Uk News Call My Agent!'s Assaad Bouab: 'You think he's French, he'll be in love - but it's about bringing mystery' United Kingdom news
PremierLeague-News.Com - The star of the hit comedy appears opposite Lily James in The Pursuit of Love. He talks about being typecast, Parisian clichés and the surprise Call My Agent! film
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! Assaad Bouab knows his way around arrogant men. In the French comedy Call My Agent!, he radiates entitlement as the mercurial dating-app entrepreneur Hicham Janowski. So playing Fabrice de Sauveterre, the charismatic, teasing love interest of Lily James’s Linda Radlett in the upcoming BBC adaptation of The Pursuit of Love, ought to have been a breeze. But Bouab insists he’s no natural alpha male.“It was, for me, very challenging to play,” he says from an airy, bookshelf-lined room in Rabat, Morocco, where he lives when he’s not in Paris. “I was a bit nervous to be part of The Pursuit of Love… with all those great actors and actresses. I was shaking, I was nervous. And the challenge for me is like: ‘OK, let’s try to be as much as I can self-confident and to try to be Fabrice. But it was not easy at all.”You wouldn’t notice, watching his assured performance in the three-part drama. Nancy Mitford’s comic novel has been adapted by Emily Mortimer, who also directs and stars as Fanny’s mother “The Bolter”. Your guide to what to watch next - no spoilers, we promiseEmail address is invalidThank you for subscribing!Sorry, there was a problem with your subscription.Set in 20th-century Europe between the two World Wars, it charts the escapades of the effervescent, fatalistic Linda through the eyes of her more conventional cousin Fanny (Emily Beecham). When Linda finds herself penniless in Paris, the suave Fabrice – a self-described “very rich duke” – fixes her up with palatial lodgings and promptly sets about making her his mistress.The role could have easily tipped into cliché – Fabrice is hardly the first incorrigible flirt of a Frenchman to grace popular culture – but in Bouab’s hands it becomes something richer and more enigmatic. He set out to make Fabrice more than a stereotype. “That’s all the time what is challenging for us as interprètes [performers], because we think, ‘OK, he’s a French guy, he will be in love, and blah blah blah, but [it’s about] trying to bring something else, un mystère, something mysterious,” he says. He brings a similar subtlety to his role in Call My Agent!. The Netflix sleeper hit is beloved for its sharp, soapy portrayal of the chaotic affairs of ASK, a top Parisian talent agency – and Bouab says “it did open some doors” for him thanks to its global reach. It acquired a fresh stream of devotees during lockdown – so much so, in fact, that a surprise fifth series and a film were recently announced.Gregory Montel, Camille Cottin and Assaad Bouab in Call My Agent! (Photo: Netflix)Bouab, 40, agrees that Hicham and Fabrice are similar. Why does he get cast as imperious? “I don’t know,” he says, insisting he’s not one to hog the limelight outside of his day job. Nevertheless, once he got into character, he got a buzz from channelling Hicham’s aggression; the self-made millionaire is on a power trip from the second he becomes a partner at ASK. “You say, ‘Okay, okay, okay, okay. Let’s calm down and breathe and let’s start to be mean, and let’s start to talk like this. It’s very playful. I really like it. It’s fun.”Along with Call My Agent!, British audiences may recognise Bouab as CIA operative Qamar Maloof in Netflix’s Messiah; he also played a Hezbollah commander in an episode of Homeland. In France, he started out in the theatre and in films from writer-director Christophe Honoré’s Close to Leo to Bénédicte Liénard and Mary Jimenez’s asylum seeker drama Le chant des hommes, before more mainstream roles in the crime thriller Braquo and Call My Agent!. Read More Call My Agent!, season four, review: France’s funniest comedy has lost none of its bite Bouab has talked about being typecast in the past as a “terrorist” or a “troubled man from an underprivileged suburb”, along with being overlooked for historical roles. He thinks this is “changing gradually”, but still believes theatre has a more progressive approach to casting. “That’s why I really love to be on the stage and to be playing in the theatres because it’s somewhere where it [your background] doesn’t matter. And you can play in a Seán O’Casey [the Irish dramatist] play, or you can play in a French Victor Hugo play. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. You just do it on the stage and people get the story.”He was drawn to how The Pursuit of Love captured the explosion of hedonism following the First World War. “There’s a moment in Paris where [Fabrice and Linda] go to this club. All this atmosphere of love, of the body and everything. I really loved it.” The series sounds like a lark behind the scenes, too. The cast had to form a filming bubble due to the pandemic, but being holed up in Paris or in romantic period locations in Somerset and Oxford with co-stars including James, Dominic West and Andrew Scott doesn’t sound like the greatest hardship.However, Bouab paints a more sober picture, saying that Covid filming restrictions made the period “very lonely”. The cast were regularly tested for the virus, and Bouab stayed inside as much as possible when he wasn’t working as he feared getting a positive result and derailing the production.Assaad Bouab and Lily James in The Pursuit of Love (Photo: BBC/ Robert Viglasky/Theodora Films & Moonage Pictures)Most of his time on set was spent with James – “such a gem, a great actress and person as well”. The first scene they filmed together was their sex scene, so he was relieved to discover they had natural chemistry.
