The German actor and director Milan Peschel has not only made a name for himself in demanding dramas and popular comedy films, but has also been a successful theatre actor and director for over 25 years. He speaks to Discover Germany about his newest film Klassentreffen 1.0, how his home of Berlin has changed in the past few years, and much more.
Born in 1968, Milan decided to do a theatre carpenter apprenticeship at the German State Opera in Berlin after finishing school. This decision later got him a stage technician job at the renowned Volksbühne. The actor recalls: “I always found it quite helpful that I don’t only know the theatre from the stage and that I got to know all the operations around it too. I believe that this experience grounds me and this in turn benefits the credibility of my acting.” After working at the Volksbühne for five years, Milan decided to study at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin to become an actor. However, his love for acting and the theatre were a part of him from much earlier on in his life. “I was in a holiday camp at the age of nine and played in the theatre there. When I went home, I told my mum that I wanted to become an actor. She then organised a spot in a theatre group for children and teenagers – and my love for the theatre was born.”
“Til’s best movie so far”
After roles at Potsdam’s Hans Otto Theatre and Senftenberg’s New Stage, he was an ensemble member at Berlin’s Volksbühne from 1997 to 2008. At the same time, Milan was seen in numerous TV and cinema productions, such as Netto or Schwarze Schafe. A highlight in Milan’s career was the drama Halt Auf Freier Strecke, in which he hauntingly portrayed a father with a brain tumour. Not only did he receive a lot of critical acclaim for this role, but he also received the Bavarian and the German Film Award as Best Leading Actor. “Playing the mortally ill Frank Lange in Halt Auf Freier Strecke has definitely been my biggest challenge as an actor to date – in every respect,” Milan recalls.
Milan began to gain the attention and admiration of the broader public through the successful collaboration with Matthias Schweighöfer. He was seen in the hit films What A Man, Schlussmacher, Nicht Mein Tag, Irre Sind Männlich, Vaterfreuden, Winnetou and Der Nanny, for example. Recently, he filmed Unter Deutschen Betten alongside Veronica Ferres and Heiner Lauterbach. One of his latest projects is Til Schweiger’s new comedy Klassentreffen 1.0, which will come to cinemas this month. Milan says: “In it, Til Schweiger, Samuel Finzi and I play three friends who attend a class reunion 30 years after school. During filming, Til, Samuel and I really did become friends – from the very first moment, the chemistry was right between us and you can definitely notice when watching, that the film was made by three friends. Furthermore, there’s much to laugh about and some really touching moments too. Klassentreffen 1.0 is Til’s best movie so far – and it also comes with a great soundtrack!”
Besides all of Milan’s successes in front of the camera, the all-rounder also stays true to his theatre roots. Fans can regularly see him at Berlin’s Volksbühne, at the Maxim Gorki Theatre or at Hamburg’s Thalia Theatre.
“It needs to be experienced”
Born and bred in Berlin, Milan has always been a ‘true Berliner’. “I have spent my entire life here: my childhood, youth and adult life. In particular, the 80s in East Berlin were a very special time. First of all, I became a man in this period and was also significantly coined by the changes in the GDR. And having such important experiences in one place turns a place of residence into a home. The special thing about Berlin can’t be described, it needs to be experienced,” he smiles, and adds: “Berlin has so many special areas, so many centres, so many opposites and thus, so much to cherish. But my favourite place will always be my home – the place where my family is.”
In the past few decades, Berlin has changed significantly and not only in the positive sense. Rental fees have gone up dramatically and gentrification has become omnipresent. “The city didn’t transform, but changed, and so did we and our living conditions. This doesn’t leave anyone unaffected – neither Berlin. Some things are good, some things aren’t. The fact that capitalism has so much influence in this wonderfully free and chaotic city makes me quite sad and turns Berlin into a different place than it was 20 years ago. But, on the other hand, why should it be any different here than in the rest of the world? In 1972, the band Ton Steine Scherben from West Berlin sang “Everything changes when you change it”. This might be right, but as long as capitalism has this much influence and we allow it, it will also remain the main force of societal change – also in Berlin,” explains Milan.
“It is playing, not working”
As already mentioned, Klassentreffen 1.0 will come to cinemas this month. But what else can we look forward to from the actor? “From October, I will regularly play shoemaker Wilhelm Voigt in Hauptmann von Köpenick at Berlin’s Deutsches Theater. Since I’ve only done theatre as of November 2017, you will have to wait a bit longer for more cinema or TV productions from me, apart from Klassentreffen 1.0, as the films have to be filmed in autumn. But I can already reveal that I will play a desperate father in Tatort, that ZDF will start a new crime series, called Danowski, where I play an inspector, that a new TKKG film is in progress, and that the illusionary giant Herr Tur Tur will also be seen in the second part of Jim Knopf. Oh, and a new Asterix & Obelix film is planned, in which I will lend my voice to the small Gaul,” Milan reveals, and adds: “The beautiful thing about acting is that it is playing, not working. I want to be happy and make other people happy through making them laugh, cry and think – that’s what I want to achieve with acting. However, my biggest wish would be a fairer world in which all people have the same chances to become happy and that we all become smarter and stop destroying our planet.”
Whether on or off stage or in the cinema, in the upcoming months you will not be able to avoid Milan Peschel. Personally, we look forward to it!
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO: JÜRGEN BAUER