New comedy Ten Percent — adapted from the hit French series Call My Agent! by W1A creator John Morton — follows the working lives of the staff at London talent agency Nightingale Hart as they go above and beyond to keep their clients at the very top of the A-list.
Any actor worth their salt has had plenty of dealings with agents in their time, but when it comes to portraying one on screen, where do you start? Well, for Jack Davenport, who plays Jonathan Nightingale in the series, it began with a long lunch with his own agent for research.
Here's what Jack had to say about his latest role...
Jack Davenport on why he signed up for Ten Percent
"What attracted me to the role was simple: John Morton. I've admired his work from afar for a long time, and in my view he's in a tiny group of writers who just understand the rhythms and realities of spoken language. Performing his writing is a bit like being given a really nice car to drive: in a way, the directive is 'don't drive it into a wall'! Obviously, I was aware of the original and how good it was, and transposing John's sensibility on top of an already very solid superstructure seemed like a no-brainer to me. And Jonathan is gloriously flawed as a human being — who wouldn't want to explore that?"
How did you prepare for the role?
"I took my own agent out for lunch and took copious notes before we started, and one of the things he said to me which really stayed with me is that the hardest thing about being an agent is you're either Father Christmas or the Grim Reaper, and there's sort of nothing in between. Really all day, you're either possibly changing someone's life forever, or breaking their heart, and I think that makes for quite complex emotional territory."
As in Call My Agent!, Ten Percent features celebrities playing heightened versions of themselves. What was that like?
"One of the real joys of the show is that the guests don't just get points for turning up and appearing to be a good sport. The storylines ring true, but they are also quite revealing in their own way, and it was very fun, if not a little disconcerting when we had the guests. I know most of them from way back — the first guest that I worked with was Olivia Williams, who I've known for 25 years. I've done most things that actors get asked to do at this point, but I've never done scenes where my scene partner is sort of playing themself, but I'm playing some completely other dude. At the beginning, it was a bit vertigo-inducing, and I was like, 'what is happening here?' — you get used to it, but it took a minute!"
Did you feel under pressure knowing that the original series is so widely-loved?
"You'd have to be born on another planet not to be aware of the warmth in which the original is considered. I knew how good the scripts were, and when we were doing it, it felt really good — but even so, I've been doing this for long enough that my expectation level is at or near zero at all times. But when I finally sat down to watch it — I honestly never feel like this, and I'm almost embarrassed to admit this to you now — I was like, 'this is really good! This has turned out really well!'"
How did you find working with Maggie Steed, Lydia Leonard and Prasanna Puwanarajah, who play your fellow agents?
"They all put their own stamp on it very quickly. From an international perspective, the analogue in the French one to Lydia's character [Andréa, played by Camille Cottin] broke out more than the others, and it gave me such joy to see how Lydia had made it her own without disrespecting the original. Prasanna is wonderful in it and has his own comic rhythm that I enjoy enormously, and as far as Maggie's concerned, parts that good and meaty for actors of Maggie's age don't come around very often. The nature of John's writing is that you have to go at a million miles an hour, and it's quite technically demanding for all of us, and Maggie has a natural sense of authority which she can manipulate in a very funny way!"
- Ten Percent launches on Thursday, April 28 on Prime Video in the UK, and Friday, April 29 on AMC+ and Sundance Now in the US
Steven Perkins is a Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com (opens in new tab), who has been writing about TV professionally since 2008. He was previously the TV Editor for Inside Soap before taking up his current role in 2020. He loves everything from gritty dramas to docusoaps about airports and thinks about the Eurovision Song Contest all year round.
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