Olivia Colman reveals she was ‘sleeping on people’s sofas’ and struggled to afford her bus fare before shooting to A-list fame

Olivia Colman was struggling to afford her bus fare and ‘sleeping on people’s sofas’ prior to finding fame as an Oscar-winning actress.

The A-list star, 50, said she struggled with moving from Norwich to London in search of her big break, going to 100 auditions in her first year out of drama school and not securing a single role. 

Olivia’s first big role came in Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show as Sophie Chapman, the co-worker and on-off love interest of main character Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell).

She has since found stratospheric fame through television roles in Broadchurch (2013 – 2017) and The Crown (2019 – 2023) and a whole host of award-winning movie parts. 

She told the Radio Times Podcast: ‘London is a lot easier once you’ve been paid a bit! The first years were really hard. I was going round sleeping on people’s sofas, trying to find money for the bus to go and get a job. 

Olivia Colman was struggling to afford her bus fare and ‘sleeping on people’s sofas’ prior to finding fame as an Oscar-winning actress (pictured this month) 

The actress, 50, got her big break as Sophie Chapman in Channel 4's award-winning sitcom Peep Show (2003 - 2015) alongside co-star David Mitchell in 2004

The actress, 50, got her big break as Sophie Chapman in Channel 4’s award-winning sitcom Peep Show (2003 – 2015) alongside co-star David Mitchell in 2004

Olivia cemented her A-list status when she scooped the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite in 2018

Olivia cemented her A-list status when she scooped the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite in 2018

Olivia said the hard times were worth it in the end, adding: ‘But you find your tribe and then it’s a magical place. I don’t regret the saddest parts of my life because you learn from them.

‘My first year out of drama school, I went for 100 auditions and didn’t get one. I thought my agent was going to dump me. 

‘After one audition I didn’t get, I went to see my mum and she said, “Oh well, never mind.” And I went, “I just want a bit of sympathy and a cuddle then I’ll move on!”

‘And you do! It’s like when you watch X Factor and the contestant goes, “This is my big chance!”

‘It’s not! It’s one audition. If you’ve chosen this career, you’ll do them throughout your life, and you’ll lose most of them.’

Olivia starred in all nine series of Peep Show from 2003 to 2015, after meeting Mitchell and Robert Webb (Jeremy Usbourne) at Cambridge University’s drama club, having made her professional acting debut aged 26 three years before.

The comedy, about a pair of best friends enduring ‘the stubborn persistence of human suffering’ – as put by writer Sam Bain on Twitter in 2015 – went on to win acclaim at the British Comedy Awards and BAFTAs.

Over two decades on from her breakthrough, Olivia was joined by her Wicked Little Letters co-star Jessie Buckley, who also spoke of similar financial struggles in the early days of her career, having moved to London from Killarney, Ireland.

Speaking on the Radio Times Podcast, Olivia was joined by her  Wicked Little Letters co-star Jessie Buckley (left), who spoke of similar financial hardship at the start of her career

Speaking on the Radio Times Podcast, Olivia was joined by her  Wicked Little Letters co-star Jessie Buckley (left), who spoke of similar financial hardship at the start of her career

‘I moved when I was 17,’ the I’m Thinking Of Ending Things star, now 34, recalled.

‘I got paid for my first job and I thought I was rich. I was doing a show in London Bridge; by the end of the first week I’d run out of money. 

‘I was too embarrassed to tell any of the cast so I’d walk from Hammersmith, where I was staying, to London Bridge every night.’

The pair’s new movie is a comedic retelling of a real 1920s story of a poison pen scandal that shocked 1920s England.

Following the spree of profanity-laden letters, rowdy Irish migrant Rose (Jessie) is charged with the crime, but suspecting that something is amiss, the women of Littlehampton investigate for themselves.

The pair's new movie, also starring Timothy Spall (left), is a comedic retelling of a real 1920s story of a poison pen scandal that shocked 1920s England

The pair’s new movie, also starring Timothy Spall (left), is a comedic retelling of a real 1920s story of a poison pen scandal that shocked 1920s England 

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