TEXT: SILKE HENKELE| PHOTO © STEFAN KLÜTER
Three times Grimme award-winner, award-winner of the Lola, the Deutscher Schauspielerpreis and the German Television Award for his exceptional performances as an actor, Ronald Zehrfeld gives us an insight into his passion for acting, explains about solidarity amongst colleagues and also talks about his latest film, The End of Truth.
Mr. Zehrfeld, why did you choose to become an actor?
R. Zehrfeld: During the 1990s, some of my friends took me to see a couple of performances of incredibly innovative theatre groups. I was spellbound by the plays and the creative atmosphere, and kind of stuck with the subject. Being an actor is the profession of my dreams! I couldn’t do anything else, I guess.
What do you find so fascinating about your profession?
R. Zehrfeld: Well, I think that there is no other profession that enables you to get to know yourself and others in quite the same, intense and thorough way. As an actor, you may, lawfully, sound out your own abysses. You may act out your ‘dark side’. If you are lucky, you get the chance to steadily broaden the spectrum of your art. Quite frankly, performing is one of the best feelings, one of the grandest experiences I can think of.
How do you choose your roles?
R. Zehrfeld: I go with my gut feeling. There aren’t certain characteristics I am aiming for in a script. When I read a script I ask myself ‘What does it do with me? Does it speak to me? What’s in it? Who is my character? Does it give me creative ideas about the character’s development?’. I also need to be interested in the story. And I want to know the names of the director and co-actors. Is the chemistry right? What kind of experiences do I have from possible previous collaborations? The choice is a mixture of many aspects, but, yes, in the end, it’s my gut that decides.
Speaking of directors, you have repeatedly worked with top directors like Lars Kraume, Dominik Graf of Philipp Leinemann. How would you describe these collaborations?
R. Zehrfeld: I have worked six times with Dominik, five times with Lars, and twice with Philipp. All three of them are brilliant directors who are extremely patient with their actors and who give them the opportunity to grow and develop. They saw more in me than the prototypical ‘big but sensitive bear’ I used to be cast as when I started my career. Over the course of time, I have developed a deep friendship with them.
Is there any film or play that strikes out immediately when you think back on your work so far?
R. Zehrfeld: Yes! Definitely. There is In The Face of Crime. I remember it vividly for the enormous complexity of the script. Then there is Barbara, starring my incredible colleague Nina Hoss. Never before have I explored the highs and lows of a character to such a degree as in this film. Third, The People vs. Fritz Bauer, which was equally as demanding as the other two films I have mentioned.
Let’s talk a little bit about your upcoming film Das Ende der Wahrheit (The End of Truth), which is due to come out on 9 May 2019.
R.Zehrfeld: Without saying too much about the movie or its content, I can say that its topic is hot off the press. It deals with the political and economical complexities of our world and the Federal Intelligence Service’s role in it. It is a very dense film that ultimately puts personal responsibilities up for discussion. What does it mean to make decisions and to live with the consequences? When do we question our opinions and attitudes?
You and your co-actors waived a considerable amount of your fees. Why is that?
R. Zehrfeld: Being part of a movie like that makes you really proud. The whole cast was aware of the huge responsibility we would take on when starring in this film. With budgets for films like that being always small, we decided to waive a good part of our fees. We wanted the film to get made! It was overwhelming to experience that kind of solidarity amongst my colleagues.
You star in the third series of award-winning, internationally acclaimed series Babylon Berlin. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
R. Zehrfeld: Yes, you are right. I star in one of the new leading roles. We will be filming until May, but apart from that, I’m afraid I can’t tell you more. The third series will be as grand and remarkable as the first two. That much I do promise.
One last question: What are your wishes for the future?
R. Zehrfeld: Well, I want to keep on developing; on a personal and professional level. I want to stay open to all kinds of projects. I want to stay motivated to always give my best. And I want to continue working with exceptional people. All this, however, becomes relatively small against the backdrop of my biggest wish: to remain healthy.