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Fake Tapes, Lies & Late Payments: UK Talent Agent Archie Purnell Accused Of Being “Rogue Trader”

EXCLUSIVE: A British talent agent, who has worked with soap stars including Emma Rigby and Helen Flanagan, has been accused of professional misconduct by six former clients.

Archie Purnell, founder of Manchester-based Bodhi Talent, has supplied actors to major productions for Netflix, the BBC, and ITV, but is facing claims he misled clients in a bid to bolster his standing in the industry.

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Deadline has uncovered a series of allegations about the agent, including that he has sent actors illegitimate briefs for self-tape auditions, broke regulations on payment deadlines, and failed to observe industry best practice in contracts. Bodhi is currently at risk of being struck off the UK Companies House register for filing its accounts late.

UK agents are regulated by the state-backed Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, but complaints against entertainment agencies are rare because actors worry that it could damage their careers. Most major agencies, such as UTA-owned Curtis Brown, are members of the Personal Managers Association (PMA), which has a code of practice. Bodhi is not a member of the PMA.

Purnell said he was “absolutely stunned” by the “totally incorrect” allegations, claiming they were part of a “witch hunt” being pursued by actors and a rival agent. He did not respond to any specific allegations against him and deleted his social media accounts soon after being contacted for comment.

Emma Rigby (left) in ‘Hollyoaks’
Emma Rigby (left) in ‘Hollyoaks’

A former child actor, Purnell founded Bodhi Talent in 2021 after working at other agencies in the north of England. He is described as a charismatic and persuasive individual who built a client roster that includes Rigby and Tommy Cannon, one-half of the much-loved UK comedy double act Cannon and Ball. Cannon did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Rigby, who has starred in BBC1’s Death In Paradise and Sky’s Bulletproof, recently returned as series regular Hannah Ashworth on Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks. Bodhi posted about her return to Hollyoaks on Twitter (now X), despite not being involved in the casting deal, according to a production source. Rigby declined to comment.

Bodhi worked with Flanagan, who starred in Coronation Street and I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, between 2021 and 2022. Flanagan declined to comment for this story. Lesser-known actors on Bodhi’s books have secured below-the-line roles in series including Netflix’s Red Rose and Disney’s Wedding Season.

Fake Tape Invitations

Purnell — who also goes by Jamie Fisher and AP James — once said on an industry podcast that he considers his relationships with clients to be a “sexless marriage,” in which an enduring partnership is forged through communication and honesty.

But former clients told Deadline that they quit Bodhi after becoming troubled by their dealings with Purnell. Two of the actors said they could not trust the agent amid suspicion about the legitimacy of self-tape audition invitations they were receiving, while others complained about issues securing payment for acting jobs.

Ex-clients accused Bodhi of copying and pasting the details of genuine self-tape briefs from casting directors and supplying them to actors who had not been called to audition for the specific role. Those affected suspected that Bodhi had no intention of passing the filmed auditions on to a casting director.

The practice of actors filming their own auditions and submitting them digitally became commonplace during the pandemic. Advocates say they have made the industry more accessible, but critics have warned that they are open to exploitation.

Purnell was accused of sending actors fake self-tape invitations to keep clients happy and burnish Bodhi’s reputation for providing people with a steady stream of leads. Some spoke of auditions appearing in their inbox soon after they had bemoaned a lack of new work.

In one example reviewed by Deadline, an actress was sent a self-tape audition invitation for a role 12 hours after the submission deadline had passed. Another ex-client alleged that they were sent a self-tape brief for a role nearly double their age and only discovered when told by a rival agency.

Former Bodhi client Layla Shirley
Former Bodhi client Layla Shirley

Layla Shirley, an actress who has appeared in Peaky Blinders, was another who suspected that Bodhi had sent her a fake self-tape request. Shirley said she left Bodhi because she felt neglected by the agency, alleging that Purnell rarely replied to her calls or emails.

“We all know the red flags for agents: being asked to pay to join the books, no [business] premises etc. But it may not always be that obvious,” she said. “Bodhi presented such a legitimate and respectable front that they managed to mislead many.”

Purnell was described as a “liar” by those who have encountered him. For example, on his now-deleted LinkedIn profile, he claimed he went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2014, but the prestigious London drama school told Deadline it had no record of Purnell or Jamie Fisher participating in a higher education course.

