If you’re still heartbroken over Rege-Jean Page’s departure as Bridgerton’s Duke of Hastings, don’t worry – there’s a new naughty duke in town.
French actor Assaad Bouab, 40, got the pulse racing like the arrogant and charismatic Fabrice, Duc de Sauveterre, on last night’s episode of The Pursuit Of Love.
Fabrice, who described herself as a ‘very wealthy duke’, founded Lily James’ Linda Radlett with a residence in Paris and wasted no time seducing her in decidedly racy scenes.
If the classically handsome Frenchman looks familiar, you may have seen him play a handsome, rightful entrepreneur in the lockdown TV hit Call My Agent! Or a clever CIA agent on the Netflix thriller series Messiah.
Already a heartthrob in France, he’s now poised to get the same attention in the UK, with upcoming roles in Peaky Blinders and Shonda Rhimes’ drama Inventing Anna about ‘fake heiress’ Anna Delvey, cheating on friends, banks and hotels for $ 275,000.
The Dashing Duke: Assaad Bouab, 40, charmed viewers like the arrogant Fabrice, Duc de Sauveterre who romance Lily James’ character Linda Radlett in decidedly racy scenes
Netflix hit: If he looks familiar, you may have seen him play another handsome, entitled character in Call My Agent !, the French TV series about a top talent agency in Paris and their low-maintenance movie star clients who are in for a surprise lockdown hit
French heartthrob: Assaad Bouab in a topless scene in One Thousand and One Nights at the Royal Lyceum Theater as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in 2011
And he certainly doesn’t mind the attention. ‘What can I say? I’d be lying if I say “Oh, no!”, “He said in an interview with the Independent. “It’s nice.”
Born in the French city of Aurillac in 1980, Assaad is the son of a French mother and Moroccan father, although he has never spoken publicly about his family.
Indeed, his entire private life remains firmly out of the spotlight. The French press is even divided on his marital status. If he is married or attached, he has never mentioned a partner in interviews.
He does have a four-year-old daughter who lives in Rabat, Morocco, where he also spent his childhood.
Assaad divides his time between Rabat and Paris. Photos from days out and art projects regularly appear on his Instagram account, where he has more than 56,000 followers.
Assaad’s older brother Younes Bouab, 42, is also an actor, and it was he who encouraged Assaad to join the school’s theater association as a teenager.
Role Model: Assaad’s older brother Younes Bouab, 42, is also an actor, and it was he who encouraged Assaad to join the school’s theater association as a teenager. Pictured, as children
Proud Father: Assaad has a four-year-old daughter who lives in Rabat, Morocco, where he also spent his childhood. Pictured holding hands on a day out in a photo shared on Instagram
Returning to France at the age of 18, Assaad initially studied economics but switched to drama where he enrolled at the prestigious Parisian drama school Cours Florent and CNSAD, France’s national drama academy.
He started out in theater, which he still enjoys, landing roles in French-language films and TV shows, as well as supporting roles in American productions such as Homeland.
Assaad has spoken of characterizing himself for his Moroccan descent, often landing roles as a ‘terrorist’ or a troubled man from an ‘underprivileged suburb’.
In the Netflix series Messiah, he plays CIA agent Qamar Maloof opposite Michelle Monaghan. The co-stars had a great relationship and shared a smiling photo on Instagram.
He can also be seen in Braquo, a French crime drama about a group of Parisian police officers who don’t always play by the rules.
Before the lockdown hit, he starred opposite Kristin Scott Thomas in the National Theatre’s Phaedra, a production that has been postponed.
Early roles: Assaad started out in theater, landing roles in French-language films and TV shows, as well as bit parts in American productions such as Homeland (depicted in series five)
Fascinating: in the Netflix series Messiah, he plays CIA agent Qamar Maloof
Co-stars: He starred opposite Michelle Monaghan, pictured together in an Instagram snap
But it’s Call My Agent !, known in France as Dix Pour Cent, that has brought Assaad into the living rooms of British viewers. The actor plays dating app entrepreneur Hicham Janowski.
The comedy, following a celebrity agency in Paris, featured a string of cameos, including Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert and Sigourney Weaver.
It originally aired on the public France 2 channel before finding worldwide success on Netflix.
Creators are capitalizing on the show’s popularity by announcing a surprise fifth series and a movie. A UK version of the show is also in the works.
Assaad said the cast was not part of the discussion.
‘We have a Whatsapp group between all the actors of Call My Agent! And no one had heard of that. So let’s take a look. Fingers crossed. Maybe, ”he said.
TV star: But it’s Call My Agent !, known in France as Dix Pour Cent, which has brought Assaad into the living rooms of British viewers. The actor plays dating app entrepreneur Hicham Janowski. Pictured lr: Gabriel (Grégory Montel), Andrea (Camille Cottin) and Hicham (Assaad Bouab)
Nervous: Assaad admits he was worried about starring in The Pursuit Of Love with Lily James
But despite his decades of experience, Assaad said he was still intimidated by The Pursuit Of Love set.
“I was a little nervous to be part of The Pursuit of Love … with all those great actors and actresses,” he said.
‘I was shaking, I was nervous. And the challenge for me is like, “OK, let’s try to be as confident as possible and try to be Fabrice. But it wasn’t easy at all.” ‘
His first scene with co-star Lily, 32, was their sex scene, which Assaad described as ‘electric’.
The BBC production used an ‘intimacy coordinator’, Elle McAlpine, to choreograph the love scenes. She had previously collaborated on the BBC’s costume drama Gentleman Jack.
Bouab said Miss McAlpine had made things easier for him. ‘Any questions can be asked. There is no shame. And we ask, “OK, what can we do? How far can we go here, etc.?” So it makes the thing easy in a way. It is funny.’
He added: ‘It’s electric. It is surprising, it connects, it is together. I had really great moments with Lily. ‘
Dashing: Assaad, pictured in 2019, looks set to be Britain’s next big TV crush
Revealed: The French politician who inspired the Duke of Sauveterre
Real Duke: Gaston Palewski
The Duc de Sauveterre is a character author Nancy Mitford based on her love affair with Gaston Palewski.
As a French politician, he was a close associate of General de Gaulle and an Anglophile who attended both Oxford University and the Sorbonne. Mitford dedicated The Pursuit Of Love, written in 1945, to him.
A notorious womanizer, he had an affair with Mitford that began in the 1940s and continued occasionally until her death in 1973 – the writer lived in Paris and then Versailles in the post-war years.
During that time he married a French duchess and another woman and had an illegitimate child.
The Duke’s character also features in her 1949 novel Love In A Cold Climate.
The final episode of The Pursuit Of Love – set between the two world wars and following the character of Miss James in search of the ideal husband – will air on BBC1 next Sunday night. The entire series is also available to watch on iPlayer.