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Gong xi, Ma Tai!
3 Arts has signed actor Matt William Knowles, a South Carolina native who has built a career in China over the past half-decade. The former Clemson University defensive end and civil engineering major had NFL aspirations until a senior-year knee injury forced him to rethink his plans. After graduation, he moved to a relatively impoverished province in southeastern China to serve as an English teacher, where he was scouted as a model. As his fluency in Mandarin developed, he transitioned to TV hosting and acting, and in 2013 was offered a scholarship to the Beijing Film Academy, where he became the prestigious school’s first Caucasian student. Knowles’ most prominent role to date has been a recurring part in China’s hit 2015-16 suspense drama Love Me If You Dare, and he next has a major role as a mythic demigod in Alibaba’s $100 million fantasy adventure Asura. Now based in Los Angeles, Knowles is looking to establish himself in his home country.
Taking the helm
CAA has signed two directors from this year’s Sundance Film Festival:
– Francis Lee, winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award for his feature debut God’s Own Country (whose star, Josh O’Connor, signed with CAA in February). The drama, which THR critic David Rooney wrote “announces Lee as an assured new voice,” will be released this fall by Picturehouse Entertainment and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Lee continues to be represented by Knight Hall Agency in the U.K. and by Anonymous Content.
– Sundance Institute fellow Joe Talbot, whose debut short American Paradise premiered at the festival before screening at SXSW in March. Later this year he’ll begin production on feature The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which he developed with Jimmie Fails.
– CAA also has signed former NFL great Ray Lewis, now an analyst with Fox Sports. The linebacker won two Super Bowls (he was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXV) with the Baltimore Ravens and was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and 10-time All-Pro player. Lewis, whose 2015 memoir I Feel Like Going On was a New York Times bestseller, also founded the charitable initiative Global 1000, which supports minority businesses in cities.
A stand-up hire
Comedy touring agent Joe Eshenbaugh has joined UTA. The Bowling Green State finance graduate spent the past five years at Innovative, where he revamped the agency’s comedy roster and set up 15 one-hour specials, 10 half-hour specials and numerous late-night appearances for his clients. Eshenbaugh will be based in Los Angeles.
No argument here
Feud’s Jackie Hoffman has signed with Jill Fritzo PR. In his review of the FX anthology, THR critic Daniel Fienberg wrote that the “veteran character comic… steals scenes with deadpan deviousness as [Joan] Crawford’s German maid and confidante Mamacita.”
Model Candice Huffine has signed with publicity firm 42West. In 2015 she became the first plus-size model to appear in the Pirelli calendar, and she co-starred in DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” music video.
Elsewhere in Rep World:
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