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A black supporting actress, Olivia Cole studied acting at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, going on to appear onstage. She worked for nearly five years on the TV soap opera Guiding Light, and appeared on episodes of various prime-time TV shows. Cole came to prominence as Chicken George's wife Matilda in the historical TV mini-series Roots a role for which she won the 1976/77 Emmy for "Best Supporting Actress (Single Performance) in a Drama Series." She played supporting roles in a number of films, and occasionally played leads, as in Backstairs at the White House (1979); most of her work has been on TV.

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