Nick Frost-lookalike inspiration behind Mr Sloane

Nick Frost at Mr Sloane launch

Acclaimed director Robert Weide has described how a chance experience with a Nick Frost-lookalike inspired him to write new Sky Atlantic series Mr Sloane. Weide, who worked with friend Larry David to bring the world cult US comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, said the idea first came to him as he was driving along the freeway in Los Angeles.

Speaking at the show’s launch at BAFTA headquarters in London, he recounted: “In the car to my right I got a quick glimpse of a guy who looked like Nick but with a very short haircut, retro horn-rimmed glasses and wearing a jacket and tie. He looked like Nick if he had been an accountant during the Mad Men-era.

“I was on my own at the time, so I had nothing to do but think about who that guy was and I started to talk into my phone. The recording is still on my phone now with a date and time stamp, so I could actually tell you the exact moment Mr Sloane was born.”

Set in 1960s London, tragicomedy Mr Sloane sees Frost in the titular role, struggling to restore normality after his wife (triple-BAFTA winner Olivia Colman) has left him and his best friend (Peter Serafinowicz) has taken his job. As far from the mostly improvised Curb Your Enthusiasm as it’s possible to get, Weide’s first effort as creator, writer and director combined is very period and very English.

Being an LA native, Weide said he needed a few pointers to ensure the show’s authenticity: “There were a lot of British eyes on the script along the way so things I didn’t get quite right were corrected. Originally, in the first scene in the pub I had a waitress bringing food to the table and one of the first people who saw the script said not only was there no food in [1960s] pubs, there were no waitresses either. I’d been thinking of a modern gastropub.”

Weide revealed he wrote the part of Sloane’s wife with Colman in mind, having met her in 2007 while filming Simon Pegg vehicle How To Lose Friends & Alienate People: “Unlike Nick, who knew I was writing the show for him, Olivia Colman did not know that I was specifically writing this part for her – I thought I’d wait and spring it on her as a finished script. She read it and thankfully she liked it.”

Also present at the launch, Frost said that Weide had been the main factor in convincing him to move from film to television: “I’d known Bob for seven or eight years since he worked with Simon [Pegg] on How To Lose Friends & Alienate People. He and I are similar beings where we create melancholy and find joy and solace in the dark places.”
Similarly, he was full of praise for co-star Colman: “She’s one of the handful of actors that I feel like I have an out-of-body experience when we’re working on scenes.

Mr Sloane begins on Sky Atlantic on Friday May 23 at 9pm.