Movies

“You Can’t Compare The Two”: Nikolaj Lie Kaas On Avoiding ‘Call My Agent’ Similarities With Zentropa-Backed Industry Satire ‘Agent’ — Berlin Film Festival 

Danish actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas is best known for his work on-screen with filmmakers such as Lars von Trier and Anders Thomas Jensen, but he’s in Berlin this week with Agent, his first project as a writer-director.

The eight-part series is a biting show-business satire centered around Joe, an ambitious 35-year-old agent for some of Denmark’s biggest stars. His job is to solve his clients’ problems – be they professional or personal, but he has enough of both kinds himself: He is about to lose custody of his ten-year-old daughter Tallulah, and his boss, who is also his mother, is close to firing him. As Joe desperately tries to keep his head above the water, his issues only multiply.

Esben Smed (Follow the Money) stars as Joe, and Danish actors such as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) and Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen, Westward) feature as caricatures of themselves in a rolling format that audiences may recognize from Netflix’s popular French series, Call My Agent.

“I was so pissed when it came out,” Kaas joked when quizzed about Call My Agent and its similarities to his debut. “The same idea at the same time. It’s so classic.”

RELATED: Deadline’s Berlin Film Festival Coverage

Kaas said he proceeded to binge-watch Call My Agent, an experience that he said was reassuring rather than anxiety-inducing.

“I was relieved to see that you can’t compare the two,” he said. “There’s something about the irony and the sarcasm that is much harder in this show. We were dialing everyone up. All the celebrities are playing extreme versions of themselves, while in Call My Agent, they’re playing themselves without even trying to make it a satire.”

Agent is a Zentropa production, and TrustNordisk is handling sales. The series will receive a local debut on the Danish national broadcaster TV2.

Kaas told Deadline that he approached TV2 with the idea for the series on three separate occasions before they decided to greenlight. After each pitch, he was told to spend more time writing and shaping the narrative arc of the series, which continued to evolve throughout the process.

“I took the long way round,” he said of the writing process. “I would never do that again. It was too long to write on it for three years.”

While Kaas took many years to develop the overall structure for Agent, there was one plot point that he decided would not feature in the series from the start: He would not make a cameo appearance as one of Joe’s famous clients.

“When I see these shows where a director features I just think it’s so pathetic. They think of themselves as celebrities,” Kaas said.

After six brisk episodes, Agent ends on a cliffhanger, which Kaas said makes it “impossible not to think ahead.” 

“I think there’s potential for a second season,” he said before joking that he isn’t sure whether he has the “abundance of energy” to go through the same process. 

And what does Kaas think the reaction to the series will be from his Danish industry colleagues?

“Hopefully, they will see it’s all sarcasm,” he said. “It’s an extreme version of us.”

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