#TheUnknownHustle: Olivia Colman

The British Academy Award winner once had to scrounge in her sofa for pennies to afford food

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Coleman, winner of Best Actress for 'The Favourite,' on Oscar night, 2019 / Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

British actress Olivia Colman’s Oscar win for The Favourite was a welcome surprise at the 91st annual Academy Awards. “This is hilarious. I’ve got an Oscar!” the 45-year-old said, beaming onstage before wrapping up her speech with a word of encouragement for those watching. “Any little girl who’s practicing their speech on the telly, you never know. I used to work as a cleaner, and I loved that job.”

Just 10 years ago, Colman and her husband Ed were hard up for cash. A lull in both of their careers left her contemplating whether or not to give up acting altogether. “There were years of no work,” she told The Daily Mail. “It was a hard time. I actually really loved my cleaning jobs. I loved the job satisfaction. I’d really go to town. I’d wipe skirting boards, the top of lights. I never looked in drawers.”

At one point early on in her career, Colman and her now husband had to scrounge pennies from the cracks in the sofa to buy food. “We had what we call our Angela’s Ashes day when we first moved to London from Bristol (in 1998),” she continued. “I had £1 left in my overdraft, and cash machines don’t dispense pounds. Ed didn’t have any money either, so we managed to find enough pennies from the sofa to buy one potato to share.”

In 2003, Colman was cast in the U.K. comedy series Peep Show, which helped launch her acting career. Last night, she took home her first Academy Award for playing Queen Anne in director Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite. In 16 years, she’s gone from cleaning homes to polishing her very own Oscar.

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