For the last decade, Raphael Keric has created a reputation in the film and television industry as an actor whose talent for taking on challenging roles and bringing his characters to life with natural ease has captivated audiences across continents.
His ability to speak several languages combined with his versatile European look has led the sought after German actor to land leading roles on an array of projects including the television shows In Gefahr, Gute Zeiten schlechte Zeiten (Good Times Bad Times), and the films Honey Badger, Mirrorball, the dramatic comedy Hi Fonyód! and the upcoming film Der gute Göring (The Good Göring).
Raphael’s diverse range of talent extends far beyond those of the average actor. His charismatic personality on camera has led him to earn a solid following as the television host of Daniel Pook’s Berlinale Short Talks. The same magnetism that he brings to his character driven roles in film ad television has also led him to become a featured actor in an astonishing list of commercials for brands including KFC, Google, Nescafe, Bugatti, Ferrero Duplo, JBL, DHL, Samsung, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nivea and others.
We recently had the chance to catch up with Raphael Keric for an interview where we he opens up about some of his favorite roles, his future plans and how he got to where he is today. To find out more about him make sure to check out our interview below!
Where are you from?
RK: I was born in Berlin. As a child, I lived in both Berlin and Prague, as my mom is Czech/Serbian. I speak English, German, and Czech.
When and how did you get into acting?
RK: After seeing Spielberg’s Hook when I was 4, I knew I had to somehow be involved in film. My first acting job was a featured role on the biggest German soap Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten. My first leading role was Eddie in Fool for Love by Sam Shepard.
Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?
RK: I have had the chance to be involved in the filming of many productions. Some of my most recent films include Hi Fonyod!, Der Gute Göring, and Ich warte auf dich. In Hi Fonyod! I played Elder Taylor, one of two Mormon missionaries who stumbles into a hostage situation. Relying on their faith and trying to convince the brothers to do right thing by prayer and by song, they quickly learn that they might have to pay a price too high for their mission: their own lives.
Der Gute Göring was a period piece set in World War II Germany, and follows the lives of Hermann Göring – imperial field marshal and Adolf Hitler’s right hand – and his forgotten brother Albert Göring, who helped to save countless lives during the Third Reich. I was cast as the American G.I. who is in charge of guarding the former Vice-Chancellor of Germany during his last months in a federal prison, before the Nuremberg trials.
With my producing partner Dan Haag, I had the opportunity to write, direct and produce a film entitled Ich warte auf dich (“I am waiting for you”). The film was well-received at the prestigious 99 Fire Film Festival, which has a jury that includes internationally accomplished artists and industry professionals such as Elyas M’Barek (Who Am I), Ursula Karven (Volcano) or Torsten Koch (Constantin Film).
How about television projects?
RK: Some of my most recent television work includes the shows Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten, In Gefahr, and the series Berlinale Short Talks. In Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten, I played the role of Lee Harper, an American self-made millionaire and app developer, who ends up offering an internship to another one of the show’s leading roles, Zac Klingenthal (Jascha Rust). As a result, millions of fans were heartbroken when my character took Zac back to Silicon Valley.
Like other crime shows such as CSI: Miami, In Gefahr, has a changing storyline every episode. The show focuses around it’s main characters, however. I play the architect Florian Pohlmann. The storyline is that Florian meets “Nele Groth” online and quickly grows fond of her, but he doesn’t know that Nele is in a wheelchair until their first date. After the initial shock, he still falls in love with her, however, Nele does not know that Florian also has a secret of his own…
I have been hosting and producing Berlinale Short Talks since 2012. In the series, I have the opportunity to interview unique and exceptional talent during the world famous Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival). My desire as I hosted these interviews was to go beyond the guest’s film and give viewers an inside view of what art and life as an artist means to people. Berlinale Short Talks is regularly mentioned and featured during the Berlinale International Film Festival.
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
RK: I knew I wanted to do both Der gute Göring and Hi Fonyod! after reading the first few pages. Both had clever written scripts, the dialogue was superb and both required me to do tons of research. TV projects like In Gefahr where I play the romantic lead are equally as rewarding, though aimed at a different audience. It is so rewarding to read what fans of the show write in reviews, and to hear how passionate people get about the development of the storyline and how much they care for their favorite characters.
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
RK: Script, script, script. If the writing is good, the role becomes almost secondary. You can’t fake good dialogue. It’s like a great song, it just flows. I always look for something extraordinary, out of the norm, or different when I read a script. If I find that the writer was able to plant a certain seed, I can’t wait to start the process of preparation and exchange with the director and all the other departments.
The process of preparation and research for roles diving deep into a subject matter is one of the best parts about this job. And preparation is more important than ever: as shooting speed increases, and the days of 100+ takes are over. The more prepared I am, the more space I have on set to find those moments.
I also familiarize myself with the director’s works and try meet with them before accepting a role, if possible. If you are going to create this project, it is going to be together. If there is a mutual understanding for the material and a shared vision about the creative process, you are off to a good start.
Can you list some of the theatre projects you’ve participated in up until now, and the roles you’ve played?
RK: Most of the recent stage roles for which I have been cast involve playing young men who are extremely emotionally troubled. I was Eddie in David Rabe’s Hurlyburly, a drug-addicted, irresponsible, uncomely ferret of a person who is often no more than vaguely confident that he is, in fact, awake. I was Eddie, an alcoholic, in Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love. In Burn This (by Lanford Wilson) I was Pale, who was addicted to both drugs and alcohol. In the film adaptation of Burn This, John Malkovich played the role of Pale.
What has been your favorite project so far and why?
