Director Robert B. Weide says Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) reacted very enthusiastically when he emailed the British actor about playing the titular role in the U.K.-set sitcom Mr. Sloane. “He wrote back and and he said, ‘I’d give my right ball to work with you,'” says Weide. “I later told Nick’s wife that story, and she said ‘Oh, that’s his good one!'”
Frost’s glee is understandable given Weide’s credits, which include directing many episodes of HBO’s beloved, Larry David-starring show Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as 2008’s How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. In fact, it was while making the latter film that Weide met Frost, a friend and frequent collaborator of the movie’s lead actor, Simon Pegg, dating back to the sitcom Spaced.
“I stayed in touch with the guys after the film,” says Weide. “Whenever either or both of them would be in Los Angeles, we’d get together. One weekend, I was driving and in the car next to me on the freeway was a guy who looked like a very conservative Nick Frost, with a short haircut, these horn-rimmed glasses, and he was wearing a jacket and tie. I thought, Oh, there’s Nick if he were an accountant in the ’50s or ’60s. I just started thinking about that character. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to automatic writing. The idea started to unfold in front of me. I have an iPhone and I hit the voice memo button and started to talk into the phone.”
In Mr. Sloane, Frost does indeed play an accountant in late ’60s London, attempting to deal with losing both his job and his wife, played by award-winning Broadchurch actress Olivia Colman. Other cast members include Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Frost’s Shaun of the Dead costar Peter Serafinowicz, who plays one of Sloane’s best friends and is another mainstay of the British comedy scene.
“The irony is that I hadn’t even been to England until I went over there to prep for How to Lose Friends,” says the American Weide. “It’s a fairly insular [comedy] community, but they were all big fans of Curb, so I had cachet from that. I found that once they open the door for you, you meet everybody. So, I became friendly with just a lot of funny British people.”
Mr. Sloane premiered in the U.K. last spring on Sky Atlantic, but was canceled later in the year. Not that Weide sounds too broken up about the show’s demise. “Can I be perfectly honestly with you?” he says. “I only wanted to do one series. I’d told my story. I didn’t think [the cancellation] was handled very well, but I was fine. I’m always looking to move on to the next thing.”
Weide is currently working on a documentary about the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut. “I just got back from New York where I filmed some new interviews,” he says. “We’re off and running with the hope of having it finished by the end of this year, maybe the very beginning of this year. But I first approached him about this documentary in 1982 and started filming in 1988. So it’s been a long time coming.”
That reminds us—does Weide think we have seen the last of Curb Your Enthusiasm? After all, it’s been almost three years since the last season screened, and Larry David is currently busy appearing in his hit Broadway show Fish in the Dark.
“At one time, I would have put the odds on it happening,” he says. “Now, probably, if I was betting man, I’d say more unlikely than not. If Larry came off of his Broadway play, got some rest, and said, ‘Let’s get the band back together,’ it would easily be yet another year. So, it would almost have to be kind of like a reunion at this point. You can hardly just pick up like nothing has changed. But it always has been—and always will be up to Larry’s whim. He might just say, ‘Ah, what the hell, let’s do it,’ and then everyone will get a phone call. I’m sure HBO would be thrilled. We’ll see. It’s crazy, really, this whole thing: You know, ‘Is something coming back?’ I’ve done Q&As with both Nick and Simon, and always somebody will say, ‘Are you ever going to do a third series of Spaced?’ Spaced was, like, 12 f–king years ago! Come on! Get a life!”
Mr. Sloane premieres in Southern California on KCET, Thursday, May 7, at 10 p.m. Link TV (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410) will screen a marathon of all seven episodes on Sunday, May 17, starting at 8 p.m. EST and 9 p.m. PST. Watch the trailer for Mr. Sloane below.