Oberman talks of having a very strong work ethic which is, in part, a result of her parents' disappointment in her failure to follow an academic career. She went to a private school in London until she rebelled and insisted on going to the local comprehensive to do her A-levels. She studied Classics at Leeds for a year before moving to Manchester to study drama. After attending the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, she went straight to the RSC and finally impressed her parents.
Yet she still seems to have something to prove, appearing on Celebrity Mastermind in 2004 with a specialist subject of Imperial Roman Family and coming second to Edwina Currie. "I became captivated by I, Claudius as a kid," she says. "I was the freak child who was reading Suetonius at 11. I must have been a real laugh. But it was very exciting and salacious, a bit like EastEnders with togas."