Known for her roles in the likes of crime series Mit Herz und Handschellen, the award-winning cinema comedy Alles auf Zucker, Til Schweiger’s Keinohrhasen or in the Austrian cult series 4 Frauen und ein Todesfall, Elena Uhlig has become one of Germany’s most versatile actresses. And as if that wouldn’t already be enough, she has just recently released her second book. She speaks to Discover Germany about the meaning of ‘home’, her new book, the diet and fitness craze in the German film industry and much more.
Born in Düsseldorf, actress Elena Uhlig soon knew what she wanted. “Actually, I’ve never really had a different career aspiration than becoming an actress – with maybe the exception of becoming a taxi driver until I was five years old, because taxi drivers always had such snazzy cars. During acting I love that I’m able to slip into entirely different roles and thus, can experience a different kind of life for a certain period of time. It’s stupid, however, that I’ve never gotten to play a princess until now,” she laughs.
After completing her acting training at the renowned Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts Berlin, she soon gained fame through playing the ambitious detective Nina Metz in Sat. 1’s crime series Mit Herz und Handschellen. In 2001, she celebrated her screen debut in the German-Czech horror film Swimming Pool – Der Tod feiert mit. Other great roles followed: for example, she played in the award-winning cinema comedy Alles auf Zucker by Dani Levy alongside the likes of Henry Hübchen and Hannelore Elsner. Furthermore, she was seen in Grüsse aus Kaschmir, Der Untergang der Pamir, in Til Schweiger’s Keinohrhasen, in Das Geheimnis der Wale alongside Veronica Ferres, in Die Wanderhure and Trau niemals deiner Frau, and in 2014, she got the lead role in the ZDF series Die Familiendetektivin. Since 2015, she can be seen in the Austrian cult series 4 Frauen und ein Todesfall and most recently, she got a role in the history film Die Ketzerbraut. This comprehensive list shows that Uhlig is a rather versatile actress and embraces a variety of different genres. She explains: “When choosing my roles I look at the fun factor and see where I can find an approach to playing a role. And ultimately, playing the role needs to touch my heart.”
One role that she would like to get at some point in her career is that of playing a man. “After all, I still haven’t understood this species up until this day,” she laughs. The role that has stuck in Uhlig’s mind the most, is her first big role in the comedy Problemzone Mann. She recollects: “It already dealt with the diet craze back then. The role is 17 years old but is still highly topical. Up until this day, I haven’t played another such vulnerable, sensitive person as Cleo.”
Fighting the diet and fitness craze
Speaking of the diet craze – the mother of four children has also become a passionate author. The actress’s humorous, yet serious way in which to speak about important topics like the one mentioned below, is what makes her books so popular all over the DACH region. For example, her first book Mein Gewicht und ich – eine Liebesgeschichte in großen Portionen which opposes the omnipresent fitness craze and deals with her fight against her own weight in a humorous way climbed onto the Spiegel bestseller list immediately. Of course, we want to know what her worst diet was. She answers: “As a diet is always bad, you can’t really outweigh the bad with the bad. But the worst was and still is that I participated in the diet craze for over 20 years.”
She adds: “Unfortunately, the beauty ideal in the German film industry has remained the same over the past few years. As long as we aren’t allowed to return to curves and femininity, the fashion industry remains to oppose it too and nothing changes in our society – above all, Instagram in the social media craze – it will probably also remain like this in the film industry.” Even though Uhlig is not too optimistic about the film industry’s outlooks, she has some general tips for anyone out there that wants to feel their best in their own bodies and not follow all new diets: “Simply live. That actually works quite well if only you allow it and you accept yourself just the way you are. Oh god, I almost sound like a preacher,” Uhlig laughs.
Recently, Uhlig published her second book which is called Qualle vor Malle – Urlaub mit Familie, Chaos inclusive. This time, Uhlig tells the hilarious story of her own family vacation in Mallorca, which includes buffet battles, beaches filled with jellyfish and free-spirited children with a high degree of self-mockery. “I have collected so many chaotic and bizarre anecdotes on vacation that I only had to compile them. After all, life still writes the best stories and our family holidays are simply worth telling,” she laughs and adds: “Readers can look forward to a high degree of chaos, funny vacation anecdotes and a rather not perfect family. But in particular, to stories that can be experienced first-hand and stories that one might have experienced in the same or similar way before. And you will notice that you aren’t alone with your holiday problems.”
Longing for ‘home’
Born in Düsseldorf and having studied and lived in Berlin, Uhlig now lives at Lake Traunsee in Austria with her husband and her four children. We want to know what the term ‘home’ means for her. “That’s a big question, a very big one! And one of the greatest yearnings that I have. I have been searching for ‘home’ for quite a few years. My profession has uprooted me at an early stage and ultimately, my ‘home’ is probably not place-bound for me and simply where my family is,” Uhlig explains. For those wanting to see the actress on screen, the new movie Der Junge muss an die Frische Luft will come to cinemas this year. In this screen adaption of Hape Kerkeling’s book, Uhlig will play aunt Gertrud. “You can definitely look forward to me playing that role! And also to the WDR improvisation film Klassentreffen. Furthermore, I’m currently writing my third book which I have to hand in by the end of August. Help! And then you can also visit me at readings, of course,” she smiles. And what other dreams and wishes does she still have after already achieving so much? “Well, becoming a millionaire,” she laughs and adds: “Jokes aside. I wish that my husband and I can bring up our children in a way that they are able to stand on their own feet and that we both still have a long time remaining to accompany them during that. And that our humour for the other doesn’t get lost. And maybe I will manage someday to finally call a place ‘home’.”
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO: THOMAS DASHUBER