UK ‘Call My Agent’ producers talk stories and celebrity cameos

French comedy “Call My Agent!” was a national hit after launching on the TF1 network in France in 2015, but it wasn’t until later, when it was picked up by Netflix, that the series about a fictional Parisian talent agency found a global audience.

Christian Baute, whose company Headline Pictures produced a UK version of the series alongside Bron Studios (“Joker”) for Amazon and Sundance Now, spotted the show’s potential during its original run. “I thought, that’s great,” he recalled.

In partnership with David Davoli, president of Bron television, Baute approached the producers of “Call My Agent” as well as TF1, owner of the format, with the aim of seizing the rights in English.

“It was a bit of a niche format in terms of popularity when we secured it,” Davoli acknowledges. “It wasn’t until we lit up our show and started casting [that] it was almost like a perfect storm. Because that’s when we launched it in the US market [and] suddenly everyone is like, ‘Do you have the rights to this format?’ »

The next challenge was figuring out how to make an English version, which they did by bringing in writer and showrunner John Morton, who is best known as the creator of the popular BBC mockumentary “W1A.” “Christian and I sat down with [Morton] and he said, “I’ll only do it if I can find a way to make it as good or better than the original”. Because otherwise, what’s the point?’ “recalls Davoli.

“We knew we had to retain the essence of what made the original so beloved, but we also knew we had to do something different in order to create our own audience,” continues the Bron Studios director. “Otherwise we thought there was a risk that we would just be seen as copying something. In art, there are people who copy and then there are people who create impressions. And for us, it was more of a print than a copy.

That’s why the UK version, which is slated to bow in the spring by Amazon, retains the broad arc of the original, with the main characters loosely based on their French counterparts, while introducing its own storylines. Morton set out to make the series even more of a multi-generational family affair by writing the agency owner as the father of lead agent Jonathan (played by “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Jack Davenport).

One of the hallmarks of “Call My Agent” is a celebrity appearance in nearly every episode. The French version featured Monica Bellucci, Juliette Binoche and even Sigourney Weaver and the UK series has lined up an equally A-list roster that includes Helena Bonham Carter, Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Phoebe Dynevor, all of whom will play fictionalized versions of them- same.

For Davenport, acting opposite actors playing themselves was “really one of the weirdest experiences of all the work,” he says. “I’m going to say 70% of our guest stars I’ve worked with before, but I’ve never shot scenes where my stage partner is playing himself, and I know them, and I’m playing another guy. “

Many “Call My Agent” storylines are also based on reality. “Everything is inspired by real events,” Baute says of the French version. To ensure a similar level of authenticity for the UK series, the creative team created a database to collate the craziest industry trivia they’d come across, while Morton also spoke to real agents. Londoners to get the scoop.

“There are times when, as an audience member, you’ll be like, ‘Jesus, this can’t be real,'” says Davenport. “I’m afraid it is.”

Davenport also took the opportunity to delve into the agency world, and he brought his own agent to lunch to better understand the role. “It’s like you’re part accountant, part psychiatrist,” he jokes. “As Christian tells me, ‘One of the worst things about the job is that you’re either Santa Claus or you’re the Grim Reaper. And there’s nothing in between. And that’s Either you make someone’s year or maybe their career, or you break their heart pretty much every hour.

“We’re a weird breed,” Davenport says of the cast. “And helping us succeed in our careers is complex work that involves many very different skills. [Agents] have to be killers in the negotiation phase, but they also have to be, depending on the type of actor you are, somewhere between a kind of nanny and someone you can bounce something off of.

“I mean, my agents don’t think of themselves as my nanny,” Davenport clarifies jokingly. “But I try not to be too needy.”

Other “Call My Agent” remakes are set to go into production this year in South Korea, Indonesia, West Asia (also known as the Middle East), the Philippines, Malaysia and Poland.

Elsa Keslassy contributed to this story.

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