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French-Moroccan Actor Assaad Bouab Broadens His Canvas

Variety logo Variety 1/16/2017 Elsa Keslassy
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PARIS– Having playing a Muslim Azerbiijani boy in Asif Kapadia’s “Ali and Nino,” a Syrien camp commander in “Homeland” (season 5) “Homeland,” the handsome French-Moroccan actor Assaad Bouab might well be on track to follow the footsteps of Reda Kateb, another French actor of North African origins who appeared in dozens of French films and TV series and a few high-profile U.S. titles before accessing meatier roles at home.

Represented by Emmanuelle Ramade and Florence Charmasson at Adequat in Paris, Bouab has seen his career heat up in the last couple years. Since getting his first leading role in Mary Jimenez and Bénédicte Liénard’s politically-engaged “Le chant des hommes” and starring in the popular Canal Plus show “Braquo,” Bouab clinched a key role in the second season of “10 Pour Cent” (“Call My Agent”), the French comedy hit series centering on a Parisian talent agency. Bouab plays an arrogant, yet charismatic billionaire from London who buys out the agency.

“Call my Agent,” which was created by Cedric Klapisch (“The Spanish Apartment”) and commissioned by local pubcaster France Televisions, has been hailed as one of the most innovative series to date in France.

Bouab said his part in “Call My Agent” marked a milestone for him because it’s opening new doors into mainstream French cinema.

“It’s so reinvigorating to be in a comedy that can reach such a large audience, being on a public broadcaster, and also work with renown French directors and actors,” said Bouab. “It’s been a long journey to go from pure auteur films to films or TV shows that have a wider appeal.”

“Call my Agent” brings together various French directors, including well-known helmer Laurent Tirard (“Little Nicholas”) and a flurry of famed actors including Virginie Efira (“Victoria”), Juliette Binoche (“Chocolat”) and Isabelle Adjani (“The Queen Margot”). A U.S. and a U.K. channel are in talks to acquire remake rights, according to Adequat.

After growing up in Morocco, Bouab moved to Paris where he received a topnotch acting education from France’s finest institutions. He attended the prestigious acting school Le Cours Florent and later graduated from the National Conservatory of Paris.

Bouab began his career in theater and has starred in a number of costume plays, notably Jacques Mandréa’s “Zadig,” Andrzej Seweryn’s “Twelfth Night,” Nada Strancar’s Phèdre and most recently Tim Supple’s One “Thousand and One Nights.”

The actor said he would like to play a historical character in a film or TV series, but there seem to be fewer screen roles of that kind available to him.

“I’d like to get more diversity in the roles I’m being offered. In France, I often get typecasted as a troubled man from an underprivileged suburb or a terrorist,” said Bouab, adding that he’s also heard that he didn’t look dark-skinned enough for some parts.

The actor then cut his teeth in films directed by fellow French-North Africans: Rachid Bouchareb’s “Days of Glory” and “Outside of the Law,” Nabil Ayouch’s “Whatever Lola Wants” and Laila Marrakchi’s “Marock.”

Bouab said he started expanding his horizons beyond France and Morocco in 2011.

“I aspire to cross borders in every way possible; I like having a career that allows me to switch from French to English and even Arabic,” said Bouab.

In “Homeland”, Bouab plays a commander of Syrian refugee camp who refuses to negotiate. “I traveled to Berlin to shoot the episode and had to play opposite Claire Danes, who is such a great professional and I met Mandy Patinkin who took me under his wing during the filming” said Bouab, who also spoke highly of his experience shooting a movie with Kapadia and Patinkin in Istanbul.

Bouab said he hopes his work on ‘Homeland’ and ‘Ali and Nino’ will lead to more work overseas, notably in London.

Adequat is currently in discussions to have him star in U.s and U.K shows. The modernisation of the casting process, which allows actors to send tapes (as Bouab did to get the part in Homeland) makes things much easier.

Could Brexit have an impact on Bouab’s projects going forward?

“It’s still too early to tell but I really hope it won’t close doors on both sides because art has the power to unite,” said Bouab.

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