Melanie Ash, a former actress who had a recurring role in Emmerdale, was represented by Purnell before he launched Bodhi and has known him for around a decade. “People are scared of him because he gives the appearance of being pally with powerful people, including top casting directors,” she said. “People should not believe the hype.”

Another former client, who wished to remain anonymous, alleged that Purnell lied about them securing a role in an advert. The ex-client said they only realized that they had not got the job when they saw the ad on television and it was nearly identical to the storyboard they had been sent for the audition.

“I was relying on that money,” this person said. “When he told me I was crying [with happiness] because of the fee. It makes me feel sick. He heard me cry and said, ‘You’ve done it, you’re a star, I knew you would get it. And you’re getting all that money.’”

Late Payments & Notice Periods

Late payments were another complaint, with Bodhi appearing to have breached UK agency regulations by not remunerating clients within 10 days of being paid by a broadcaster or streamer. Bodhi contracts also state that actors shall receive “all monies due” within 10 days of it hitting the agency’s bank account.

Helen Flanagan has worked with Bodhi
Helen Flanagan has worked with Bodhi

In at least three cases reviewed by Deadline, actors alleged that Bodhi failed to pay them promptly. Purnell would blame the production for paying late, even though the BBC and ITV usually release payments for actors within two weeks of their engagement.

In one of the cases, actors’ union Equity was forced to step in to resolve the situation after Bodhi retained around half of a client’s fee. Bodhi did eventually pay, but weeks after the 10-day deadline enshrined in the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations.

One ex-client said actors live from paycheck to paycheck, meaning that late payments can create difficulty with the cost of living. “I had a conversation with Archie asking when the money was coming in because I was about to go beyond my overdraft limit,” another said. “It was like being on an episode of [BBC show] Rogue Traders, in which you’re the victim.”

Bodhi failed to observe industry standards by attempting to hold clients to a notice period after they decided to leave the agency. The PMA, the membership body for UK agents, states that agencies should not “seek to enforce any time restriction in relation to a client’s notice of termination of representation.” A copy of a Bodhi contract obtained by Deadline states a client may “terminate this agreement by giving one month’s notice in writing, unless agreed otherwise.”

On one occasion, when attempting to enforce a client’s notice period, Purnell threatened to report a rival agent to the PMA for signing the actor. Bodhi is not a member of the PMA and it is unclear if Purnell understood that by reporting his rival, he would have revealed that his own contracts fell below the PMA’s standards.

UK agents are not allowed to charge clients a fee for representation, but Bodhi has been accused of attempting to collect money from clients by other means. When signing with Bodhi, new clients were sent an email stating that they “must attend” paid-for workshops with casting directors organized by Bodhi’s sister company Access Workshops.

Bodhi has been charging actors as much as £60 to attend these workshops, according to documents seen by Deadline. UK Casting Directors Guild guidelines state that fees for workshops should not be “excessively high.” One casting director told Deadline that £60 was a “ludicrous” fee, while another said they would not participate in workshops if an agent was profiting.

An Equity source said the appearance of mandatory workshop fees was against the spirit of the law, which is enforced by the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate. Some former Bodhi clients did make clear, however, that they were not penalized for failing to show up at workshops.

Bodhi client Tommy Cannon (right) with his late comedy partner, Bobby Ball
Bodhi client Tommy Cannon (right) with his late comedy partner, Bobby Ball

All UK companies must file an annual financial statement with Companies House. Bodhi Talent has yet to file accounts, so details of its earnings are not in the public domain. The company, which also owns children’s agency Luna Kids Casting, has been issued with a compulsory strike-off notice, meaning it could be dissolved if it does not make a financial statement by March 9.

Bodhi Talent has not responded to any specific allegations. After being approached for comment, Purnell deleted his Twitter (now X) and LinkedIn accounts and locked Bodhi’s X account.

Shirley, the former Bodhi client, said the company’s conduct raised questions about industry safeguarding and a lack of checks and balances for agencies. “How do we keep ourselves safe when the organizations designed to do that are also vulnerable to deception?” she said.

Alexa Morden, who hosts The 98% podcast for below-the-line actors, said: “Fear of being blacklisted and missing out on hard-to-come-by opportunities scares many actors into silence. We need systemic change to protect all actors, especially those less recognized.”

If you wish to contact the author of this article to supply further information, please email jkanter@deadline.com.

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