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Olivia Colman: “I immediately knew I would marry him”

BAFTA-winner Olivia Colman, 39, talks post-natal depression, sobbing through Broadchurch, and love at first sight

I was never very good at school and used to dread going. It never came easy for me. I always felt: there must be something else. Then at 16 I had my first school play – I was Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – and I immediately thought: this is what I want to do; I don’t want to do anything else. And that was lucky because I’m not qualified to do anything else and I’m no good at anything else.

As a teenager I worried in private about lots of things but I was good at faking it. I was never one of those surly teenagers who doesn’t smile. My lovely godfather said it was always lovely to see me because I was the only teenager who smiled. And I was so in awe of him, I thought it was one of the best things anyone had ever said to me. So it made me want to live up to what he said. He was adored by everyone, a bit like Ollie Reed with less booze. He was funny and witty and handsome and gorgeous. When I did Miss Jean Brodie he said I was “amazing, amazing, fucking brilliant”.

I had a problem with not eating and struggling with body confidence

I was a fairly jolly teenager but there was a time when I had a problem with not eating and struggling with body confidence. I had black clouds. And still do. But now I know when I’m in a fug and that it’ll pass. I had post-natal depression after my first baby. But I knew I loved my baby – I’ve always been able to see what I have in my life. It would be nice to go back in my life to those early fugs and tell my younger self: you’ll be okay. This will pass. And you will be loved. Don’t make any rash decisions in this moment. You can make the world work and have a brilliant time. And if you’re not skinny: fuck it. I’m basically a pretty upbeat person.

Of all the things I’ve done, I think my teenage self would be most excited about Tyrannosaur [Paddy Considine’s 2011 directorial film debut, in which Colman starred in a ‘breakout’ non-comic role]. All I ever wanted to do was act in something great. My young self wouldn’t be surprised that I’ve been best known as a comic actress – my ‘in’ with people was always to be funny. I loved every second of Peep Show, Rev, Twenty Twelve… Rob Webb and David Mitchell are two of my favourite people in the world. If series nine of Peep Show happens I’d want to go back, even just for a cameo drive-by.

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I always desperately wanted to be a mum. I’ve always been in touch with my emotions – I’d be the one left sobbing in the cinema – but when I had children it took away my skin completely. My husband is the same. We sit watching One Born Every Minute, clutching each other in tears. Making [ITV detective drama] Broadchurch, I couldn’t stop crying. It’s just awful, the idea that your children could go before you. I’d have a scene and they’d say, “You’re not crying in this scene”, and I’d think – yeah right, good luck with that.

I’d love to go back and relive the first time I ever saw my husband. It was at the rehearsals of a play. I immediately thought, that’s the person I’m going to marry. I absolutely threw myself in – I didn’t play it cool. And at first he just could not see it. He can be very slow on the uptake. I had to work on him. I remember one day, about three months later, him saying: “What are you thinking?” And I said: “I love you.” I knew I had him by then. We married seven years later and we’ve been together 19 years. He’s the best person in the world.