RK: I would have to say it was either Hi Fonyod! or Der gute Göring. During our shoot for Hi Fonyod!, I became great friends with the director Adrian Goiginger and the people at 2010 Entertainment. We all shared the same passion for film and would move mountains to make a scene or a shot happen. They follow the same approach as Werner Herzog, who defined the term “Soldiers of Cinema” which relates to anyone who is willing to take on a journey through heaven and hell of making a film. It’s a style of guerilla filmmaking that gives you a lot of freedom, while at the same time you have to be prepared to expect the unexpected. After the film was complete, hearing what people thought and how they felt about the production was grand. 2010 Entertainment really took a big risk with this dark comedy, and knowing that people enjoyed it made the work even more rewarding.
Der gute Göring was also a great experience. We shot all our scenes in an old but active prison from 1790. Shooting with Francis Fulton Smith and Barnaby Metschurat was also incredible. Because of the very sensitive subject matter of WW2 and the characters of Herman Göring and his brother, Kai Christiansen, the director, made sure us actors had enough time to prepare and gave us room to explore and try different things each take. Additionally, the production spent a lot of time on historical accuracy.
What as been your most challenging role?
RK: Der gute Göring was also my most challenging role. Even though it was a film shoot, the reality of being in costume for an long time in a real prison was not easy. We had to leave all personal items and phones outside and were not able to leave or even step into the courtyard before we wrapped for the day, which just added to the eerie and surreal atmosphere of the location. Between takes, I would watch real inmates in the courtyard, and think about their life stories. I would also think about all the people who had died there during WWII, when the Nazis sentenced many to death by guillotine for petty crimes and breaking made up laws. Now, the prison has a memorial for the Nazi war crimes committed before and during WWII. Receiving a tour of the memorial while dressed in a 1945 US military uniform and surrounded by cast mates was something I would have never had the chance to do were it not for film.
What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?
RK: If I had to choose a genre it would be drama, paired with very dark humour, that is! I love films that surprise people. There is nothing worse than a film that shows the audience where to go, which corner to turn and what to expect. Exposition on a silver platter needs to be avoided. If you leave the theatre and you don’t know exactly what to feel, but you know that you have just experienced something extraordinary, then I have achieved my personal goal as an actor.
What separates you from other actors? What are your strongest qualities?
RK: Growing up in different European countries and speaking multiple languages automatically separates you from a lot of actors and artists in the US.
I also go into projects without any expectations. Being in the moment is important: I love to experiment. Even when something doesn’t make sense at first, maybe it will later in editing, as long as I can trust the director and we share the same passion for the project, there a almost no limits to a performance. That’s why I love actors like Joaquin Phoenix or Christian Bale, who take huge risks, which don’t always pay off. They don’t do it because they have to, but because the only way to learn and grow is to take chances.
Have you been in any commercials or music videos?
RK: Commercials are a huge part of my career. As much as I love the preparation and research that goes into a role for a film, TV or a play, there is this beautiful challenge in commercial work. Usually you only have one or two days of shooting, in a exotic remote location on a different continent for merely 30 seconds of finished product. Everything has to be perfect, the commercial relies on your performance only and there is not much time to experiment. The technicality of it is challenging but so much fun.
A couple of the most memorable commercials I have shot were for Samsung Galaxy and Jacobs Monarch Coffee. For the Samsung shoot, we spent three days in Vancouver, Canada, and filmed in more than 10 locations, from art galleries to rooftops. The incredible director, Christian Lyngbye, would take me through town and we would stop at interesting locations, jump out and improvise with the camera. I had so fun with that amount of freedom to experiment and really perform. When I shot this commercial, James Franco was the “the face of Samsung” in the US. I was honored to be featured in an international Samsung commercial during this time.
For the Jacobs Monarch Coffee shoot, we spent 4 days in Capetown, South Africa. I played a character who was sleepwalking and following the smell of fresh coffee. One of our shots included walking through an open window of a second story balcony, all while having my eyes closed pretending to be sleepwalking. The production planned on having a stunt performer stepping into my place for this elaborate shot, but I refused and had an incredible time doing this scene, secured by a single harness and wire connected to a 40 ton heavy and 95 feet high boom crane, basically acting as a certified stuntman. When do you get to do that in real life??
What projects do you have coming up?
RK: Currently, I am working on an untitled independent feature directed by Marc Cleary which is in pre-production. I am also shooting the film An Actors Life For Me, written by Anthony Montes, which follows two best childhood friends who try to make it in Hollywood.
What are your plans for the future?
RK: To not have any white space in my schedule! If I don’t act, I want to direct. If I don’t direct, I want to produce. Best-case scenario, I get to have complete creative control and do it all at once on the same project.
What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?
RK: I would like to try out as many things as possible, and take huge risks, even if the audience doesn’t see the value at first. I would rather end up saying ‘well that wasn’t the best idea’ than wondering what might have happened. I would like to collaborate, and create a team of fellow artists, actors, directors, writers and producers who follow the same goals. The priority is always the film, the product, the performance. When people put all their personal stuff aside – their egos, their private problems – and give it their all, you come together and create something wonderful.
What kind of training have you done?
RK: I have studied acting in both New York and Los Angeles. I spent more than a year at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, and I studied at a conservatory program, as well as James Franco’s Studio 4. I also had private acting coaching at the Bernard Hiller Studio, and private voice and speech lessons from Amy Chaffee.
I studied the Chekhov Technique in a David Zinder workshop, and I have been studying the Meisner Technique, developed by the American actor Sanford Meisner, for about 8 years now.
Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?
RK: Actors have the opportunity – the honor – to impact lives forever if they choose material that stands for something. Also, the relationships that develop with the people on set… They become a second family: you grow very close, there is an intimacy, and then it begins again with a new project and a different group of people. In each project, anything can happen – as great art should do! The adventure, the process, the insecurity, the difficulty… It all really makes you feel alive and in the present moment.