Olivia Colman: Vicar's wife in Tom Hollander's Rev

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Rev is a new six-part sitcom for BBC Two, written by James Wood and co-created with In The Loop star Tom Hollander. Tom plays Adam, a country vicar who's relocated to a parish in inner-city London, while Olivia Colman plays his solicitor wife, Alex.

Olivia talked to me just after she'd watched the completed version for the first time, to find out what it was like on the set of Rev, how she hoped it would be received and why comparisons to the Vicar Of Dibley are wide of the mark.

Can you tell us a bit about Rev, and your character, Alex?

Rev follows a vicar - an inner-city vicar, who's moved from the countryside - and the trials and tribulations of his very little congregation, and he and his wife. You know, normal stuff that shows he's a normal, human person - a married man with normal problems but also a dog collar.

It was lovely playing Alex. She's quite ballsy but they're both very good people - they're helping people in different ways.

I kind of felt that Alex thought that Adam made her want to be a better person because he really does turn the other cheek and try to see the best in everybody and she's maybe a bit more keen to just say "Agh, let's just go home!"

But she's lovely to play and they're a lovely, lovely couple. I mean, it's sort of from their back story. We think they met when they were quite young - before he went into the cloth - and she just followed him wherever he went because they're soulmates.

What were your thoughts when you first saw the script?

I really like quite dark comedy and I like the fact that it could stir people up. I don't think that's a bad idea, ever.

Some people are quite precious about vicars and vicars who can get erections [laughing]. But he's human, we're all nothing but humans and that's what I like about it, it really did deal with the humanity, the spit and dribble of everyday life. But you'd be disappointed it you're wanting the Vicar Of Dibley!

There's a great bit in the second episode where, in an effort to spice up their sex life, Alex walks into a supermarket dressed as...

A prostitute!

Yes! That part had me in stitches. What was that like to film?

It was quite embarrassing! The shop had security cameras so they guys who owned the shop were standing there looking really bored watching us on security cameras and me tarting around in high heels. It was embarrassing! But fun. I like the waist the corset gave me!

What were your impressions now that you've seen it properly on the screen for the first time?

I'm really proud of it - I loved it! Sometimes you watch things after it's been through the editing process and you worry that people have cold got feet and have wanted to jazz it up for an audience.

The original script was just so beautiful on its own, it was dark and there were gaps, you know, spaces for thoughts to happen - I sound a bit pretentious now - but what I love is they haven't tried to change it, they've just left it as it was.

It was called something different while we were working on it, and Rev really suits it. I much prefer the name, as it was originally called Handle With Prayer. Rev's right for it - it's snappy and modern.

As you say, it's dark but it's also quite accessible to somebody who's come to it cold and likes mainstream comedy.

Absolutely! Because they're funny characters and Tom does funny - he can do it easily. And then there's his reactions, and you know that he's battling with his thoughts, and you can watch it all unfold. It's a classic comedy in terms of what someone does in an awkward situation.

How does your character progress as the series goes on?

They're always trying to find time for each other. What else? There's more attempting to have a sex life. And the fact that she says "Don't wear the dog collar in the bedroom!" I mean you would do that, wouldn't you? You'd say "Don't do that!"

[The interview takes a quick break at this point as Olivia composes herself after collapsing into a fit of giggles]

There's a lovely episode where a friend of Alex's, who is a Muslim girl, asks if she and her Muslim friends can borrow some space to pray in the church. Adam's like: "Of course, of course," and then he's battling with how people feel about that.

It's like, "There are Muslims in my church!" You know, it's saying out loud everything what everyone thinks. Adam just goes, "Don't be ridiculous," it's just... it's great.

What kind of reaction are you hoping for when people see it for the first time?

I hope they're going to warm to the characters and love them.

Colin [played by Steve Evets] is a homeless smelly guy and you wonder are people going to love him? But he's lovely! And the fact that Adam might well be his only friend in the world.

