Glass catches up with Ophelia Lovibond – a young star of the new Sky Atlantic comedy series Mr Sloane

Born in the ‘80s but yearning for the 1960s, Ophelia Lovibond has found her perfect part playing the carefree and exotic San Francisco hippie in the new Sky Atlantic comedy Mr Sloane. With her striking accent and liberated sense of style, Ophelia’s character Robin stands out from the remarkably less-than-swinging Watford and its locals.

This dark comedy is the most recent in an impressive list of parts – since securing her first professional part aged 14, it seems Ophelia just hasn’t stopped; her film debut came in the form of Roman Polanski’s multi-award winning adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist (2005), flowed by a scattering of parts in British TV series such as The Bill (2007) and Lewis (2009) before slipping back into film, playing John Lennon’s girlfriend in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s award winning directional debut Nowhere Boy (2009). More recently Ophelia’s played parts in the American romantic comedy No Strings Attached (2011), and in the same year acted alongside Jim Carey in Mr Poppers Penguins.

Back to the present and playing the part of Robin sees Ophelia take centre stage with British actor Nick Frost (as Jeremy Sloane) whose most notable parts include playing Mike in the TV series Spaced (1999) and Hot Fuzz (2007) alongside his longstanding comedian-friend Simon Pegg. Written and directed by Robert B Weide – who also wrote and directed the hugely popular American series Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000) – this British series sees Robin spark an unlikely, and at times bittersweet friendship with Jeremy Sloane, whose career and marriage have both tragically failed. If Mr Sloane were your introduction to Ophelia’s acting you would be surprised to hear she was born and still lives in London.

Ophelia LovibondOphelia Lovibond. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

How much preparation did that convincing west-coast American accent take?
It came from watching movies and soaps – I grew up watching so many films, and so many of the films we watch in England are American – I think if you already have an inclination towards it, then you absorb it. And the other thing is I did live in LA for a little while …¶

So you had that advantage …
Yes, definitely. I could do the American accent and then I went to live in Los Angeles and was there for about nine months, so it became such a nature that I was confident I had in my ‚“kit”ready.¶

Ophelia LovibondOphelia Lovibond. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

Ready for this part …
Exactly! I was very lucky. My character is from San Francisco so I wanted to make her voice a little bit more lazy and laid-back sounding, and that is a fun sound to do. She wasn’t this uptight girl; she was from the Haight-Ashbury part of San Francisco where the whole hippie subculture was formed and I wanted her voice to reflect that.

So you enjoyed playing the character Robin?
I loved it. I really really loved it. Nick [Frost] and I would always text each other out of the blue – without any preface – with ideas for the second series. We have all sorts of ideas!

Ophelia Lovibond photographed by Justin van VlietOphelia Lovibond. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

Without spoiling the plot, can you hint if we’re likely to see Robin appear in Mr Sloane again?
I honestly don’t know, but I really hope so. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had, working with Nick, playing that character in that whole era [60s] and with Bob [Weide] directing you – who is so funny. I didn’t want it to end.

I always get the blues when a job is nearing the end, because you make such fast friends with the crew, cast and writers – but with Mr Sloane I especially thought “I’m going to have to watch the series ten times to get over this!”

Ophelia LovibondOphelia Lovibond in Mr Sloane

The tragic humour of the series is ignited when Robin arrives. How did you feel playing a character that holds such a central role in Jeremy Sloane’s transformation?
Reading the first three episodes it became quite clear that she was a catalyst for major life changes for him. I thought it was so well written that in someone else’s hand it could have felt quite clunky, but it comes across as perfectly natural that they strike up this friendship. Knowing that Nick was playing that part I knew it would be great so there was no trepidation on my behalf. I just couldn’t wait to get on the set and start playing around.

Is Nick Frost as funny in real life as he seems on-screen?
He really is. I didn’t expect him to be any different, but he’s incredibly professional and takes his work very seriously – he’s the most punctual I’ve ever known – but he’s very funny and naturally very witty, and quick.

Ophelia LovibondOphelia Lovibond in Mr Sloane

You were born, and have grown up a London girl. Where is home for you now?
I now live in north-west London but I grew up in the middle of London in Hammersmith, and so did all my friends. We all got priced out of those sorts of areas, so we went to University, came back and found the most affordable spot. Your have to be quite open, you live wherever you can. I quite like living in different places like Brixton and Dalston – this was years ago before it was “Flat-White and a scone please”. It was a bit different then.

Could you see yourself living anywhere else?
I would live anywhere, I really would. I would love to learn French, I’ve always wanted to learn French. My mum lived in France for a little while when she was 18 and was there for a few years. She said the best way to learn French is to live there. With what I do, I don’t feel comfortable upping sticks and moving to Grenoble. But I’d love to live there one day.

The best thing about this job is you read a script and it’s set in Japan, and that is where you are living for the next three months. You just never know, and that’s the massive appeal of it.

Ophelia Lovibond in MrSloaneOphelia Lovibond in Mr Sloane

Do you have a favourite place you’ve visited?
I did a children’s comedy called Mr. Poppers Penguins [2011] and that was based in New York, so I was living there for just over two and a half months. That was amazing living in the East Village. It was incredible! I’ve been to New York before but only as tourist for five days so to be living there I got to really know it, and on the days I had off, I’d walk around with a book and get to know it.

If you weren’t acting, could you see yourself in any other career?
I just genuinely, never-ever considered not doing it, so anything I say would be totally fanciful. I have just always known; since I was 10 years old I’ve known. There’s no way I could love something as much as this and not do it.

by Stephanie Clair

Mr Sloane appears on Sky Atlantic HD. The first scene is also available now for all to view here