Broadchurch star Olivia Colman found something about past that had her in tears

When Olivia Colman agreed to take part in Who Do You Think You Are? she warned producers they would find nothing of note in her ancestry.

She may have been a detective in ­Broadchurch and will play The Queen in Netflix’s The Crown but the Bafta-winning actress insists she is “the least interesting person I know”.

But all that is turned on its head in the BBC1 show, which traces celebrities’ family trees.

Producers take her halfway across the world to inform her that she has Indian heritage she knew nothing about.

Mum-of-three Olivia, 44, is moved to tears by one of her relatives.

The TV star, who was convinced all her ancestors would hail from Norfolk, is shocked to discover that her great-great-great grandmother, Harriot, was an “orphan” in 1811.

It transpires that her father was an Englishman working for the East India Company who married a local girl and had a daughter. But he died when the child was still young.

Olivia tries to find out more about Harriot’s mother, who gave birth in an Indian village, but discovers the child’s English grandparents sent for her to join them in England, for a “better life”.


The actress, whose youngest child is not yet three, learns Harriot, aged four or five, made the six-month journey on a ship bound for England from Calcutta all by herself.

One show source said: “Olivia was heartbroken to think of such a young child making such a major journey alone.

“She couldn’t help but think how terrifying that must have been and it made her incredibly sad.

“She is also shocked to find out she has this incredible chapter in her past that she had no inkling about. She is thrilled to have a far more exotic past than she ever imagined.”

Who Do You Think You Are? returns for a 15th run this summer. Other stars include Boy George, who delves into his Irish past, and actress Michelle Keegan, who has connections to the Suffragettes.

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