“Call My Agent” star Nicolas Maury hadn’t quite grasped the international success of the Paris-set show until he traveled to Los Angeles last week to present his feature directorial debut “Garcon Chiffon” (“My Best Part”) at Colcoa, the French film and series festival.
In L.A., everyone from industry festival guests and locals to waiters came up to him to talk about Hervé, his colorful and endearing character in “Call My Agent,” streaming on Netflix and available on French public broadcaster France Televisions. In real life, Maury is as exuberant as Hervé and can be both spiritual and feisty, observant and outgoing. He has also worked as a model, and dresses to the nines in Chanel, Prada and Lanvin outfits.
Maury says that playing one of the rare gay protagonists on a major French TV show has allowed him to make an impact on a younger generation. “I want to be considered as an actor, not a gay actor, but at the same time, I never hid anything, never lied, and I didn’t come out to receive laurels or an award, I did it because when I receive text messages from young people around the world, like this 14-year-old Brazilian boy who told me that seeing Hervé in the show changed his perspective as a gay man, that moves me terribly,” says the 40-year old actor.
“I’m happy that the show has participated in opening things up because the film world in France isn’t as welcoming as it seems; I’ve heard people talk about a gay mafia in the industry but that’s untrue and it’s abominable thing to say,” says Maury, adding that being openly gay doesn’t preclude him from playing straight characters, such as Steve Jobs, in a recent play by Robert Cantarella and Alban Lefranc.
His directorial debut “My Best Part” was also warmly received at Colcoa, where it had its North American premiere. The touching film, which opened in France during the pandemic and was part of Cannes 2020’s official selection, stars Maury as a thirty-something struggling actor going through heartache who takes a trip to his hometown where his mother (Nathalie Baye) comforts him and brings him some perspective on life. Arnaud Valois (“BPM (Beats Per Minute)”) and Laure Calamy (“Call My Agent”) also star.
Maury said the idea for the film came to him when he experienced a “love relationship that triggered some anxiety and this monster named jealousy.”
“My Best Part” tackles jealousy but doesn’t point fingers. “Jealousy has become taboo, because we’re in this era with the so-called polyamory, where everyone is very open, but even the coolest people struggle with this concept. It reminds me of what [French philosopher] Roland Barthes called the ‘attempts of relaxation’ in the 1970s.”
The personal movie also revolves around a mother and son relationship. “Very often in films where there is a gay character, the mother is either hysterical or reactionary, and in ‘My Best Part’ I tried to portray a mother who would speak as a woman and say things to her son.”
The actor-turned-helmer, who graduated from the prestigious conservatory of dramatic arts and started his career in theater, said he enjoyed working with Baye, a “tremendous actor” who was highly meticulous and committed to the movie. “We worked with the [Francois] Truffaut method, meaning that we would all get together, read the entire screenplay and discuss so that we all be on the same page, that was important to me,” said Maury.
Maury is now re-teaming with his “My Best Part” producer, Charles Gillibert (“Annette,” “Bergman Island”) at CG Cinema on his sophomore outing, which he describes as a “time-travelling romance between a man and a woman of very different ages who re-live their past loves.” Citing inspiring actors-directors such as Nanni Moretti and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Maury says he will star in the film, on top of writing and directing. He says this second feature won’t mirror “Call My Agent” and will have an intricate plot with different layers, as well as fantasy elements.
As far as what’s next with “Call My Agent,” Maury says the dedicated spinoff film is currently at script stage and will have a more international scope than the series. Filming is expected to start next year but Maury says coordinating everyone’s schedule is a difficult feat. Indeed, many of the show’s stars have seen their careers take off, particularly Camille Cottin who stars in “Stillwater” and “House of Gucci” and Calamy, who won a Cesar award for her performance in “My Donkey, My Lover & I.”
Maury says the film’s new showrunner called him and the other leading actors of the series to discuss. “I thought it was very elegant of him to call us individually to tell us what he thought about the storyline for each character and ask us about our opinion, desires, it was super interesting.”
“Once the first scripts will be completed, we’ll do a first reading all together as we always do, it’s like being back to school!” says Maury, whose exciting slate also includes a new movie, some theater and a music project.