Critically acclaimed actor, Olivia Williams, worked with Masterclass members on their audition speeches and answered questions about growing your career as an actor.

About Olivia

Olivia Williams has played notable roles in a number of movies. These have included Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, opposite Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, for which she was named Best Supporting Actress by the National Society of Film Critics and the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards; and Lone Scherfig’s An Education, opposite Carey Mulligan. The latter film earned Ms. Williams a London Critics’ Circle Film Award nomination as well as a shared Screen Actors Guild Award nomination with her fellow actors from the ensemble.

After completing her university studies, she spent two years at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company for three years. In 1997, Ms. Williams was chosen by director Kevin Costner to star opposite him in the drama The Postman. Subsequently, she played opposite Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore and appeared as Bruce Willis’ wife in M. Night Shyamalan’s blockbuster The Sixth Sense.

She has since appeared in a number of U.K. independent films, including Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s The Heart of Me, for which she was honoured with the British Independent Film Award (BIFA) for Best Actress, Peter Cattaneo’s Lucky Break, for which she was an Empire Award nominee and Mat Whitecross’ Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, opposite Andy Serkis.

Among her other movies are David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, George Hickenlooper’s The Man from Elysian Fields, P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan, Martin Donovan’s Collaborator, David Ayer’s Sabotage, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and, also for Focus Features, Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson (in which she portrayed First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) and Joe Wright’s Hanna and Anna Karenina.

On television, she has portrayed celebrated authors Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, respectively, in the TV films Miss Austen Regrets, directed by Jeremy Lovering, and Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures, directed by Richard Curson Smith. She has guest-starred on such shows as Friends, Terriers and Beck. She starred as London’s Mayor in City Hall, directed for “Playhouse Presents” by Richard Loncraine. Her television series include Joss Whedon’s cult favourite Dollhouse, the critically acclaimed Manhattan and Counterpart, alongside J.K. Simmons, for which the second season is being released imminently.

Ms. Williams’ West End stage work includes starring opposite Matthew Fox in the world premiere of the play In a Forest, Dark and Deep, written and directed by Neil LaBute, at the Vaudeville Theatre, starring with Tom Hollander in Robin Lefevre’s Donmar Warehouse production of John Osborne’s The Hotel in Amsterdam and starring at the St. James Theatre in Scenes from a Marriage, directed by Trevor Nunn. In 2017, she starred with Olivia Colman at the National Theatre in Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes, directed by Rufus Norris.