With new sitcom Buffering launching on ITV2 last week, Elena Saurel plays the role of Olivia in the comedy written by Iain Stirling and Steve Bugeja, with Olivia being the on-off girlfriend of Iain’s character, and the full series can be seen on the ITV Hub, with the show proving popular amongst viewers. Other comedy work for Elena has seen her in shows such as Breeders, Catastrophe and Josh, and she has filmed an episode of the upcoming adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. Elena is also an experienced voiceover actor and is currently working on the new series of Octonauts. We caught up with Elena recently about filming new ITV2 sitcom Buffering, her role of Olivia and working in voiceover.
What can you say about the new ITV2 sitcom Buffering?
Buffering is a new sitcom for ITV2 created and written by Iain Stirling and Steve Bugeja. It is loosely based on Iain’s career when he was a kids TV presenter. The show focuses on a group of young professionals in their mid to late twenties navigating that strange time where you’re too old to be reckless and free but don’t have your s*** together enough to be a “proper” adult (Adulting). I’d say it’s kind of like Friends, meets Sesame Street, meets Fresh Meat, meets Catastrophe.
You are playing Olivia in the series, can you tell us more about her and what she’s like to play?
Olivia is an ambitious career woman who’s constantly putting out fires and taking care of others. Work is her life and a welcome unhealthy distraction from her shambolic personal and love life. She is the producer for FLUMMOX Live (Iain’s and Larry The Lizard’s hit kids TV show) as well as Iain’s on and off again exasperated girlfriend.
I think there are a lot of women and myself to some extent who, like Olivia, are ambitious problem solvers who compromise and sacrifice a lot to have careers in highly demanding and competitive fields and bury themselves in work as a coping mechanism.
I really enjoyed playing Olivia. Her wardrobe was awesome, very comfortable and empowering and I got to boss people around 😉. She was also a challenging character to play… Olivia experiences a tremendous loss in the series and struggles to come to terms with her feelings. She attempts to deal with them the way she would tackle a work issue. So it was a fine balance between comedy and tragedy. I think she’s the most “serious”/”adult” character in the series in that she’s a bit of a Miranda… which in real life I’d say I’m more of a Samantha/Carrie. So, it was really exciting for me to play someone who is so different from myself. It gave me the opportunity to explore the more direct, professional and emotionally student parts of my personality. She’s also British, which I am not. I’m a Salvadoran American with an American accent.
How has it been filming with the rest of the cast which includes Iain Stirling who also wrote the series?
Filming was so much fun. I was mostly in the kids TV studio world so most of my filming was with Iain, Steve and Larry The Lizard. They are hilarious. Especially Larry The Lizard. Iain took to acting like a duck to water, it was so impressive considering this is his first acting gig.
My character develops an unlikely friendship with Rosie (Jessie Cave’s character) which brings out the more vulnerable and softer side to Olivia. It’s a nice contrast and you get to see her outside of a work context but it was also great having an opportunity to work with another principal cast member seeing as I didn’t get to interact much with the flatmates.
Was there anything that drew you to Buffering and what was it like reading the script for the first time?
The script. It was very funny, original and touching and I was really impressed that the show’s central characters were predominantly strong and very funny female characters.
I also felt like I knew a lot of women in my life who are like Olivia and got really excited at the prospect of being able to play someone like her. But most importantly I would get an opportunity to act alongside a puppet.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time on set?
Watching Phil Fletcher, the puppeteer who plays Larry The Lizard do his work. It was mesmerising and so cool.
Why would you recommend watching the show and what have you been most looking forward to for the release?
I am really excited for people to see it and see what the reaction is. I think it is an incredibly relatable show specifically for young professionals. It’s funny and heartbreaking and has an amazing ensemble cast. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life 😉.
Having worked on a number of other comedy shows including Breeders, Catastrophe and Josh, what do you enjoy most about working on this type of show?
I love working in general!
But yes, I am very passionate about comedy. Most of the shows I watch tend to be comedy/dramedy. One of the things I enjoy the most about working on comedy shows is the creative/collaborative aspect of it. Also, it’s fun to laugh, make others laugh and you get to work with funny people. What’s not to like?
How did you find the experience filming for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga?
At first intimidating and then a lot of fun.
What are some of your highlights from having a screen career so far?
Getting hired is always exciting and a major highlight! You get to travel, work with incredibly talented people, sometimes people you admire and grew up watching.
One of the most exciting sets I got to work on was the new TV adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. The episode I’m in is a Western and I play a character loosely based on Calamity Jane. I got to ride a horse-drawn vehicle with seven horses and be a badass gunslinger with a big rifle. Everything about it was just so cool, the set, the costumes, the cast, the crew and the location. I was beaming and couldn’t believe my luck.
Where does your love of acting come from and did you always know you wanted to do it professionally?
I think it comes from low self-esteem, escapism and Robin Williams. I love TV, cartoons and movies. It brings me so much joy and escapism.
As a kid I struggled a lot with school and felt very uncomfortable in my own skin. I’d get so anxious that I was incapable of remembering or digesting new information. My mind would literally go blank with panic. So, as an experiment, my parents enrolled me in a small afternoon acting group to see if it would help me with my anxiety, memory and dyslexia. I loved it! It was so cathartic I could be someone else and I finally could remember stuff. I really enjoyed and still do the creative and collaborative aspect of it and ever since I’ve always wanted to work in this industry whether it be writing, acting, voiceover, directing and producing, I’m very passionate about it all.
But I also distinctly remember watching Mrs Doubtfire as a kid being obsessed with Robin Williams and thinking “I want to do that”. Obviously, I’ve now seen that movie as an adult and realise it’s deeply tragic.
Do you have any favourite TV shows to watch?
DO I!!!! So many!!!! Succession, Reno 911!, 30 Rock, Ramy, The Sopranos, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Arrested Development, PEN15, SMILF, I May Destroy You, Transparent, Sally4Ever, The Real Housewives of New York City, Bob’s Burgers, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Selling Sunset… I watch A LOT of TV.
What’s your favourite aspect of working in voiceover and can you say about some of the characters you voice?
Voiceover work is the most fun! It’s super creative, it’s surprisingly physical and, unlike filming, there’s very little waiting around. I’ve mostly done video games… But I just did my first animated feature film, which has been a dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to do voices for big animations and cartoons. The film is called TAD: The Curse Of The Mummy. I play Detective Ramirez, a no-nonsense tough chick. I’m also currently working on the new season of Octonauts playing a new recurring character. It’s the credit my family and friends with kids are the most excited about.
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