Actress Bettina Zimmermann reveals the secret behind one of Germany’s most successful web series.
On an early October morning in Berlin, after having made sure that the respective coffee-cups are filled to the brim, German actress Bettina Zimmermann talks amicably and enthusiastically to us about the Amazon Prime Video series Der Lack ist ab (The Glory is Gone); a family comedy written and directed by her husband Kai Wiesinger. With the couple starring in the respective leads, the script maintains a healthy link to real life.
“It all began with my husband and some friends catching up at an event and mutually revealing that they had trouble reading the fine print lately,” the actress recalls. A fact not due to a general disinterest in legal documents but rather because all participants of the conversation were nearing an age that calls for – well, either very long arms or reading glasses. Enough of a revelation for Kai Wiesinger to write down some ideas which in turn became a successful mini-series about a family of four plus baby, in which both parents discover that, ultimately, the glamour of it all is not the same anymore. “It equals this moment when you realise that you actually have to take care of your own parents for a change. And that moment – when you can’t just go home and let go like in the old times – is the real moment of growing up. This may be around 40, 45, or 50 – but it sure tells you that the tide is changing,” Bettina Zimmermann explains. “For most people, this means a change is imminent; be it their children leaving home or discovering that some goals or plans in life have been neglected for the past 20 years – and are now popping up with vehemence. It doesn’t even have to mean a change within the relationship – even if that’s often the case – but a mutual metamorphosis into a new stage in life.”
The previous three seasons have been a huge success nationally and with the fourth one recently finished, Der Lack ist ab (The Glory is Gone) will be available on Amazon Prime Video as of December, in 200 countries, and with a dubbed version in English. The neatly written dialogues seem so real that “a lot of people ask if they are improvised”, says Bettina Zimmermann proudly. “It is basically a script that’s so worked out in detail that it seems improbably real. And as much as it is a tragicomedy – the viewers will always be left with a good mood in the end.”
With renowned guest stars such as Christiane Paul and Johann von Bülow who play a couple that turns up in each and every episode, pressing the main characters of Hanna (Bettina Zimmermann) and Tom (Kai Wiesinger) to adjust and readjust to yet a new situation, the stories come off as lighthearted as well as unnervingly true. Kai Wiesinger picks up dialogues and topics for the middle aged, and from every source that he has access to. And so seemingly banal, yet existential questions are embedded within the series, such as: “Should I dye my hair to look younger?” or “Why should I keep my abs firm if nobody gets to see them anymore?”, through to “How do you actually write a last will and testament?”. Bettina Zimmermann gets to see every script upfront and likes to contribute by giving advice on the female roles. “Sometimes, it’s just small adjustments, because – as you know – women tend to speak differently among themselves, and since Sex and the City, everybody knows that they actually swear at times!” But she also appreciates the facets that come up, especially through introducing new characters: “Now and again it is only fair that the male lead gets to show his sensitive side and the powerhouse female may appear a tad more vulnerable or fragile than usual, due to the respective circumstances.”
Bettina Zimmermann took her acting training in both Hamburg and Munich, alternating working and learning periods. “It was something like three months of work and then I would carry my hardearned salary to my acting coach,” she recalls. The actress notes that technique isn’t everything: “When you get down to the nitty-gritty, you can always tell which bit simply doesn’t feel true – and then, you have to adjust your text or simply find a completely new line.” Truth for her is at the real core of acting and that attitude is in turn applied to Der Lack ist ab (The Glory is Gone) as well. “Our co-actors appreciate the ‘keep it real’ quality of their lines,” she says “and that way, we get to film ‘an episode a day’, if all goes well.” The fourth season thus only took 13 intense days to finish, and the easy way of distributing will allow the eagerly waiting fans to tune in within a month and a half after filming.
The actor couple live together with Kai Wiesinger’s two daughters from his first marriage, Bettina Zimmermann’s son and, as of two years ago, their first mutual child. There may be some inspiration in their own everyday family life but the Der Lack ist ab (The Glory is Gone) stories are mostly drawn from and inspired by all walks of life and overheard conversations, as well as the media. “What’s great about our series is that it allows for complete creative freedom within the structure of a well written, intense chamber play – which in turn leads to the super-realistic quality of the series.” Each sequence is based on quick-firing dialogue which makes the show even easier to watch on any type of device from Smart TV to mobile phone.
Asked about what makes a perfect Bettina-Zimmermann day, the actress immediately shoots back with the word ‘family’. A family day, played by ear and with ample time together, a day allowed to unfold and lived through together at its own pace to her means perfection: The real life.
TEXT: CORNELIA BRELOWSKI | PHOTOS: 2017 AMAZON.COM INC., OR ITS AFFILIATES