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Susanne Bormann | "Keep things moving"

       28. March 2012       

Susanne Bormann discovered her passion for acting early on, when she landed a role in Michael Gwisdek's "Treffen in Travers". At sixteen, Bormann received an Adolf-Grimme award for her performance in "Abgefahren". She went on to star in countless film, television and theater productions. We sat down with Bormann at the Alpenstück bakery to speak to her about belated career aspirations and her plans for the future.

You were born in Kleinmachnow. Does Kleinmachnow today have anything in common with the place where you grew up?

To a limited extent. The population has doubled, possibly tripled since then. Different people live there now. There were many claims for retransfer to the properties there that brought a high fluctuation along. My parents still live there – they had to move out of our family home, but they were relocalized to a specific land-use area for people that were affected by property claims. My parents still live there but it doesn't really feel like home to me yet. And I haven't been back to the house where I spent the first 18 years of my life. It still feels awkward.

Do you feel like a piece of your home was taken from you?

Absolutely. It was really tough, especially because it wasn't just a piece of my home, it was more like someone took a piece of my childhood away from me.

You gained your first experiences in acting at a young age, but you originally wanted to become a physiotherapist.

I always realized that acting was important to me but that was especially why I wanted to be able to choose the projects that I had set my heart on instead of just making money. I didn't want to become a professional actress but at some point I realized that that's not how it works. When you get a part, you have to be flexible and available over long stretches of time. I wouldn't have been able to do that as a full-time physiotherapist.

Do people approach you with their offers, do you have an agent or do you actively get in contact with people if there's a project that interests you?

When a movie is made, the production company contacts a casting agency that figures out which actor might work well in which role. Then, the casting agency calls the actor's agent or agency. Self-initiative is a little more complicated. But it can never hurt to have a network of contacts, like at certain events. It's also a good idea to be on the spot and to keep things moving. Last year at a time when I didn't have that much to do, my friend Anne Schneider and I got together to mount our own theater production. We got a team of six actors together and are now rehearsing "Atropa" by Tom Lanoye. It's a piece about the strategies and vindication of modern warfare told by the example of the Trojan war. It will premiere on May 2 at the Theaterdiscounter.

Are there cliques of actors in Berlin?

There are several cliques. I'm always happy to meet certain people at events or shoots. But besides that, most of my friends aren't actors. But I appreciate the the collegial relationship between actresses in my generation.

Berlin is an astonishing city. New networks constantly develop, people work with each other instead of against each other.

I agree. There are many young producers and directors like Dietrich Brüggemann, Christian Schwochow and Florian David Fitz that create interesting projects. A large part of that is made possible through personal contacts and solidarity.

You had a classic theater education at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Rostock. Is theater a different way of acting?

Yes and no. Unlike film, which requires naturality, theater always calls for exaggeration for it to have an effect. If you acted as naturalistic on stage as you would in a film, it would hardly reach the audience down in the auditorium.

In your final year project, you propose the theory that, in acting, versatility or the ability to transform today is not as important as the performer's personality. Is this also true for stage acting?  

An actor's personality is generally in greater demand in theater productions because many of the more contemporary pieces don't have any real characters into which to transform. It's more about lending artistic expression to certain texts that rely on a strong personality to convey their proper effect. I personally like to transform myself. It's generally a matter of personality types. There are actors that adjust their roles according to their own personality. These actors have a very high recognition value. And there are actors that take on their character's personality while they act.

Do you feel equally at home on the stage and infront of the camera?

I feel at home in film acting, I know the ropes. Theater is always an adventure. It's like a new start every time. Sometimes I'm stunned at the similarities between film and theater acting, sometimes I notice just how blatantly different they are from each other.

"Russendisko" will be playing in movie theaters soon. What intrigued you about the project?

I was immediately intrigued by Hanna's character. She's such an unusual woman: childlike in a way, because she wears her heart on her sleeves. To her, there is no difference between her inner life and what you can see from outside. She approaches people with an unbiased candor. That's something you tend to lose as you grow older, through rejection and hurt feelings. Hanna holds on to it without losing her dignity. I hold great respect for that. It was so wonderful to be able to play someone like Hanna because I had played more on-guard characters until then.

Starting in April, we'll be seeing you in six episodes of "Die letzte Spur". Are television series a safe haven for actors?

At first, I was scared. I've never worked under such time pressure. The shoots were spread out over just a few days. You had to be very well prepared, which wasn't always possible because we were always shooting two episodes at the same time. I made lists for myself so I would have in idea of what was going on and who was giving me what information?

How did you like the results?

I think the series is very well made. In the beginning, I asked myself if the brief amount of given time would allow for a high enough quality and do justice to my own standards. I think that with more time we could have exploited more potential. But I was positively surprised, especially because the actors weren't casted together. We were edited together from different castings without ever having met. That's sort of like a blind bargain because there's always the possibility that the actors won't harmonize with each other. Luckily, I had met the director, Judith Kennel, at a Tatort-shoot. I fully trusted her decision and that absolutely paid off.

So your decision to take the role was kind of on the rocks at first. Can you afford to reject offers?

Sure, it's easier, financially speaking [to accept as many offers as possible]. But I've also lived off very little money for a whole year because I didn't want to shoot everything that was offered to me. At the end of the day, any actor might find him/herself in the situation that they've shot something they'd rather not boast about. I haven't found myself in that situation to often.

Do you have a dream part?

I would love to work internationally and to shoot in a foreign language. It would enable a different sort of transformation. You could free yourself from all the forms of socialization that are tied to the language you sepak. I will probably never be able to truly distance myself from my personality in German. Even a little accent can make a huge difference. When I played a Serbian for "Mörderischer Frieden", I found it absolutely fascinating how my entire habitus changed just because of my accent. Another great aspect of it is that you can travel the world while shooting internationally. The two monthlong shoot in Sarajevo, Bosnia was an extraordinary experience. I got to know the country and its people in way that you'd never be able to access as a tourist – if you even traveled to these places in the first place.

(interview: amd & emh,; photos: Esther Suave/HiPi)

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