Anjana Vasan on Working With Olivia Colman in Wicked Little Letters


There’s a flurry of “f***s, piss, whores,” and so many more colorful expletives in Wicked Little Letters, but none of them really originate from Anjana Vasan (Black Mirror, We Are Lady Parts), who plays police officer Gladys Moss, an underdog on a mission to uncover the truth in director Thea Sharrock’s (Britannia) playful comedy.

Written by Jonny Sweet (I Hate You), the romp is based on the fascinating true story about the 1920s post-war seaside town of Littlehampton, England, and how it became entangled in an absurd, if not hilarious, scandal involving obscene letters. Think candid posts on TikTok and X and flashback 100 years when the sneakiest way to insult somebody was to send them a sweary message by mail.

The offbeat tale is anchored by a central mystery: who the bloody hell is writing filthy letters to spinster Edith Swan, played by Olivia Colman (The Crown, Heartstopper). Edith turns to an unlikely ally, rowdy neighbor Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley), an Irish single mother who lives with her young daughter Nancy (Alisha Weir).

Outspoken Rose is new in town, so she warms up to Edith initially. However, when eyes turn to her as the prime suspect in the foul-mouthed letters, the town is thrown into turmoil. Angana Vasan’s Gladys emerges as one of the few who believes Rose is innocent and sets out to uncover the truth. The We Are Lady Parts star opens up about the film, being underestimated in Hollywood, and working alongside the great Olivia Colman. Read on.

Surpassing Expectations in Wicked Little Letters

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Don’t underestimate Angana Vasan. Or Gladys in Wicked Little Letters, for that matter. Vasan shares something unique with Gladys, who in the film is subjected to menial business while the alpha males around her keep their chests puffed up and bark out orders, among them Hugh Skinner’s (The Windsors) Constable Papperwick and Paul Chahidi’s Chief Constable Spedding. Gladys suspects Rose is innocent, but the men won’t entertain that notion. Sleuthing on her own, she finds allies in a posse of local women in town, which puts Edith on edge. When asked how she may have been underestimated in the entertainment business and one of the main reasons why she took on the role of Gladys, Vasan said:

“I think it’s a relatable feeling… I’ve definitely been in a situation in my career where I felt like I’ve had to sort of prove that I’m capable of doing something. There are a few characters I’ve played, they tend to be maybe outsiders, or they tend to be on the fringe, sort of observing and watching, and they tend to surprise the characters in the story about what they’re capable of and what they amount to. And I think in that process they surprise themselves as well about what they were capable of doing. Gladys is one of them.”

She certainly is. In the 1920s, female officers gave up their lives—even motherhood—to serve, only to be subjected to the “handling of over-emotional women” of the day. In Gladys, we find a true hero and a small part of the film’s beating heart—the one who seeks justice amidst the mayhem.

“She goes into the story with a very idealized version of what this job is; being the first woman police officer, she thinks she’s making a difference to the community. Post-war women were in public-facing positions for the first time. And it’s a sacrifice being in this job because [it] means you can’t marry, and you can’t have kids. So, it wasn’t a decision that she took very lightly.” Vasan continues, “But as soon as she is in this job and in the uniform, she realizes it’s actually really hard to do the right thing because a system around her doesn’t allow her to do the right thing, and her job is just to pour the tea and be there in case women faint.”

“Without giving too much away, it’s when she’s not in uniform that you really see who she is and what she’s capable of and she gets her strength, I think, from like the other women in the community. And it becomes this surprising story as well of female friendship. Like she doesn’t do it on her own, but she gets some help along the way. And I think she surprises even herself by the end of the story.”


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On Working With Olivia Colman

No doubt, working with Olivia Colman must have been illuminating. The Oscar and Emmy winner (The Favourite, The Crown) must have either doled out fascinating bits of wisdom or other bon mots. “I think that Olivia Colman is proof that you can be very good at your job, and you can be ambitious, and you can be incredibly talented, and can also be a nice person,” Vasan shared.

“Those things don’t have to be in conflict. I think sometimes, in our industry, we confuse talent and ambition with being… unkind to other people and being self-centered. And I think she’s proof that you can do both things.”

She goes on to say that being a good human being also means “you’re a better actor,” adding that Olivia Colman’s skill was effortlessness. “The first time I was on camera with her, I kind of forgot that I was in the scene, too. I was watching how fast she was, then just doing it, but also handling all of that so lightly and gracefully, and not sort of being in her head but so open with everyone else and being generous. It was just a masterclass. You… definitely meet your heroes when it comes to Olivia Colman. It’s just been one of the highlights for me getting to watch her up close.”

Audiences will appreciate Angana Vasan up close in Wicked Little Letters, although there’s already buzz about having the actress return for another round on Black Mirror. Watch this space for more details on that potentially great opportunity. Catch Wicked Little Letters in theaters now. Watch the trailer below.

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