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. It’s electric. It’s surprising, it’s connecting, it’s together. I really had great moments with Lily,” he says. An intimacy director was on hand to guide them through Fabrice and Linda’s lovemaking, which Bouab appreciated. “All the questions can be asked. There’s no shame. And we ask, ‘OK, what can we do? How far we can go here etc?’ So it makes the thing easy, in a way.”I warn him that he is poised to become a heartthrob in Britain, a prospect he doesn’t seem too horrified by. “What can I say? I would be lying if I say ‘Oh, no!’” He flashes his easy, film star smile. “It’s pleasant.”Still, he would like it on the record that he’s not precious about his looks. “I’m not waking every morning saying: ‘Oh wow’, like Narcisse in the mirror, in the lake,” he scoffs. As if hoping to prove this point, but perhaps slightly negating it, he starts inspecting his facial hair in his webcam and frowning. “Look at this beard!” he cries in mock dismay. Read More Lolly Adefope: ‘I’m not here to be an activist. I’m here to make people laugh’ Bouab was born in Aurillac, central France, to a French mother and a Moroccan father, but he spent his childhood in Rabat, returning to France aged 18. He was more interested in sport than drama as a child, but discovered acting aged 15 when his older brother encouraged him to join the school’s theatre society. He initially enrolled in an economics course at university but soon switched to drama, studying at the prestigious acting schools of the Cours Florent and France’s national drama conservatoire. “I didn’t imagine that I would do this later as my job,” he says. “Little by little, things just get into place.”That certainly seems the case with the surprise news about Call My Agent!’s return last month. Bouab hasn’t got any insider gossip. “We have this Whatsapp group, between all the actors of Call My Agent!, and no one had heard about this. So let’s see. Fingers crossed. Maybe.” Would he feature in the film if it went ahead? “I’m going to do like the emoticon,” he says, miming the shrug emoji. “I have no idea.”Assaad Bouab and Thibault de Montalembert in Call My Agent! (Photo: Netflix)There are also plans for a UK remake of the series. I admit that I struggle to imagine the show without its Parisian backdrop – its farcical humour and sense of absurdity seem quintessentially French. Bouab, however, is more optimistic. “I really love UK productions and the humour. I think it could be really funny.” He enjoys the precision and subtlety of comedies such as Fleabag and Ricky Gervais’s After Life. “All that kind of humour. I’m sure the adaptation of Call My Agent! can be huge in the UK.”Bouab plans on leaving Rabat, where his four-year-old daughter lives, when travel restrictions ease, and returning to his home in Paris’s 19th arrondissement. British audiences will be seeing a lot more of him: he has roles in the sixth series of Peaky Blinders and on Shonda Rhimes’s drama Inventing Anna about Anna Delvey, the fake heiress who scammed New York’s elite. Before the pandemic intervened, he was also set to star opposite Kristin Scott Thomas in the National Theatre’s Phaedra, Simon Stone’s radical retelling of the myth.He hopes it may be staged at some point in the future – if only to prove he can play more than smug, entitled men like Hicham Janowski and Fabrice de Sauveterre. “Hippolyte in Racine is definitely not that kind of energy,” he says, referring to the part he was set to play. He grins at the prospect of getting under the skin of another role. “It’s not the opposite, but it’s far from them.”
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