HomeTelevisionSoaps US Townhall RealStories presents: Thore Schölermann and Jo Weil of VERBOTENE LIEBE
US Townhall RealStories presents: Thore Schölermann and Jo Weil of VERBOTENE LIEBE
Written by Scott Katz
Monday, 13 September 2010 01:59
As same-sex marriage continues to fuel debate in the United States, over in Germany one of their more popular soap operas has tackled the subject head on with a highly-publicized wedding between two of its major characters. Same-sex weddings are not exactly a novel concept even in American television, but what made this one more notable is that it took place in a church, and was performed by what seemed to be a member of the clergy.
While same-sex marriage is legal in ten countries around the world and in five states and the District of Columbia within the United States, it is actually not currently allowed in Germany. However, Germany does recognize Registered Partnerships for same-sex couples.
Earlier this month, on Friday, September 3, two popular male characters from the long-running German soap, Verbotene Liebe(Forbidden Love), were married in a church wedding. Christian Mann (played by Thore Schölermann) was wed to Oliver "Olli" Sabel (played by Jo Weil) in the culmination of a long storyline that traced their relationship from acquaintances to friends to lovers.
In a time where American soap operas such as One Life to Live dropped its gay characters, attributing them to the decline in the show's ratings, it's interesting to see what's happening across the ocean. We spoke to the actors about their characters and storyline in late August in an audio interview translated and transcribed below. The actors recorded their answers in their native German so if you want to listen to what they sound like, even if you don't speak German, the audio clips are posted at the end of this article. Enjoy!
THORE SCHÖLERMANN & JO WEIL:Hi American friends of Verbotene Liebe! This is our first radio interview for the USA, but we thought we'll do it in our first language – German. Here are Jo and Thore – and today you're only listening to our voices and don't see our faces [Editor's note: Don't worry, we have pictures of the guys throughout this article that were taken on the set of their characters' wedding]. Time to concentrate on our great answers – let's get started!
USTOWNHALL: How old are you both?
THORE: I'm a lot younger than Jo - I'm only 25 and Jo just turned 33, and I'm always happy to underline that!
JO: Did I already mention that I sometimes hate Thore? (laughs)
USTOWNHALL: Which American actors or film directors do you like?
THORE: I have a problem with names, but I like the actor from Lost with the long hair... he is a cool guy... what's his name again?
JO: Josh Holloway?
THORE: Yes, Josh Holloway – thank you Jo!
USTOWNHALL: Was there any uproar among the audience or in the news media about the fact that your chracters are seemingly about to be married in a church?
THORE: We got almost only positive reactions, be it newspapers or TV. But during the shooting of the wedding there was a guy who didn't want us to shoot in a church. He tried to boycott the shoot and we had to pause for one or one and a half hours. The guy just didn't want two men to marry in a church – so you see that also in tolerant Germany there's some catching-up to do. So I'm even more happy that we went through with the shooting!
USTOWNHALL: How does the role you play influence your personality and vice versa?
THORE: If you play in a TV series for such a long time – you always get a little bit influenced by the character you play and also vice versa. That's give and take. What more can I say... to be more precise: I transferred my love for horses to my character Christian – I just told our authors that I love horseback riding. And the character made me get around better with Jo (*irony) – no I'm only joking! We liked each other before!
USTOWNHALL: Have you heard from the gay fans of your show, and what have been their reactions to your characters?
THORE: To be honest, I don't ask my fans if they're gay or not – I make no difference. But I heard from the ones who told me they were gay that they could really identify with our roles – especially when Christian had his coming out. Almost all reactions were positive. But like I said, I don't ask my fans if they are gay because it doesn't make a difference for me.
USTOWNHALL: Now, let's hear from Jo a bit. Jo, besides VL, what other media have you acted in? e.g. film, theatre, other television shows?
JO: Before I came to Verbotene Liebe I was visiting an acting school – and then I was asked to play Olli. Then I worked some years for Verbotene Liebe before leaving the series to play at a theater, do some synchronizing and work for some other TV series. But I've been back at Verbotene Liebe now for almost four years. So Verbotene Liebe is a big part of my life.
USTOWNHALL: What would you like to do in your career in terms of roles to play or media you'd like to act in?
JO: That's an exciting question. I think it's difficult to tell what you want to do in the future because you can't influence it very much in our job. In general, I would like to go on working for a TV series, because I like the genre. Thore and I both have a favorite series in which we would like to play one day: Thore's favorite is Forsthaus Falkenau, mine is called Traumschiff – it's something like Love Boat and Thore's is a little bit like Dawson's Creek without all the cool characters and only with the creek ;-)
I just love to be an actor and I will let myself be surprised what's coming next. But one thing is for sure – I would love to work in America one day!
USTOWNHALL: How long have you been on VL?
JO:Verbotene Liebe is a big part of my life. I've been playing Olli for almost ten years now – with a break of five years. But I've almost reached my 6th year playing Olli continuously – that's amazing. The role will always be a part of my life. We experienced a lot together – good things and bad things. So, meanwhile, Olli became a part of me in a way.
USTOWNHALL: How far in advance were you told that your characters would be entering into a same -sex relationship, and what were your initial reactions to that?
JO: I got a telephone call in 2007 and was asked to come back to Verbotene Liebe. And that was when they also told me about the storyline of "Christian & Olli." I watched some episodes then to see who Thore is and what he does. And I thought "Yes, that's a good story, and I want to do it". And so, I came back to VL and knew about the future storyline before Thore knew about it.
THORE: Oh, really?
JO: I think we almost got the news at the same time. And now the story lasts for more than three years – for a daily TV series that almost eternity! In real life we probably would be together for 57 years now ;-)
USTOWNHALL: Is there any story that has not been done for your characters that you wish the writers would do?
JO: Now I have to answer in favor of Thore, because he has a big dream: He wants Olli & Christian to take over the castle one day! And I'm also ok with that. We take over the castle, the Lahnstein family is our staff and we will enjoy the good life. Wealth, luxury, a big nightclub in the castle's basement and Thore is allowed to go hunting and horseback riding all day long in his role as "Christian." That's how we wish it to happen. We don't know if it will come true, but we are allowed to dream, aren't we?
USTOWNHALL: Guys, it's been a real pleasure getting to speak to you and helping to introduce you to the American audience – even by long distance.
THORE: It was very nice talking to you today. And I hope next time you can also see us, not only hear us. What do you think, Jo?
JO: I would be very happy – but it was really cool being on the radio. And I hope we see each other soon when we come over and visit you in the US. See you! Bye!
Verbotene Liebe was created by Reg Watson and premiered on the German television network, Das Erste ("The First"), on January 2, 1995. It airs each weekday at 6 PM. In 2005, it won the Golden Rose award in the soap opera category from the international television festival, Rose d'Or. Clips of the show are all over YouTube, often subtitled in English by fans, for those viewers outside Germany who want to see more.
Following are the original German audio clips we received from actors Thore and Jo that were translated by the press office of Verbotene Liebe.