One of the biggest challenges an actor can face is finding an agent who recognises your talent to help you enter the next phase of your career. It’s not just a decision for the beginning of your career – the need for a new direction can come when you’re doing well but feel you could do even better. Maybe you’ve done some good roles and you’re working regularly, but in the back of your head you’re wondering if your agent could be more proactive and show a little more ambition on your behalf. It might be hard to admit, but the agent who spotted you during your drama school showcase may not be best-placed to take you to the next stage of your professional life.
What questions should you be asking potential new reps, and what should you look for when window shopping for a successful agency? We tracked the careers of some of the UK’s leading actors, and some who are well on their way to the top, to see who they choose for representation and why – our assumption being that if you like the look of someone’s career, you may well like their agency. Here’s our go-to list of the best London agencies for mid-career actors with the potential to progress even further.
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The Breakdown: Solid powerful agency that goes in to bat for its clients. Good mix of older actors and new talent – a safe bet for your career at whatever stage you’re at.
Top tip No. 1 when searching for a new agent is to look at their client list, and it doesn’t get much better than United Agents (UA), one of the UK’s biggest agencies. Not only do they have established actors on the list (yes, we’re talking about you, Kate Winslet, James McAvoy, and Miriam Margolyes), but they clearly take a punt on new talent like Taron Egerton and Jessie Buckley too.
As you’d expect, UA’s better-known clients work on some of the biggest screen projects, including Ricky Gervais (The Office, After Life, represented by Duncan Hayes), Sian Clifford (Fleabag, repped by Jess Alford), and Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts, repped by Dallas Smith). But names that may not be as familiar also land parts on major projects, including 2017 Screen Star of Tomorrow Jade Anouka (Turn Up Charlie) and Emerald Fennell (The Crown).
UA has assembled a team of agents that engender loyalty in their clients. Best Actress Oscar-winner Olivia Colman has been with her UA agent Lindy King since the start of her career when Colman wasn’t quite the hot property she is today. According to Forbes, she said: “I worked as a temp and cleaner for quite a long time but then Lindy King from what was called PFD took me on from the show at the end of drama school, so had her on my side. She was putting me up for all sorts.” King backed Colman from the beginning and in return, Colman followed her when she moved agencies to UA and gave her a warm and loving shout-out during her Oscar acceptance speech. Clearly, it’s a relationship that works.
READ: The Ricky Gervais Backstage Interview
The Breakdown: 42 is mixing the traditional UK agency scene up and isn’t afraid to shout about the talent it looks after. They manage actors and make TV and films that creatives want to be in – which actually makes perfect sense.
Set up in 2012, production and management agency 42 is doing things a little differently. If it’s tradition you’re after then 42 probably isn’t for you. However, if you like the idea of your agents also making film and television, and possibly giving you a privileged look-see at those projects, then keep reading.
Yes, they make films and TV and crucially, it’s not rubbish. The Netflix/BBC adaptation of Watership Down was all 42 and starred their client Nicholas Hoult. This year, they’re teaming up with the Beeb again to make psychological thriller The Girl Before starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and they’re also filming Silent Twins, starring Letitia Wright. They they also rep top-drawer directors such as Lynne Ramsay – which is rather handy for networking.
Talking to the Hollywood Reporter, 42’s Josh Varney says of this new model for representation: “Not only does it work, but we’ve built a great company that we believe has a phenomenal culture, and now seeing the next generation coming through that are aspiring producers, great reps across talent and lit. We’ve done it and have proven the model.”
Crucially, though, they’ve also got quite the roster of top-name talent to go with their innovative approach. Zawe Ashton, Noel Clarke, Jonny Lee Miller, Vicky McClure, Jason Flemyng, and yes, even Sir Michael Caine. They also take bets on new talent as well – Jamie Beamish (Bridgerton), Raphael Sowole (The Great), and Ellie Taylor (Ted Lasso). Just like the agency itself, 42’s list defies expectation. Not bad for an agency that is less than eight years old.
The Breakdown: A long-established Soho agency with major and upcoming clients and great contacts in the industry.
Imagine a flamboyantly named agency that only takes on flamboyantly named clients. This isn’t it, although it does boast Benedict Cumberbatch at the top of its roster. Founded in 1968, CVGG (as we’ll call it) focuses exclusively on actors, unlike some of the other agencies on this list. That means you’ll get top-class, focused career advice. Another thing to bear in mind is their great agent-to-actor ratio, meaning you’ll get your agent’s attention even if you’re not Mr Cumberbatch.
