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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Exile: Olivia Colman

Can you remember when you first read the script what attracted you to the role?

I loved the fact that my character was left behind to care for her father, missed out on stuff but always managed to be positive. She wasn't one of life's doormats and I don't enjoy playing doormats really, so I liked the fact that she'd had a bit of a tough time but she was still sparky, ballsy and quite funny.

Had you worked with Danny Brocklehurst before or Paul Abbott?

No, I was familiar with Danny's work but I hadn't worked with him before. He'd come on set occasionally; he was such a warm presence to have about. He wasn't remotely awkward about anything – he was a really easy writer to have around.

There are some really funny moments. Various members of the crew and cast who have had various members of their families' suffer from Alzheimer's were saying that sometimes the funniest stuff comes out. You have to laugh at some point – if you're caring for people like that you have got to find humour – and that's exactly what Danny managed to do in his writing.

Do you have any personal experience of Alzheimer's?

No, not directly. My mum, who is retired, was a nurse and she specialised in geriatric care and some of her patients had Alzheimer's but I've never had any relatives who have had it. I know friends whose parents have had it but not me – not yet anyway.

Can you tell us a little bit about your character?

Nancy was 16 when her big brother left and at that point their father was lucid and fine – albeit distraught as everything was going a bit wrong.

She probably did further education but maybe had to leave at some point or straight afterwards. She was at a college local to home as she was probably aware that their Dad was lonely, she couldn't exactly leave him like her brother had.

It then became clear that he wasn't himself, she was staying in to look after him, at which point the snowball effect happened and she was stuck. She seems to be a very uncomplaining person, she's pretty cool and quite a tough cookie.

How would you describe her relationship with Tom when he comes back? Is she angry or resentful?

A bit, but not that much really. She's eager to jump if he complains about anything. He doesn't seem to realise that it was much harder for her to leave, he was 16 and she was younger.

But they slip straight back in to getting on very well and it's kind of sad, you wonder where could they be if that whole episode hadn't happened or if there had never been any lies. They could have been equally looking after their father and it's sad to imagine where they'd be if things had turned out differently.

When times were good at home and their mum was alive they probably got on very well and laughed a lot.

How was it to work with Jim and with John? Had you worked with them before?

I'd worked with Jim on Hot Fuzz before, but I'd never worked with John, although I think I've probably seen everything he's ever been in. I was really excited to find out that John and I really did get on very well, we swapped funny videos of our kids and just had a ball really.

Are there any moments that spring to mind from filming? You did a scene in the supermarket when Jim takes a turn, how was that to shoot?

That was quite fun. I had to just fall back on a crash mat – nothing terribly dramatic. Jim struggling in the bath was funny – poor Jim, having to go under water. We laughed a lot at things on set.

How long were you filming for?

Not that long, I was up and down to Manchester no more than three nights on the trot at the time. The weirdest thing with Claire Goose, who I loved, was that her mum and my mum were best friends at school – small world!

I took board games on set as Jim loves board games – Chronology was our favourite, although Jim's a bit too good, he can win in one go!

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