really fun to play and, it turns out, quite embarrassing. I got a bit nervous and giggly.”
Olivia, who has also starred in Broadchurch, The Iron Lady, Rev and The Night Manager, may be one of our most celebrated actresses, but she clearly doesn’t see herself as love-interest material.
But as Deborah in Channel 4 comedy-drama Flowers, a six-part series about a dysfunctional family that will be shown from Monday to Friday next week, she is propositioned by various family friends.
Olivia’s desperate, smiling matriarch Deborah is the glue that holds the family together.
Her husband, children’s author Maurice (The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt), is depressed and suicidal, while their grown-up twins, Amy (Mount Pleasant’s Sophia Di Martino) and Donald (Eric And Ernie’s Daniel Rigby), are maladjusted. Amy is lost and sad, while her brother is a delusional, failed inventor.
Other characters include Aunty Viv, Deborah’s fun-loving sister, played by Anna Chancellor, neighbour Abigail (Murdered By My Boyfriend’s Georgina Campbell) and Shun, Maurice’s illustrator, played by Flowers’ writer and director Will Sharpe, best known as Yuki Reid from Casualty.
Flowers is Will’s first TV project as a writer and director, although he co-wrote and directed the independent film Black Pond.
“Flowers is about how your own state of mind can affect those around you,” says Will, 29. “I also knew that I wanted it to be funny, but not just funny.
I felt like I wanted it to be a bit like a non-sitcom sitcom. Something that while definitely a sitcom, finds its characters breaking the sitcom format by questioning their own identities and archetypes.”
Olivia, 42, says, “Deborah loves her family desperately, although she is misguided a lot of the time. If she can sense something is not right, she doesn’t necessarily try and sort it in the right way. It’s a symptom of the entire family that they don’t really listen to each other – or they listen but don’t hear, which is where a lot of the comedy comes from.”
The surreal feel of Flowers meant the actors, playing larger-than-life characters, had to produce some big performances.
It was a coup for the production to get an actress of Olivia’s stature, given that Will is a TV first-timer. But she says she’s never accepted a role because she thinks a show will be a hit, revealing, “I’ve never picked a project because it’s high profile. I picked Flowers because I liked the scripts and, if I’m enjoying myself, then I’m very lucky.”
Flowers came at a busy time for Olivia, who also filmed The Night Manager and gave birth to her third child last year. She and husband Ed Sinclair are also parents to Finn, 10, and Hal, eight.
Although the scripts must come pouring in, Olivia says that having once been an out-of-work actress, it’s hard to turn down work. “I do struggle. I really remember what it was like not to work, so it’s hard to wilfully say no,” she says.
“But it also looks like I’ve been working more than I have. Apart from Flowers, I’ve just had nine months off, because I’ve been with my baby. It’s just the luck of the draw that
The Night Manager and Flowers are showing fairly close together. My family is my first love and my first priority and I probably have more time at home than people with normal jobs.”
Olivia’s role in Flowers is very different from that of The Night Manager’s clever spy boss Angela Burr. The locations alone were certainly worlds apart but
Olivia says the jobs aren’t very different as life off-camera for actors is usually the same.
“Between scenes, it’s not very different whether you’re on a comedy or a drama,” she says. “We’re doing a job we love and that we want to do. I always try to remember, ‘Take the job seriously, but not yourself’. We’re really lucky.”
Flowers, Monday-Friday, 10PM, Channel 4
Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt’s new show Flowers is a strange and magical black comedy about a dysfunctional family trying not to fall apart too catastrophically. The duo play married couple Maurice and Deborah who live in an old, crumbling house with their two adult children and Maurice’s elderly mother.
The six-part series is written by Will Sharpe (Black Pond) and will, unusually, be aired over one week, with the first two episodes running back-to-back as a double bill from 10pm on 25th April followed by an episode per night until the finale on Friday 29th April.
This spring will see the launch of Channel 4’s innovative new six part dark comedy-drama starring Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt with the half hour episodes written and directed by Will Sharpe.
“Flowers is the kind of deliciously dark world we love at Channel 4. The word ‘dysfunctional’ doesn’t come close to describing quite how brilliantly peculiar the Flowers family are. Will Sharpe’s wonderful writing and direction coupled with an amazing cast has led us to an unbelievably original piece and we are delighted to have it on the channel.” – Channel 4’s Deputy Head of Comedy, Nerys Evans
Flowers is an imaginative, cinematic show about an eccentric and dysfunctional family struggling to hold themselves together. Maurice (Barratt), the author of illustrated children’s books The Grubbs, and music teacher wife Deborah (Colman) are barely together, but yet to divorce. As Maurice fights inner demons and dark secrets, Deborah tries to keep the family together at all costs and becomes increasingly suspicious that Maurice is in a secret homosexual relationship with his Japanese illustrator Shun (played by show creator Will Sharpe).