CVGG clients Tobias Menzies and Helena Bonham Carter (both repped by Nicola van Gelder) star in Netflix goliath The Crown, yet clients who may not yet be household names are also getting major credits: relative newcomer Callum Woodhouse has just landed a role in Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small. And the Downton Abbey film has hoovered up four CVGG clients: Joanne Froggatt, Michael Fox, Phyllis Logan, and Tuppence Middleton.
Agent Nicki van Gelder’s top tip for what she looks for in a new client is straightforward: “You have to think they’re good. Really, it’s very simple. And I’m not always going to go for someone who’s absolutely beautiful or handsome. It could be someone tiny and characterful and who’s just really interesting.”
CVGG accept submissions for representation via email, but they ask actors to be clear about which agent they are approaching. They want a CV, headshot, and showreel with a covering letter or email.
The Breakdown: One of Europe’s biggest agencies has clout, vision, and the ability to package A-list deals in house. A powerhouse agency to choose if your career feels in need of some oomph!
Independent Talent Group (ITG) represents the Queen, James Bond, Fleabag, and at least two Dr Whos. If you don’t want to be part of that party then you may need to have a think for a moment about your chosen career. ITG is a big agency, perhaps Europe’s biggest, and one of its many strengths is that it reps actors, directors, and writers – so introductions can be made, wheels oiled, and deals done, all in-house.
You’d be forgiven for thinking ITG only takes on established talent with a roster like Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), Thandie Newton (Westworld), and Denise Gough (Colette); yet ITG also places newer talent in interesting roles, like Derry Girls break-out star Saoirse-Monica Jackson or Alice Feetham (Save Me, No Offence).
ITG has a reputation for guiding actors through different stages of their careers and taking a hands-on approach with clients. Actor Claire Foy is repped by ITG, and without her agent’s sage advice she might have missed out on her breakout role in Netflix’s The Crown: “It started the usual way – I got sent the script. It was slightly tempered by the fact that I was five months pregnant at the time. So, when my agent mentioned it, I was like, ‘Do you really think I want to have a three-month-old baby and do a nine-month TV series while I play The Queen of England? Are you insane?’ So I was reticent about it. But my agent said, ‘They just want to talk to you.’ ” Well done, that agent.
Personal recommendations from actor friends are one of the best ways of finding a good agent – just ask Emmy-winner Jodie Comer. She was spotted in a play as a teenager by actor Stephen Graham, who recommended her to his agent at ITG. In her 2019 BAFTA acceptance speech for Killing Eve, Comer thanked Graham and acknowledged that she owed him a pint. Good agents are definitely worth their weight in gold (and pints). ITG’s website is impressive and their submissions policy is simple: write to them, sending a hard copy of your CV, headshot, and showreel.
The Breakdown: Top agency and many of their agents are former actors, so you can expect empathy and top deals.
Based just off Piccadilly Circus, Curtis Brown is one of the oldest companies on the list, having started life as a literary agency in 1899. Fast forward 120 years, and now it represents seriously exciting talent, young and old, and reflects a full range of diversity in its acting client list, which includes Tilda Swinton, Dev Patel, and Robert Pattinson. Curtis Brown helped make their careers happen – maybe you could be next.
Curtis Brown client Florence Pugh’s big break was in period drama Lady Macbeth. Without her agent, Pugh might never have taken that role – her reaction was: “Oh crap, it’s Shakespeare.” Her agent was insistent she read the script – Curtis Brown clearly know a breakthrough role when they see one. With actors like O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner) on their books, they’re also adept at breaking British actors in LA. BAFTA Rising Star Bel Powley has also enjoyed success on both sides of the pond, with US dramas The Diary of a Teenage Girl and White Boy Rick complementing a solid UK theatre and indie film career.
There are over 20 agents on hand at Curtis Brown and many of them seem to be former actors, which could prove helpful when it comes to understanding what you’re going through. You can either identify an individual agent to contact directly or email “all agents.” They’ll need a CV, photo, and showreel, and send them by email rather than snail mail.
The Breakdown: Top-flight agency that concentrates on repping actors at all career levels. They also rep casting agents, which could be advantageous for the agency’s actors.
Hamilton Hodell (HH) say they offer “career management for extraordinary talent” and it’s hard to argue when you’ve got actors like Martin Compston (Line of Duty, represented by Alexander Cooke), David Oyelowo (Selma, Spooks, repped by Christian Hodell), and Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, Thor, repped by Christian Hodell) on your books. Don’t let the starry names put you off, though – their client list of around 185 thesps features plenty of jobbing actors, too. Upcoming talent Tobi King Bakare stars in Sky One’s Temple, and HH clients Parth Thakerar, Ryan Sampson, and Bronagh Gallagher all landed roles in Sky Original series Brassic.
