Kai Schumann: “I TRY NOT TO SEE THE BIG PICTURE, BUT THE NOW.”
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO: ALEKA WOLLNY
German actor Kai Schumann speaks to Discover Germany, Austria & Switzerland about the meaning of home, his acting career, veganism, staying positive and much more.
DISCOVER GERMANY:How did you become an actor? Has this always been your dream profession?
Kai Schumann: I was 15 and I wanted to turn the world upside down when my wonderful German teacher Christine Schaubs pushed me onto the stage. Actually, she just asked me to come to the theatre class rehearsal instead of terrorising my classmates because of their stuffiness. After my debut as the youngest ‘Judge Adam’ in Der Zerbrochene Krug from Kleist in theatre history at one of the oldest theatres in Germany, the Eckhofftheater in Gotha, my path seemed destined. I could have imagined becoming a German and history teacher as well though. I would have liked to have climbed onto school desks and recited ballads and sparked a love of life and art in my students.
DISCOVER GERMANY: Keyword ‘home’ – which city do you call your home? And what makes it so special for you?
“Home is where the bills come in,” writes Heiner Müller in Ajax zum Beispiel. That is the most concrete description of homeland. In a more romantic sense that is also true, I consider many places to be home. Every time I hear an accent that comes from the so-called new federal states, I immediately feel a sense of home well up in me. The further south, the more I feel that. But Stuttgart, where I spent my first years in theatre, also left me with a feeling of home. And now it’s Cologne and its fun-loving people who make my heart skip a beat. And if you give me some forest, some meadows, some sea; I’m at home everywhere.
DISCOVER GERMANY: Which shoot do you remember fondly and why?
Kai Schumann: That’s like asking which is your favorite child. The time with the ensemble and team of Heldt had a particular family feel to it and was therefore very valuable. But the many other projects I did also had so many valuable moments that I look back on fondly. It would be easier if you would ask me which projects I didn’t like. But, of course, I wouldn’t tell you that.
DISCOVER GERMANY: The Rex Guido film has been in the ARD media library since the end of the year. What can viewers look forward to? Kai Schumann: Rosa von Praunheim’s films are characterised by his unique wit and charm and his will to shape socio-political issues. This film is a compilation of documentary material and, as a counterpoint, the artistic interpretation of these facts in the form of fictional scenes. I find this mix very appealing and quite coherent.
DISCOVER GERMANY: What was it like playing the older Rex Guido? What do you love about him? Kai Schumann: Rex Gildo was a gifted entertainer, dancer and singer. He was a charmer and, as you keep hearing, a wonderful person. But I didn’t play Rex Gildo, I played Ludwig Hirtreiter, his bourgeois alter ego. The man that very few have known. I played him at one point when he seemed to be in deep despair. In a moment when he was partly no longer master of himself. That was very sad.
DISCOVER GERMANY: You are vegan. Why is this diet important to you? Kai Schumann: I just know too much. I know what enormous tortures animals suffer in the modern industrial food production industry. I know the enormously damaging effects the production of animal-based food has on our planet. I know that my private consumption has a decisive influence. And if I knew all this and still consumed animal foods, then I would feel like an active part of oppression, torture, exploitation, rape and destruction. I did not want that.
DISCOVER GERMANY: Every day we get news of species extinction, climate change and pollution. How do you stay positive? To what extent do you fight for a better world? Kai Schumann: Yes, that takes strength. I try not to see the big picture, but the now. This moment. And here in the moment, I always have countless opportunities to change the world. As William Blake wrote: “To see a world in a grain of sand, or heaven in a wildflower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.”
DISCOVER GERMANY: Is there the one dream role that you’d like to play someday? Kai Schumann: I really would like to be a pirate. DISCOVER GERMANY: What dreams and wishes do you have for the future? Kai Schumann: I wish that humanity finds ways to live in peace with itself and the earth. That we might find another great story than the story of money. I want to make films and series and play plays that support this transformation of life. And I just want to entertain. Because that’s my job.
DISCOVER GERMANY: What projects are planned for 2023? Kai Schumann: I’m really excited that we’re going to be shooting another season of Mord mit Aussicht.
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