Born in Vietnam, the actress Mai Duong Kieu moved to Germany at the young age of five. Today, she is best known for her role in Bad Banks. Discover Germany, Austria & Switzerland met up with her to talk about martial arts, her acting career and much more.
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO © RENÉ SCHRÖDER
You were born in Northern Vietnam and moved to Germany at a young age. What do you miss about Vietnam and love about Germany?
M. D. Kieu: When I’m in Germany I often miss family festivals and sitting on the street while ordering street food. I can’t get this special feeling anywhere else on the planet. I love Germany, regardless of how cliché it might sound. I enjoy the freedom and the chances that this country is offering me. I’m really happy that I came to Germany at an age where I was able to learn the language just like a second mother tongue. This opened up the possibility to fully understand and communicate with the country and the people.
You are a passionate martial artist. What do you love about this sport?
M. D. Kieu: I would refer to myself more as an artist than a sportswoman as the Chinese Kungfu is far more an art form and philosophy of life than it is a sport. Doing the exercises and movement patterns demand much concentration and patience. The repetition and reflection on the techniques’ intentions are like a type of meditation for me. But what enriches me most are my students and their progress. When I see the sparkle in their eyes when they learn new practices, I’m happy that I can be a part of this.
Your parents wanted you to take over their martial arts school but you decided against that and instead chose a career in acting. Was acting always your dream profession?
M. D. Kieu: I simply had to find my own way; a path that hadn’t been paved for me. The numerous stage shows of the Kungfu school taught me to deal with an audience from an early age. I learned quickly what did and didn’t work – these were the first steps towards the entertainment industry but the decisive acting impulse came much later. I actually got discovered on Myspace in 2009 and my former agent added me to their listings.
You’ve already been part of many series and films. Which shoot do you remember most and why?
M. D. Kieu: I can still remember all of them very well, but playing the main character in my first 90-minute-long film was something rather special for me. For Mein Schwiegervater, der Stinkstiefel which was directed by Sven Bohse, I stood in front of the camera with Michael Gwisdek and learned a lot on set. I was super proud because the film received great acclaim and this really motivated me to continue acting.
Let’s speak about Bad Banks – how would you explain this series’ big success?
M. D. Kieu: I think that Bad Banks got the right people during each stage of its development – whether that includes the profound research which the production, directors and authors have conducted, the casting of actors or the composition of the international crew. Everything had a big influence on this series and I find it very progressive that this series is played in different languages and therefore puts special emphasis on and utilises the actors’ multilingualism.
How do you see diversity in the German TV landscape. How has this developed in recent years?
M. D. Kieu: I notice an unstoppable change which I really love to see. It’s a really complex topic which still needs more discussion and education, but all in all, I’m pretty optimistic that diversity won’t feel like a sanction in the near future, but rather like an organic process. Furthermore, I hope that the same process will happen in different sectors.
What other wishes and dreams do you have for the future?
M. D. Kieu: I’m really happy with everything at the moment and for the future I wish for nothing but health for body and mind. Then, come what may.
Are there any new plans for the next year? What can we look forward to in 2020?
M. D. Kieu: I can’t reveal too much yet but I’m really looking forward to the second season of Bad Banks in spring.
And to finish – do you have any tips for young aspiring actors?
M. D. Kieu: My tip would be to build up social competences. To grow networks. To not put attention on yourself but rather to your surroundings. Offering help where it’s needed. To be a colleague that others love to work with.