HH client Ben Whishaw is certainly a happy customer. In recent years he’s effortlessly made the move from a well-respected British stage actor to a successful film actor that Hollywood notices, and he made a special mention of his HH agent, Hilda, when collecting his recent Emmy. Lots of HH clients seem to have that theatrical pedigree behind them, so impressive theatre credits are clearly something the agency responds to. If you want to be a part of the HH party, they only accept electronic submissions via email. So, pick an agent (let’s face it, it’s got to be Hilda) and good luck!
The Breakdown: An agency of only seven agents but that means personalised service and their client list speaks for itself.
The Artists Partnership is home to talents such as Emily Blunt, Idris Elba, and James Norton. They rep actors, writers, directors, and even influencers, and claim to offer a “full-service environment” for long-lasting careers.
Talents like Naomie Harris (Spectre, No Time to Die) and Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale) could give the impression that it’s only an agency for big-screen names, yet upcoming actors are landing great roles too, like Vanessa Emme (The Dublin Murders) and Fode Simbo (Solaris at the Lyric Theatre).
One of their star signings is British actor Emily Blunt, who now has a Hollywood career many would aspire to. She’s been with her agent Roger Charteris since the very beginning – on the advice of one of her drama teachers, he turned up to see the teenage Blunt in a sixth form production of rock musical Bliss, which had a brief run at the Edinburgh Festival. Blunt says she performed to “eight people in the audience every night,” but Charteris can clearly recognise talent and quickly signed her up. She recalls: “He’s still my agent. I love continuity.” The Artists Partnership has a good reputation, with a small but dedicated team of seven agents. Helpfully, one of them has written a Q&A on how to approach an agent, which you can access here. If we had one vague complaint we’d say their website is a little dour, but whatever’s OK with Idris is fine by us!
The Breakdown: A classy agency with an eye for new talent and a European slant, Tavistock Wood retain a boutique character while enjoying the clout of a major media player through their partnership with Original Talent.
Classy website, classy clientele: Tavistock Wood’s vibe is – you guessed it – classy. Heading up their very classy Euro-heavy client list are talents such as Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl), Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum), and Dominic West (Colette). Billing itself as a Talent and Literary Agency, TW also offers support for any commercial work actors may be offered.
Tavistock Wood (TW) have strong instincts and search out new talent. One of their top relatively recent signings is Lily James, whose career seems to go from strength to strength. James was signed straight out of drama school and her TW agent was the only rep she met, signing immediately. If you’d like to join her on TW’s list they only accept submissions by post. Like we said, classy.
The Breakdown: Great choice for younger actors on the way up. Their client list reflects their diverse and interesting outlook.
Markham, Froggatt & Irwin’s team of seven agents headed up by agent Alex Irwin rep an eclectic, diverse, and young-skewing list of acting talents. Fifty-two female and 94 male actors are on their books (yes, we spotted that difference, too). Actors like Ruth Negga, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bill Nighy, Mark Strong, and Theo James are all repped here, and examining their list you can see careers backed up by solid but interesting choices.
Irwin, who reps Ejiofor, says successful representation isn’t about going for stardom but “about the storytelling… making the stories that resonate and open up people’s worlds and viewpoints.” If you fancy joining Markham, Froggatt & Irwin they’d like an email with your CV, showreel, and headshot.
The Breakdown: A small agency known for loyalty that packs quite a punch for its talented clients.
Last but not least on the list is Artists Rights Group (ARG). With a list of only 80 or so actors, this small yet perfectly formed agency boasts names such as Toby Jones, Liam Neeson, and Daniel Radcliffe, so it must be doing something right. Founded in 2001 by agent Sue Latimer, the Ladbroke Grove-based agency offers “highly individual personal management” and seem to have a reputation for loyalty, attention to detail, and solid support of an actor’s long-term career goals.
Even if you don’t know their names, most of the actors currently repped here have landed parts on successful projects – actors like Madeleine Arthur (The Family, Legends of Tomorrow), Olly Rix (The Spanish Princess, RSC’s Richard II) and Abiola Ogunbiyi (Jamestown).
Lesley Manville is an ARG client who’s had a blossoming of her later career, earning an Oscar nomination for her role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. Despite all her success, when her agent called to tell her she was going to be awarded an OBE, opening the conversation with, “It’s not about work,” Manville’s first reaction was that her agent was about to fire her. Seems however good your agent is, insecurity is always with you!
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