Entertainment

Someone Translated ‘Call My Agent’ into English? C’est Vrai!


“I got a call from my agent,” says writer John Morton—a pithy answer to the question of how he came to adapt the French hit Call My Agent! for British television.

For the most part, the adaptation hews close to the original: The characters carry the same core characteristics, and the new show’s name, Ten Percent, is a literal translation of the French original’s. But Ten Percent also features a few twists, from a more diverse casting that better reflects Britain’s demography to a potential merger with an American company. Fans and first-timers alike can stream it on AMC+ and Sundance Now starting April 29, and on BBC America starting May 1.

Perhaps the most major change to the main cast is that the head of the agency, played by Jim Broadbent, is now the father of the agent who ends up replacing him (Jonathan, played by Jack Davenport), rather than just another partner in the firm. “I just thought it felt like a way of opening up a set of emotional truths,” Morton says. “The French show had a dysfunctional family, really, at its core. So what I did was make that literally a family.”

As a result—spoiler alert, for those who don’t know the original show—the agency head’s death at the end of the first episode has more emotional heft. His presence is felt throughout the second episode as well, even though he’s no longer featured in it. Every decision Jonathan makes for the agency as its heir apparent now carries the weight of his father’s legacy too. When he discovers the financial straits the agency is in, an American agency pops up to possibly solve their problems. This is also a large deviation from Call My Agent!—but as Morton says, in the English-speaking entertainment world “there is a sense that the mothership is kind of in L.A.,” unlike the more insular French ecosystem.

Two main characters are now people of color as well: agent Dan, the new show’s equivalent of Gabriel, and new assistant Misha, the new Camille, are both of South Asian heritage. The character description for Dan, played by Prasanna Puwanarajah, indicated nothing about his race. “With Prasanna’s case,” Morton says, “he really literally was the best person we saw”—like his character, someone who’s conventionally British in his inability to be direct. But with Misha, “I wanted to make her an outsider,” Morton says. The Parisians on Call My Agent! mock Camille for her accent and her more rural mannerisms. Morton mimicked that for Ten Percent by intentionally casting an actress who was both South Asian and British: Hiftu Quasem, who recently played a Scottish hotel receptionist on a Killing Eve episode.

The agency is now plonked in Soho, home of several boutique agencies; its “disharmonious architecture,” as Morton describes it, is a stark contrast to the splendor of Paris’s 8th arrondissement. Characters are frequently seen biking around London (a theme that also runs through Morton’s last two shows, W1A and Twenty Twelve, though he claims it’s not a conscious decision). This Britishification also affected the profession given to a certain character’s love interest: On Call My Agent!, agent Andréa has a romance with a tax auditor. On Ten Percent, Rebecca (Lydia Leonard) gets involved with a war reporter. Morton didn’t think an auditor would be all that believable in a British context, and he wanted a woman who would bring enough fire to be a worthy match for Rebecca—a character he calls “so capable, so independent, and so bright.” Rebecca’s love interest is, however, French, not just as a nod to the origin of the show, but also because “the foreignness of the person that you fall in love with can be a very powerful thing.”



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