We get to know the actor behind the agent: Chelsey Crisp

The actress talks to us about her upcoming Amazon Prime series, her experience working with an all-British cast and her hopes for the future.

Photograph by John Tsiavis

With Helena Bonham Carter, Dominic West and Kelly Macdonald widely considered household names in the celebrity world, it’s hard to believe they were anything but that. However, their worldwide fame is entirely due to the buzz of agents who work tirelessly to support the rise of budding stars – whose scenes are brought to the fore in Amazon Prime’s star-studded new series, ten percent.

Adapted from the popular French series Call my agent, the series centers on a team of talent agents who take on the BTS action of celebrity antics. Among these, we meet Chelsey Crisp. Playing Kirsten Furst – the American talent agent sent to London to shake things up – Chelsey effortlessly captures the dichotomy between British and American work culture. Demonstrating her innate ability to portray multi-dimensional characters, Chelsey brings Kristen to life in a way that pokes fun at her personality’s stereotypical optimism, while providing a vulnerability that compels audiences to fall in love with her.

Although widely known for her role as Honey in ABC’s hit comedy Fresh off the boat, Chelsey Crisp herself is making her own exponential rise within the industry. Ever-evolving, undeniably charming and admirably ambitious, we sat down with the actress to chat about her experience on the set of ten percent and his hopes for the near future.

Ten Percent will officially premiere on Amazon in the UK on April 28 and on Sundance Now and AMC+ in the US from April 29. To watch the trailer and for the full interview, head below now…

Photograph by John Tsiavis

Hi Chelsey! How are you today?
Great! Thanks for asking.

How has the year been for you so far? Do you have any particular peaks or troughs?
My second child was born recently, so 2022 has been busy so far! The newborn phase is full of ups and downs, but we’re so grateful to get through it, the sleep deprivation and all.

Let’s start from the very beginning, what made you decide to become an actor?
Frankly, I don’t know, but I’ve always loved telling stories to anyone who would listen. My mother jokes that I sang before I spoke and danced before I walked. I grew up in Phoenix and was lucky enough to have a youth theater nearby. that offered a place to explore those creative impulses.

Do you remember your first performance? Who saw you play for the first time and what was it like?
I vaguely remember performing a song by The little Mermaid to my freshman class and pretending that I voiced the character. It was a good lesson on the difference between lying and acting…

Tell us now about ten percent! How did the casting go ?
I remember reading the audition materials and falling in love. I laughed out loud at the dialogue and got this feeling in my stomach of “I desperately want to be a part of this!” I watched an episode of W1A to absorb the tempo of John Morton’s writing and the pilot of Call my agent to better understand the scene. I recorded the scenes at my house in Los Angeles, sent them to London and tried to get them out of my head. I failed, of course. Luckily, Rachel Freck (the casting director) called my agents with updates and shortly after they asked me to join the cast. I moved my family to London and the job turned out even better than I had hoped for!

You play Kirsten Furst on the show — do you notice any similarities between you and the character?
On the page, we don’t have much in common, but I was the only American in the cast. It ended up being quite an educational experience because I was kind of walking Kirsten’s shoes in terms of cultural identity. The way we handled it was hugely different because I soaked in the environment around me, while Kirsten swam upstream and tried to impose her way on the Brits.

Your character is sent from America to shake up the UK talent agency office. Do you think there is a difference between the British and American work ethic?
From what I gleaned from interviewing agents before filming, yes. British agents build lasting relationships with their clients, often starting with a drama school. But American actors tend to change agencies often as their careers progress, and as the series shows, some agencies actively court each other’s clients. One of the other things we show on the show is how American agents work morning, noon, and night – and that extends to every corner of the industry. I’m used to filming late at night, but on ten percent I was home having dinner with my family almost every night. It was amazing for me to experience this way of working.

What was it like working alongside such a wide array of talent?
As you can imagine, it’s a privilege — and I’m not just talking about the celebrity guests! The ensemble playing the main cast is phenomenal. I knew from my first table read that this was a special group and I loved going to work every day. The way Kirsten is rejected by the Nightingale Hart family is the opposite of what I experienced when joining the company; I was welcomed with open arms. It also goes without saying, but our show runner John Morton is a genius and I’ve never forgotten how lucky I was to be on his team.

Can you identify a favorite moment from the filming of the series?
There’s a scene in episode seven that reveals Kirsten’s backstory and explains why she’s desperate to make Nightingale Hart successful. Until then, it’s easy to assume that she represents American optimism and careerism at all costs. But once her past is revealed, it becomes clear that it’s not her country’s work culture that she embodies, it’s the universal theme of precariousness. She’s furiously trying to impress her boss in California for reasons that go way beyond climbing the corporate ladder. She is a woman who is in deep pain and she is very, very lost. I loved filming this scene with Tim McInnery and our director MJ Delaney. They were very supportive and paved the way for me to tap into Kirsten’s fears and lay bare to Simon in a moment of unusual vulnerability.

What do you hope the audience will take away from ten percent?
I hope people come away with a better understanding of the machinery that exists around celebrities. Agents work with passion for their clients and actors don’t become famous alone. This happens in large part because of these reps who live, eat, sleep, and breathe their clients’ careers.

Who is your dream co-star?
I’m waiting for Hugh Grant to come on the show! It has incredible comedic timing and I think it would pair well with John Morton’s dialogue. I can also imagine Kirsten collapsing with nervousness in her presence, which would be great to play.

And finally, what’s next for you? Are there any genres/characters you haven’t explored that you would like to see in future projects?
Honestly, I felt very lucky to keep pace with my career and follow some good creative projects. I don’t necessarily know what I want to do next until I read it. It’s always a matter of writing for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on the horizon. Frankly, I really hope we can do more ten percent!

Photograph by John Tsiavis

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