Is she worried about negative comparisons critics might draw between the original and the remake? “Comparisons are inevitable,” she says evenly. “We’re not trying to take anything away from what they did. We just bring our own British touch to it.
“John really infused this fundamental middle-class Britishness into the characters and the writing,” Fola continues. “The French and the British are very different, and he captured our thing of being ultra-polite, clumsy, of not saying what we mean, of not meaning what we say, and therefore finding ourselves in delicate situations. The energy is very different, even though the characters are the same.
Much of the charm of Call my agent! is that the A-list celebrities that the fictional agents deal with play themselves. This means Fola appears onscreen alongside names like Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams, David Harewood and Clemence Poesy. Has she ever been nervous playing alongside such big stars? “I had a scene with David Oyelowo, and I didn’t have to act much because Zoe is dazzled and I was also totally dazzled. I could be clumsy myself.
And the similarities between her and her character don’t end there. “I definitely relate to her,” Fola says. “That combination of having to be ambitious as an actor but also having crippling self-doubt. To always think, “Was that crap? Am I dumb? What am I doing?”
‘You must be a little delusional to think you can do it [as an actor], but you also have to keep your feet on the ground and know that it’s a very difficult profession to live in – most people don’t. You have to occupy both of these spaces at all times, which I think is really difficult.
Although she has family in the business (her uncle is actor Jimmy Akingbola), Fola never thought she would end up acting. It wasn’t until her early twenties, after being turned down for a place at university to study philosophy, that she finally caught the virus.
“I was in a kinda shitty relationship, and I think my mom was trying to push me away from him,” Fola laughs. ‘She said, ‘Find a hobby. I found an acting class, and I loved it, and I did another one, and I loved it too. She auditioned for the National Youth Theater (you need people between the ages of 14 and 25) and got in. The spark has been lit.
Fola enrolled in Identity School of Acting, the acting school created by Femi Oguns in 2003 with the aim of bringing a new, more diverse generation of talent to our screens. Its impressive alumni rollup includes Letitia Wright, John Boyega and alumni C&TH cover star Jessica Plummer. Femi is now Fola’s agent, and she credits him for instilling the confidence in her to go for it.
“He’s so passionate he could literally talk a duck into action,” she enthuses. “You spend five minutes with him and you’re like, ‘I can do this! I believe in myself!”‘
Her dream role is “anything to do with espionage.” Inspired by books like alex rider, she wrote to MI5 at the age of seven, asking for a job. “I was like, ‘You miss a trick, no one would suspect a kid. Hire me,” laughs Fola. “My way of living that dream is any Lara Croft type movie.” She studied karate as a child and now practices wing chun, a form of kung fu.
Her next project, which she’s about to return to Vancouver to film, is kind of making that dream come true. The Night Agent is a new Netflix political conspiracy thriller series based on the New York Times Matthew Quirk’s bestseller, in which Fola plays a secret agent. “It’s going to be a very different energy for Zoe, because this character isn’t bubbly at all, she’s very serious,” Fola explains.
We finish our drinks and Fola disappears into the darkness, bundled up in her duvet coat against the cold February air. For a minute, I lose her in the late afternoon crowd, but I spot her, all raven hair and glowing skin, as she heads home. A South East Londoner ready to leave her mark on the acting world.
Filmed on location in the Montevetro Building in Battersea, London. montevetro.org.uk. Ten Percent is coming to Prime Video this spring
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