The name ‘Karoline Herfurth’ is known all over Germany and beyond. The charismatic, versatile German actress is one of the most outstanding talents of her generation. She played the Plum Girl in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, played leading roles in various German box office hits such as Fack Ju Göhte or Vincent Wants to Sea and recently celebrated her film director debut. Discover Germany speaks to Karoline about her latest projects, her love for Berlin and more.
At the young age of 15, Karoline was discovered by a casting director at her school – becoming an actor was thus more of a lucky coincidence. She decided to go to the casting and, in the end, got a small role in the teen movie Crazy. Other roles in Mädchen, Mädchen, Big Girls Don’t Cry and several TV productions and independent German films followed. After working with Karoline, Dennis Gansel, the director of Mädchen, Mädchen, said she was a huge talent with big prospects for the future – and how right he was. The actress soon played leading roles in hit movies like Berlin ‘36, Vincent Wants to Sea, Fack Ju Göhte, the international blockbuster Perfume: The Story of a Murderer alongside Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman, and the Academy Award Best Picture nominee The Reader in which she co-starred with Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.
Humbleness and independence
When asked about her beginnings, Karoline remembers: “It was not clear at all for me [that I wanted to become an actor] at first. To be honest, I wanted to become everything you can think of, from a ballet dancer (even though I have never really danced) to a paediatrician. Only in drama school, I have inwardly opted for acting.” Speaking of drama school, it should be noted that Karoline decided to attend Berlin’s prestigious Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts. So, does she think it is essential for a great actor to attend drama school? “Not at all. Some actors are wonderful without ever having studied acting. But I would always recommend it as it definitely extended my spectre. And especially the language training was crucially important for me. But one doesn’t essentially need to go to drama school for this,” Karoline explains. Despite her huge success, the actress, who turns 33 this year, remains humble: “I have watched the entire process about what has happened with amazed eyes. I have rather thought that everything would be over again tomorrow and I still keep this mindset today. This humbleness and independence is essential and I don’t ever want to lose it.” Thus, it seems no wonder that Karoline also studies politics besides her acting jobs. She says: “To be honest, at times, it isn’t even possible [to study at the same time as doing acting jobs]. However, I love the subjects of politics and sociology. The course has strongly changed my world view and I really hope that I will be able to finish my degree.”
A real Berliner
Born in Berlin in the former East Germany to a psychologist mother and a geriatric nurse practitioner father, Karoline is a real Berliner. Therefore, it does not come as a huge surprise that she still resides in the city today. She cannot really imagine moving anywhere else. “Honestly, I can hardly imagine. Maybe for a certain period of time I’d like to at some point. But in the long term, I’m simply too deeply rooted in this city. I love its mentality, its diversity and its tolerance. I always have the feeling that everyone finds their place in Berlin,” Karoline smiles. We want to know whether that’s the reason for her to reject some offers from Hollywood too? “Well, I was and still am very happy here at home. Also with the possibilities and opportunities I have here. But generally, I don’t exclude anything – it is all a question of timing in the end,” she explains.
We are quite glad she has not left the country yet, as her recent national projects are really worth a watch. For example, there is SMS für Dich, a romance that was released in September 2016. While playing a leading role alongside Nora Tschirner, Karoline also celebrated her directing debut with this film. However, we do not need to worry that she will disappear behind the screen for good any time soon. “I hope that I never have to decide [between being on screen and behind the screen]. When I’m not able to act for a long time, I get an aching longing for it. And being a director fulfils me in every single cell. I have never been as satisfactorily busy as during my directing debut. I wouldn’t want to give away any of the two.”
Furthermore, You Are Wanted, the first German original series on Amazon Prime aired on 17 March 2017. Alongside Matthias Schweighöfer and Alexandra Maria Lara, Karoline was seen in the six-part thriller series about data security and espionage. As the example of Amazon Prime shows, more and more streaming services are becoming increasingly popular. We wanted to know from an actress like Karoline how she feels about this and whether they change the classical TV format or the film industry? “It certainly extends the offering. Maybe there is simply less of a large, uniform audience and much more special, particular groups,” she explains.
‘I don’t really have a favourite role’
As one of Germany’s most versatile actresses, Karoline Herfurth was seen acting in pretty much every genre from exciting thriller to teen movie, drama or comedy. She says: “I’m interested in everything that kind of heads into the fantastical direction – films like the creations of Baz Luhrmann or Tim Burton. But I would also love to play my heart out again in a small arthouse film. I don’t really have a favourite role. From each role, I was able to learn something important.”
But what can we look forward to from Karoline in the near future? Well, some exciting projects are planned. For instance, she will play the lead role in the children’s movie Die kleine Hexe, which will be coming to German cinemas in January 2018. Apart from that, she reveals that she will take a small break so that she can prepare for her next few projects in peace. After having achieved so much already in her life, what are Karoline’s dreams and wishes for the future? She smiles: “At the moment, I want to take a break. I want to travel. And then I want to be able to direct again. And to be able to act my heart out. Then I’m happy.”
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF I PHOTO: ANNE WILK