Dyed purple hair, fake tattoos ... Ophelia Lovibond certainly went against type for her latest role.
The actress — usually more akin to her role of hardworking Izzy Gould in BBC satire W1A — channels her wild side as an overburdened single mother in Disney+ original film Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.
Directed by Tom McCarthy (Spotlight, etc), the comedy, based on Stephan Pastis’ best-selling book of the same name, follows the hilarious exploits of deadpan hero Timmy, who, along with his 1,500lb polar bear partner Total, operates a Portland detective agency.
Played by newcomer Winslow Fegley, oddball Timmy must navigate the world of adults around him, including his mother Patty (Lovibond), and a school-mandated guidance counsellor (Craig Robinson).
“The script is unlike anything else I’d read and, even though it was described as being for children, I genuinely enjoyed it. It really made me laugh,” says Lovibond, 34.
“The character of Timmy is so unusual — he just captures your imagination.”
As for hardworking hipster Patty, who’s trying to hold together a household, several jobs, and at the same time allow her child to be who he is, Lovibond admits she turned to her own mother for inspiration.
“I think my mum was sort of a reference in my mind — the way she encouraged us all to be really creative and imaginative,” she recently told Yahoo Movies, having grown up in London in a single-parent family.
“She’d take us for a day at the park for a picnic and we’d just have the best day because we’d come up with all sorts of different games and things,” she recalled.
“I think all of that was in there subconsciously.”
As well as W1A, Lovibond has played the hippy girlfriend in Sky Atlantic comedy series Mr. Sloane; and Sherlock’s new protege, Kitty Winters, in US TV show Elementary.
But Timmy Failure’s Patty is one of her more unique parts.
“Each tattoo has a story behind it,” she muses of her character’s look.
“Like one hasn’t been coloured in because she got it and then Timmy came along, and she had no money to have it finished!
“But my God, yeah [this unleashed my wilder side],” she follows.
“When we were filming there’s a bit where we go round smashing up those library boxes, and at one point I just thought, ‘I have such a weird job; I am just being paid to swing a baseball bat and scream at the top of my lungs’.
The relationship between Patty and Timmy was heart-warming too, she notes, describing their union as “sort of teammates”.
And how about working with Oscar-winning director Tom McCarthy?
“I loved Spotlight, I’ve seen that movie so many times, so when I saw that he would be directing in, I was like ‘Wow’,” says Lovibond, who also recently featured in Mae Martin’s comedy series Feel Good.
“I really loved working with him; he’s so specific in his direction, he really hones in on how he wants the story to be told and that’s so satisfying because that’s what you want to do — tell the story the best way you can.”
As for the message, it’s about encouraging imagination, she reasons.
“The fact that Timmy’s imagination conjures up his friend, the polar bear, who keeps him company when his dad has left and he’s quite an unusual kid, sends out the message to embrace your imagination, cultivate it and let it run wild.”
“And,” she follows, “what’s nice about this film is it’s not patronising, it doesn’t feel like a goofy kid’s film”.
“There’s a place for those and I love them,” Lovibond quickly adds. “But it feels bigger than that.
“And it’s one that adults can listen to as well - to embrace your creative side, embrace your uniqueness. Don’t allow someone to tell you that you should be normal and hide your personality under a bushel’.
“Indulge your imagination - you don’t know where it might lead.”