Little Sis Goes Wild for 'Footballers Wive$' Spinoff
He had been cast as wealthy, coke-snorting playboy Oliver Ryan, on "Footballers Wive$: Overtime," a half-hour spinoff of the campy hit that has replaced Stilton as England's most popular cheese export.
The bad news was that his first episode prominently featured a scene with Oliver, stark naked, having an intimate moment with a vacuum cleaner.
"There was only so much horror I could have reacted with in the first place, because in the course of the two auditions I went through for the role, I think I was asked three or four times whether I was comfortable with frontal nudity," the actor recalls of that first episode of "Overtime," which premieres Sunday, Aug. 6, on BBC America. "It would have been strange if they had asked that so many times and not cashed in on it. I was pretty prepared for it, and the scene, in its comedic sense, really appealed to me."
The scene opens with Oliver, his wrists bound to bedposts, lying naked on his bed as skimpily clad girlfriend Anika Beevor (Georgina Mellor) uses the household appliance to spice up their lovemaking. It's definitely a sexy scene, but very funny as well.
"It was hilarious, actually," Mellor says of filming that scene. "It couldn't have been more relaxed and professional, which is what made it so easy, really, the fact that everyone knew that we had a job to do. We just tried to get on with it and see the humor in it."
If her co-star Oliver has to put his pride on the line, so to speak, in that first episode, Mellor has a lot riding on "Overtime" as well. It's the biggest role to date for the actress, and her character, Anika, is the sister of Tanya Turner, the scheming sexpot from the original "Footballers Wives" series who makes Alexis Carrington of "Dynasty" look like Little Mary Sunshine. As Tanya, actress Zoe Lucker has scored a sensational success with "Footballers" fans, and Mellor admits that she was a little nervous about playing an ambitious, Tanya-like character in this new series.
"I was quite daunted, actually, at first, because she was something of a hero of mine in the other show," Mellor says. "I knew how well she was received in U.K., and I understand she did well in America as well. So yes, that was in the back of my mind, yet how could I not relish it and go, 'Wow, what a fantastic opportunity to play her sister!' I figured if I can do half as good as she has done, I can be happy with that. In the end, I've decided to see it as an honor, really."
There's one big difference between the two sisters, however. While Tanya can be utterly ruthless when it comes to getting what she wants, the young Anika keeps being distracted by her love for Oliver, a pampered trust-fund brat who is charming, handsome and witty but a terrible bet for any kind of long-range happiness and security.
"He definitely appreciates her being around," Oliver says of his on-screen alter ego. "Layman's psychology might say that it's because Oliver lost his mother at an early age and having any kind of caring female presence is something he desperately needs, whether he'll admit it or not. He does seem to be blind to her actual level of ambition and how far she is willing to go to get what she wants, which is financial security. That's something Oliver should be able to offer her, but he jeopardizes things with his very expensive drug habit."
Anika and Oliver are only two of the new characters introduced in "Overtime," which also resolves several major plot strands from the season four finale of "Footballers Wive$," chief among them the fallout from Bruno's (Ben Richards) accidental shooting of teammate Conrad (Ben Price).
Even as the rage-aholic Bruno is frenziedly concocting an alibi, his life is further disrupted by the startling arrival of Rees and Yasmin Salter (Marc Hendrey, Frances Da Costa), twin teenagers who are the ill-mannered product of a long-forgotten affair Bruno once had with their mother, who has dumped the kids on his doorstep and decamped for sunny Spain.
Also crossing over from the original "Footballers Wive$" are Helen Latham as Bruno's abused wife, Lucy; Laila Rouass as Conrad's spoiled wife, Amber; Jamie Davis as footballer Harley Lawson and Sarah Barrand as his insipid wife, Shannon; and Tom Swire as Seb Webb, who has developed an appalling dark side since he moved in with his father and stepmother.
"It was a calculated move on the part of the producers, to import viewers from the main show with this 'If you want to know what happened on the main series, you'll have to tune in for the spinoff,'" Oliver explains. "And I think our first episode did set a record in terms of our viewers, although we did manage to hold on to a core audience once we phased out the established characters from the parent show."
The actor says most of his friends have cut him some slack about the vacuum cleaner scene and some of Oliver's other scandalous escapades, mainly because they would jump at the chance to play a flamboyant character like this on a hit TV series.
"What has been interesting at times is reactions from friends of my mum who happen to catch it while scanning through the channels late at night," he adds. "That makes for some awkward supermarket-aisle conversations."