Olivia Williams

British actress Olivia Williams essayed intelligent, often sensitive and occasionally no-nonsense women in features and on television on both sides of the Atlantic, including "Rushmore" (1998), "The Sixth Sense" (1999), "Hanna" (2011), "Manhattan" (WGN America, 2014-16), and "Counterpart" (Starz, 2017-19). The daughter of lawyers, Olivia Haigh Williams was born July 26, 1968 in North London, England, and earned a degree in English literature from the University of Cambridge's Newnham College before shifting her focus to drama and training at both the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Williams remained with the RSC after graduation while also appearing in the occasional UK television production, most notably an ITV production of Jane Austen's "Emma" (1996) with Kate Beckinsale. The following year, she toured with Ian McKellen in a RSC production of "Richard the III," which brought her to the attention of actor Kevin Costner. He cast her as the female lead in his sprawling post-apocalypse drama "The Postman" (1997), which, though a sizable failure, led to more Stateside roles for Williams. She earned critical praise as a teacher wooed by both teenaged Jason Schwartzman and his mentor (Bill Murray) in Wes Anderson's "Rushmore," and her first blockbuster film in M. Night Shaymalan's "The Sixth Sense," which cast her as Bruce Willis's spouse. The success of these films led to steady work in both America and England throughout the 2000s, though the majority of these projects were arthouse films like "The Body" (2001), with Antonio Banderas, George Hickenlooper's "The Man from Elysian Fields" (2001) and the period drama "The Heart of Me" (2002), which earned Williams an Empire Award for Best Actress. She found greater success in character roles, beginning in 2009 with "An Education," which earned a London Film Critics Circle Award nomination for British Supporting Actress of the Year. Williams followed it with turns in Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" (2010), which won her several leading film critics association awards and nominations; as the mother of a teenage assassin in "Hanna" (2011) and as Countess Vronskaya in "Anna Karenina" (2012), both for director Joe Wright; as Eleanor Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on the Hudson" (2012); and as the domineering mother of a child star in David Cronenberg's brutal satire "Maps to the Stars" (2014). She also worked steadily in American and UK television during this period, including starring turns as Jane Austen in "Miss Austen Regrets" (BBC, 2007) and the head of a mysterious agency in Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" (Fox, 2009-2010). In 2014, she was top-billed as a botanist working on the American atomic program in "Manhattan," and then played a brittle aristocrat in wartime England for the ITV series "Halcyon" (2017), and a spy married to two versions of J.K. Simmons in the alternate-reality series "Counterpart." When that series ran its course, Williams reunited with Wheedon for his HBO series "The Nevers" (2020-), about a group of Victorian women with extraordinary powers.