Wonderland.

CHELSEY CRISP

The actor chats with us about her upcoming Amazon Prime series, her experience working with an all British cast and her hopes for the future.

Photography by John Tsiavis 

Photography by John Tsiavis 

With the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Dominic West and Kelly Macdonald being largely regarded as household names in the world of celebrity, it’s hard to believe they were anything other than that. However, their global acclaim is all thanks to the buzz of agents who work tirelessly to support the ascendency of budding stars — the scenes from which are brought to the forefront in Amazon Prime’s new star-studded series, Ten Percent.

Adapted from the popular French series Call My Agent, the series centres around a crew of talent agents who deal with the BTS action of celebrity antics. Amongst those, we meet Chelsey Crisp. Playing Kirsten Furst – the American talent agent sent to London to shake things up – Chelsey effortlessly captures the dichotomy between British and American work culture. Showcasing her innate ability to portray multi-dimensional characters, Chelsey brings Kristen to life in a way which pokes fun at the stereotypical bullishness of her persona, while also offering a vulnerability that forces audiences to fall in love with her.

Though widely known for her role as Honey in ABC’s hit comedy Fresh Off The Boat, Chelsey Crisp herself is making her own exponential climb within the industry. Ever-evolving, undeniably charming and admirably ambitious, we sat with the actor to discuss her experience on the set of Ten Percent and her hopes for the near future.

Ten Percent officially premieres on Amazon in the UK on April 28th and on Sundance Now and AMC+ in the US from April 29th. To watch the trailer and for the full interview, head below now…

Photography by John Tsiavis 

Photography by John Tsiavis 

Hey Chelsey! How are you doing today? 
Great! Thanks for asking. 

What has the year so far been like for you? Do you have any particular peaks or pits? 
My second child was born recently, so 2022 has been busy so far! The newborn phase is full of peaks and valleys, but we’re very grateful to be going through it, sleep deprivation and all. 

Let’s start at the very beginning, what prompted you to get into acting? 
Frankly, I don’t know, but I always loved telling stories to anyone who would listen. My mom jokes that I was singing before I was talking and dancing before I was walking. I grew up in Phoenix and was lucky to have a youth theatre nearby; that offered a place to explore those creative impulses.

Do you remember your first performance? Who first saw you act and what was it like? 
I vaguely remember performing a song from The Little Mermaid to my first-grade class and claiming that I voiced the character. That was a good lesson in the difference between lying and acting…

Now tell us about Ten Percent! What was the casting process like? 
I remember reading the audition material and falling in love. I laughed out loud at the dialogue and got this feeling in my gut of “I desperately want to be a part of this!” I watched an episode of W1A to absorb the tempo of John Morton’s writing and the pilot of Call My Agent to better understand the setting. I taped the scenes at home in Los Angeles, sent it off to London and tried to put it out of my mind. I failed, of course. Fortunately, Rachel Freck (the casting director) called my agents with updates and not long after, they asked me to join the cast. I moved my family to London and the job turned out to be even better than I’d hoped! 

You play Kirsten Furst in the series — do you notice any similarities between yourself and the character? 
On the page we don’t have that much in common, but I was the only American in the cast. That ended up being quite an educational experience because I was walking in Kirsten’s shoes a bit in terms of cultural identity. How we handled that was wildly different because I soaked in the environment around me, whereas Kirsten swam upstream and tried to force her way of doing things on the Brits. 

Your character is sent from America to shake up the UK talent agency’s office. Do you think there is a difference between British and American work ethics?
From what I gleaned while interviewing agents before filming, yes there is. UK agents build lifelong relationships with their clients, often starting at drama school. But US actors tend to switch agencies often as their careers progress and, as depicted on the show, some agencies actively court clients away from each other.  One of the other things we show in the series is how US agents work morning, noon and night – and that extends to all corners of the industry. I’m used to filming late into the night, but on Ten Percent I was home eating dinner with my family almost every night. It was incredible for me to experience that way of working.

What was it like working alongside such a huge array of talent? 
As you can imagine, it’s a privilege — and I don’t just mean the celebrity guest stars! The ensemble playing the core cast is phenomenal. I knew from my first table read that it was a special group and I loved going to work every day. The way Kirsten is rejected by the Nightingale Hart family is the polar opposite of what I experienced joining the company; I was welcomed with open arms.  It also goes without saying, but our show runner John Morton is a genius and it was never lost on me that I was lucky to be on his team. 

Can you pinpoint a favourite moment from filming the series? 
There’s a scene in episode seven that reveals Kirsten’s backstory and lays out the reasons she’s desperate to make Nightingale Hart successful. Up to that point, it’s easy to assume that she represents American bullishness and achieve-at-all-costs careerism. But once her past is revealed, it becomes clear that it’s not the work culture of her country that she embodies – it’s the universal theme of insecurity. She’s furiously trying to impress her boss back in California for reasons that go much deeper than climbing the corporate ladder. She’s a woman in deep pain and she’s very, very lost. I loved filming that scene with Tim McInnery and our director MJ Delaney.  They were very supportive and paved the way for me to tap into Kirsten’s fears and lay herself bare to Simon in a moment of uncharacteristic vulnerability. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from Ten Percent
I hope people leave with a better understanding of the machine that exists around celebrities. Agents work passionately for their clients and actors don’t become famous alone. It happens in large part because of these reps who live, eat, sleep and breathe their clients’ careers. 

Who is your dream co-star?
I’m gunning for Hugh Grant to come on the show! He has incredible comedic timing and I think he’d pair well with John Morton’s dialogue. I can also imagine Kirsten falling apart out of nervousness in his presence which would be a blast to play.

And finally, what’s next for you? Are there any genres/characters you haven’t explored that you would like to in future projects? 
Honestly, I’ve felt very lucky to go with the flow in my career and follow good creative projects. I don’t necessarily know what I want to do next until I read it. It’s always about the writing for me, so I’m excited to see what’s on the horizon. Frankly, I really hope we get to make more of Ten Percent!

Photography by John Tsiavis 

Photography by John Tsiavis 
Photography
John Tsiavis 
Stylist
Deborah Waknin
Makeup
Bren Robertson
Hair
David Keough
CHELSEY CRISP

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