The Flowers family live in a creaky, messy, crumbling old house with Maurice’s ailing mother Hattie (Leila Hoffman) and their maladjusted 25-year-old twins Amy (Sophia Di Martino – Friday Night Dinner, Mount Pleasant) and Donald (BAFTA-winning Daniel Rigby – Eric and Ernie, Cardinal Burns, Undercover). Both are competing for the affection of neighbour Abigail (BAFTA-winning Georgina Campbell – Murdered By My Boyfriend) as they struggle to burst through the confines of their arrested development. Anna Chancellor plays Aunty Viv, Deborah’s vivacious sister.
Swinging from the profane to the profound, the Flowers family and their often self-inflicted crises, are surrounded by odd neighbours who become the agents of further heartache and misfortune. Despite living on top of each other the family will do anything to not communicate, pushing them and their struggles with love and life to extreme and ridiculous places.
“I feel very lucky to be making Flowers with Kudos, Channel 4 and Seeso. They’ve been really supportive and pushed me to make bold decisions on a show that aims both to celebrate and challenge the traditional family sitcom format. The characters in this show are all trying to break free in some way. In part, it’s a comedy about the different ways of feeling trapped or alone and how difficult it can be to admit that’s how you’re feeling.” – Will Sharpe
It will air on Channel 4 in the UK and Seeso in the States this spring
Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt are gearing up to film Flowers, with cameras due to roll in three weeks.
The dark comedy is a six-parter from Kudos for Channel 4, in association with NBCU’s new comedy focused subscription VOD platform, and follows the earlier non-TX pilot which filmed at the end of last year.
BAFTA-nominated Will Sharpe writes and directs the show, which revolves around an eccentric family, the Flowers, living in a decrepit house and barely holding family life together against a backdrop of crises, secrets and lies.
When the commission was first announced, Channel 4’s deputy head of comedy, Nerys Evans said, “Flowers is the kind of deliciously dark comedy we love at Channel 4. The word dysfunctional doesn’t even come close to describing quite how brilliantly peculiar the Flowers family are. Will Sharpe’s genius coupled with an amazing cast has led us to an unbelievably original piece and we are delighted to have it on the channel.”
Naomi De Pear, who developed the series, acts as producer; on PI you will also find the casting director, line producer, production designer, studio, shoot dates and location manager.
The week commencing 9 November is a busy one for new projects – cameras also begin to roll that day on the two new series of Red Dwarf and noir detective thriller Marcella. Production details on these details can also be found on PI.
And some bad news to finish with: fans of Colman will have to wait a lot longer for the third series of Broadchurch. The actress said on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends on 17 October that the series would not film until the summer of 2016.
Bafta-winning former Peep Show star Colman, who will return in the second series of ITV murder mystery Broadchurch in the new year, will play the mother of twentysomething twins in the sitcom about the ultimate dysfunctional family.
Barratt will play Colman’s husband in the comedy, written and directed by Will Sharpe, who will also appear as the family’s “home help”.
Sharpe was one of the co-directors of low budget indie film Black Pond, starring Chris Langham and Simon Amstell, which was nominated for the Bafta outstanding debut award in 2012. Currently a non-broadcast pilot, filming has just finished on the opening episode with Channel 4 hopeful that it will progress to a full series.
Channel 4 head of comedy Phil Clarke said: “It is really dark, funny and challenging – everything a Channel 4 family sitcom should be.
“It’s possibly the most dysfunctional family you will ever come across and yet somehow they still manage to function as a family. The humour is very dark but at times it’s really broad as well. It’s a very original piece – I don’t think there’s anything like it anywhere else.”
Clarke said the pilot, which is being made by Kudos, the production company behind Broadchurch, was in many respects a traditional sitcom.
“They have twins, a son and a daughter, the nanny lives at the house as well; they have neighbours and there are builders in. If it goes to a full series the builders will probably always be there,” he said.
“It’s got all the classic sitcom things and yet it is absolutely not like anything else I have read for a very, very long time.”
Clarke said he “really loved” Black Pond, a black comedy about a family who are accused of murder when a stranger comes to dinner. “Black Pond is a much darker film, this is more out and out funny,” he added.