'Timmy Failure' star Ophelia Lovibond on how her mum inspired her performance (exclusive)

Tom Beasley
Contributor
Ophelia Lovibond and Winslow Fegley in 'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made'. (Credit: Disney+/Dale Robinette)

Ophelia Lovibond has said her own single mother inspired her performance in new Disney+ family comedy Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.

The 34-year-old actor plays the single mother of the title character in the movie, adapted from the series of books by Stephan Pastis, which started in 2013.

Timmy — played by exciting newcomer Winslow Fegley — is a precocious child, but one who lives in a fantasy in which he is a successful detective, assisted by a polar bear sidekick.

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Lovibond’s character, Patty, is forced to walk what the star calls a “fine line between encouraging him and not letting him run too wild” while nurturing her son.

She told Yahoo Movies UK that it was her own mother who helped her to get the balance of the role right.

Winslow Fegley is a child who believes he has a polar bear companion in 'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made'. (Credit: Disney+/Dale Robinette)

“I think my mum was sort of a reference in my mind,” she said. “The way she encouraged us all to be really creative and imaginative.”

Lovibond added: “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.

“I think all of that was in there subconsciously.”

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Lovibond also praised director Tom McCarthy, who was Oscar-nominated just a few years ago for helming Spotlight, who she says brought an “honesty and truth” to the storytelling.

She added: “Tom was very keen to have this sense of her as a single mum working two jobs who’s really against it with money.

“She’s got quite a handful in her son, who’s amazing but gets himself into hot water.“

Read the full interview with Ophelia Lovibond, in which she discusses working with Winslow Fegley, her own Disney+ favourites and the silliness of trying to be normal...

Yahoo Movies UK: What was it like working with your young co-star, Winslow Fegley? He’s really tremendous.

Ophelia Lovibond: He is, isn’t he? Honestly, I loved every minute of it. I was so impressed by him. Tom was very keen, as was I, for us to meet and hang out and get to know each other a little bit before playing mother and son. He was just so open and so friendly and really funny and witty. How is he this young?

Then, when we got to filming, it felt very organic. There were scenes where I had to really get quite angry with him, which I felt terrible about, but he was just like: “it’s fine”. I was saying to Tom that I bet they were really pleased that they found him because he’s just so perfectly matched for it.

Tom has obviously made some very serious, prestige films. What did he bring to this film, given it’s a bit different to what he has done before?

I think he brought a real sense of honesty and truth to it. I know it sounds strange to say that when there’s a massive polar bear lumbering around Portland, but in terms of my scenes with Winslow, Tom was very keen to have this sense of her as a single mum working two jobs who’s really against it with money. She’s got quite a handful in her son, who’s amazing but gets himself into hot water.

Tom really wanted me to communicate that sense of wanting to encourage [Timmy] to embrace his uniqueness and creativity, but also worrying because he does sometimes get himself into sticky situations with it. She’s treading that fine line between encouraging him and not letting him run too wild. I think Tom was always very keen to keep that aspect very truthful and grounded. It serviced the more straight parts of the film.

Director Tom McCarthy attends the premiere of Disney's "Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made" on January 30, 2020. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

You’ve got this amazing supporting cast full of people like Wallace Shawn. What was it like to be on a set with those people?

It was great. The first scene I shot was with Wallace, in the classroom. It was amazing. And Craig Robinson, as well. We only had a tiny little scene together, but we were often on set at the same time, and his scenes are so beautiful. I felt very lucky working with them. And Tom gives such specific notes to each actor. He doesn’t just give you some random note. It’s very specific to your character and want they want from this situation. It was really satisfying to dig in to that direction.

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Were there any other family movies you were using as an inspiration or a reference point for your work?

Not consciously, but I’m sure they were all swimming around in the soup of my mind somewhere. I grew up watching a lot of films. We were a real movie family. That was our favourite thing to do, go and rent two or three movies from the video shop and then settle in and watch them together. They’re probably all in there.

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’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. I think all of that was in there subconsciously.

'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made'. (Credit: Disney+/Dale Robinette)

There’s this great line repeated through the movie that “normal is for normal people”. Is that an ethos you like to live your own life by?

I’ve always sort of bristled at the idea of being normal. When people say “you’re being so weird”, I think “well, thank you”. Embrace the weird. Embrace your uniqueness. I think that’s the really beautiful message of the film for children and adults alike. What is normal? What does that even mean? It doesn’t mean anything. We’re all completely unique, so that’s what we should embrace. I love that Timmy uses that as his kind of armour against people who are mean to him.

This is part of the first wave of Disney+ movies. Are you proud to be a part of this new addition to the streaming landscape?

I really am. It’s really exciting. I’ve grown up with Disney movies my whole life and they’re such a part of the landscape, so to be part of its new iteration, I’m really happy about it. They put so much care into the film in order to make it the best it can be. There was such a sense of collaboration and enthusiasm for it. I feel very lucky to be part of it all.

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As a final point, as Disney+ is coming here to the UK, what were the first things you wanted to get your hands on when you got hold of the service?

I do watch Disney movies over and over again, singing along to them. The Disney classics. I am really looking forward to seeing the live-action Lady and the Tramp. I think that’s gonna be amazing. I’m going to go to see that and I’m going to bring my dog. It’s going to be great. He might try and go after the other dogs though.

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Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is streaming on Disney+ in the USA now and will be available in the UK when the service launches on 24 March.