There's one episode where he lets himself in, or he breaks in, we don't really know, and he has his morning dump in the downstairs loo of the Vicarage and you're not really sure how Adam and Alex cope with that!

But I hope the audience warm to these people and they want to know, I don't know... after seeing it they think, 'I want the people to do well in it. I hope they're going to be OK'. And I think these characters are strong enough and lovable enough that people want to get really involved. It's much more than a comedy about religion and vicars.

Gary Andrews is the assistant content producer for the BBC TV blog.

Rev starts at 10pm on BBC Two on Monday, 28 June. To find out further episode times please visit the upcoming episodes page.

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  • Comment number 52. Posted by Ossy

    on 13 Oct 2010 10:25

    Please Sir
    We want some more !!!!!!!

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  • Comment number 51. Posted by LisaH

    on 5 Sept 2010 18:52

    I watched this series and loved it so much I watched it again on the iPlayer. Why only 6 episodes?! Please please please can we have another series? Please?

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  • Comment number 50. Posted by jaguarpaw

    on 30 Aug 2010 18:08

    More Rev Please!!!!

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  • Comment number 49. Posted by Governement dept4propergander

    on 16 Aug 2010 10:53

    Loved it,loved the cast,
    can't wait for series two

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  • Comment number 48. Posted by helendacey

    on 15 Aug 2010 13:58

    I loved the series and hope there is another one to come. Funny, sad, topical, contoversial. Tim Hollander is brilliant. More please BBC.

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  • Comment number 47. Posted by Andrew Horton

    on 13 Aug 2010 09:49

    What a great series. Superb characters (Loved Colin), great script with edgy real storylines. I got into this late from a colleague and had to watch a few episodes on iplayer. It made me cringe, laugh out loud and also hit you with sadness. Last episode was superb in that it made me laugh one moment and then evoked some real emotion when tending to dieing woman. This is the best thing I have seen in ages. Please make another series!

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  • Comment number 46. Posted by David_Senior

    on 9 Aug 2010 16:57

    "Rev" BBC 2 Sitcom was an excellent production by actors, writers, and production team. It was refreshing as it engaged with church folk and non-church folk. The best thing about this sort of drama is that it does reflect real issues (as a parish priest I identified with most of them) and allows them to be portrayed with great style and humour.
    CONGRATULATIONS

    David ( I sent a similar blog , just, but may not have mentioned the programme I was writing about!)

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  • Comment number 45. Posted by David_Senior

    on 9 Aug 2010 16:52

    Sitcom "Rev" was an excellent production - a delightful mixture of good actors, sparky issue based comedy and accurate feelings and pathos. As a parish priest in Birmingham I can relate to almost all the scenarios!
    It was done with imagination and has been an engaging piece of theatre as my congregation members and non church community have watched it and been engaged by the issues involved . That is both refreshing and a very good way of raising issues and getting healthy discussion going. I hope there is another series planned? Congratulations to writers production team and cast.

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  • Comment number 44. Posted by swbarton

    on 9 Aug 2010 08:10

    I too loved each episode of Rev. Another former vicar, I was amazed at its bold accuracy. But I have a concern that the black characters in the series tended towards stereotypes - stereotypes related to ethnicity. I wonder what others think. I'm white.

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  • Comment number 43. Posted by Rachel Bence

    on 7 Aug 2010 13:33

    This is an absolutely fantastic series! Having been bought up in a vicarage in a similar area to St. Saviours, I can testify to the accuracy of the portrayal of vicarage and church life. Rev. is beatufully observed and brilliantly researched.
    The theological discourses are spot-on, having a depth and complexity that really took me by surprise!
    My father the Rev. used to say "They say that 'we are only human' - as if there were any doubt about it!" this series really does depict the human conflicts that those with a vocational calling face on a day-to-day basis, and those that support them have to put up with too.
    PS I have several suggestions for comic scenarios for series 2 in my back-catalogue of real-life stories from the vicarage if anyone is interested!!
    PLEASE let us have a second series

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