Nikolaj Lie Kaas’ series “Agent,” shown at Berlinale Series, centers around Joe, who has high hopes for his famous clients. But it’s not another remake of a certain French smash.
“I started writing it before ‘Call My Agent!’ even came out. Then I saw it on Netflix and went: ‘Oh, for f**k’s sake…’,” Danish actor-turned-director tells Variety.
“I guess I was just longing for a comedy, something that would also have depth, heart and all that stuff. I said to myself: ‘Nikolaj, you are being a bitch about it. Create something yourself, instead of asking others to do it.’”
Lie Kaas, who also created the show – a Zentropa production, sold by TrustNordisk, which will be broadcast by TV2 – was recently spotted in Lars von Trier’s “The Kingdom Exodus.” Despite well-received roles in pitch-black comedies, such as Anders Thomas Jensen’s “Men and Chicken” and “Riders of Justice,” he never wanted to act in “Agent,” he says.
“I am there for maybe two seconds, on the red carpet. That’s it. It pisses me off when people try to sneak into their own projects. If I would play a ‘celebrity,’ it could be off-putting. Although some broadcasters actually asked if I would like to play Joe.”
Now, it’s up to Esben Smed (known for “Follow the Money”) to muster some sympathy for an ambitious, distraught, irresponsible man who keeps failing everyone around him, including his young daughter.
“Early on, people would say to me: ‘I don’t care about this guy.’ It’s difficult to like Joe, I know. He appalls you and then he attracts you,” observes Lie Kaas.
“Esben is not a comedic actor. During casting, he told me: ‘I am happy you called, but I am not funny. So why did you?!’ He was able to show that this guy does have a heart, even though he makes stupid choices.”
“Not everyone ends up at the airport, covered with coke. Joe is lying all the time and he doesn’t even think it’s a problem, he is shallow. He needs to become a normal person, capable of loving his daughter for example. That’s where the humor comes from.”
While recognizable faces constantly pop up in the show, including “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or Ulrich Thomsen (“The Celebration”), they aren’t exactly playing themselves.
“I never wanted to mock anyone. Ever. I just find it interesting to play with a public perception of a person and make them as bad as possible. The further we moved from reality, the more these actors wanted to do it.”
He wasn’t trying to spill his colleagues’ dirty secrets, he states, but Lie Kaas was still inspired by true stories, some of them dating back decades.
“My dad [Preben Kaas] was a huge star and what they used to do was just insane. In one of the episodes, a guy buys a bar one night, paying millions, just because it was about to close and he wanted to keep on drinking. Thatstory came from real life,” he laughs.
“I love the craziness of this industry. It’s an honor to be so close to it sometimes.”
Still, enviable proximity to stars, and their success, might be a frustrating experience as well.
“When you do this job, when you are an agent, a manager or a PA, you stay in the shadows. You are not the lead character – your life is dedicated to someone else. I have always been fascinated by the people in this industry: my former agent is quite a character himself. But also by the people who are just different from me,” he says.
“I will give you an example: I had this friend and he fathered a child after a one-night stand – in another country. And yet he was thrilled about it! These guys, and Joe is certainly one of them, they run into so much trouble. But they also believe that everything can be solved.”
Lie Kaas is ready to return for the second season, he says.
“I think it’s actually in Esben’s contract. If it happens, it has to be with me as a director. I am stuck!”