By Artsvi Bakhchinyan
Special to Mirror-Spectator
YEREVAN/BERLIN — German-Armenian actor Saro Emirze was born in 1977 in Frankfurt am Main. Between 1999 and 2003 he studied acting at the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Academy of Music and Theatre in Leipzig and in 2001-2003 at the Staatsschauspiel Dresden (Studio). In 2002, while still a student, he appeared on stage at the Staatsschauspiel Dresden in a leading role in production of “Disco.”
In 2003, Emirze became a permanent member of the ensemble of the Theater Junge Generation in Dresden, where he acted in numerous plays. In 2008, he moved to Zittau, where he was permanently engaged at the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Theater, before he became a member of the ensemble of the Plauen-Zwickau Theatre, where he performed from 2009 to 2012. There he starred on stage under the direction of Matthias Thieme in “Danton’s Death” by Georg Büchner or as Meckie Messer in “The Threepenny Opera” by Berthold Brecht).
In 2012, Emirze moved to Berlin. Since 2014, he has worked regularly with the Shakespeare und Partner theatre company and the New Globe Theatre. His credits include the title role in “Hamlet” as well as parts in “The Robbers” by Friedrich Schiller and “King Lear.” In 2017 his performance of several roles and as a congenial pop singer impressed the audience of the play “India” under the direction of Kai Schrickel. He then went on to play the double role of Molière and Scapin in “Scapin the Schemer” by Molière).
In addition to his work in theatre, Saro Emirze can also be seen regularly in film and television productions. He played various roles in the popular crime format SOKO, and could be seen in the ZDF public broadcast-series Wilsberg. He also appeared in the internationally acclaimed series Bad Banks. Moreover he is known to a wide audience thanks to his continuous role in the most successful German crime series Tatort Schwarzwald.
Dear Saro, along with theater you acted in more than 26 TV and film productions. Do you prefer the stage or the screen?
I studied acting at a school which focused on theater. After that, I worked at a variety of theaters in Germany for more than 15 years. During that time I rarely acted in films. So, of course, I feel more at home in the theater. When being on stage, I have a better perception of my effect and my acting. Also, since it is more familiar to me, I feel more secure on stage.
What I love most about it is the fact that you get an immediate feedback and reaction from your audience. When acting in films you sometimes have to wait for more than a year until the audience can judge the result.
Another big difference, compared to acting on stage, is that you cannot change any of your performance once the scene is shot. In the theater, you always have the chance to constantly improve your performance from show to show. That is something I really like about theater. As a film actor you don‘t have control over the result — how the movie will be cut, what the audience will get to see from my performance in the end, is not in my hands. This is something I still have to get used to.
Working with colleagues in film is also different: During the making of a film, you usually spend lots of time with the whole crew, you grow closer with them; it is almost like a family for a short period of time. But once the movie is shot, you don‘t see anyone of the team anymore. That‘s different in theater and I like it better.
But still, if I had to decide, I would choose to work in films. Since my childhood I was addicted to movies, even obsessed.
This love for films and cinema I owe completely to my father. Besides his passion for making music, he was also a fiery “movie aficionado.” From an early age I started watching movies. On Fridays, my father used to bring along 3 or 4 movies for the weekend, which we obsessively absorbed together. This certainly had a huge influence on my interest in films and acting…
They say every actor dreams about playing Hamlet. You did it first in 2015. What kind of experience was that?
It is a great gift to play Hamlet. The role has so many facets, so much to play — tragedy, comedy, and both at the same time and so much more. At each performance I was on stage for more than three hours, so I could let it all out and let off steam. This was a great experience and also very challenging. Back in 2003, I had already worked on that play. It was my first role, I played Laertes, in my first theater engagement. During that time my father died, on the day of the premiere. So, this play is very special to me.
In Western films actors of other ethnicity usually play mainly ethnic roles. I assume this does not concern you — your appearance would permit you to play any roles — am I right?
Yes, that‘s right. Already as a child I was rather light-skinned with blond hair. This allowed me to also play a German on German television, or a French and so on. But it also happened that I was cast for the role of an Armenian, but did not get the role, because I obviously did not look “Armenian enough,” which of course really annoyed me.
You come from an Armenian family from Turkey. It is always interesting to know the family story, roots…
My great-grandparents are from Prkenik village and Egin (Akn). My grandparents, as well as my parents, were born and raised in Istanbul.
In the 1970s, my parents emigrated to Germany. My mother had attended an Austrian school in Istanbul and therefore she could speak German. My father was very open-minded and didn‘t want to live in Turkey anymore and raise his children there.
We have seen two films on Turkish-Armenian family lives in Germany — “Meine Mutter, mein Bruder und ich!” (My Mother, My Brother and Me!) by Nuran Calis and “Anduni – Fremde Heimat” (Anduni – Foreign Home) by Samira Radsi. Was your family experience similar to those in the films?
I know both directors and I have also auditioned for one of these films. Unfortunately, I didn‘t get the role, because I didn‘t look Armenian enough. I remember I was very angry about it. But that’s a long time ago. So, I haven‘t seen the films yet, but I will surely watch them when the opportunity arises.
Your surname makes me associations with diver Sirvard Emirzyan from Yerevan was the youngest athlete on the USSR Olympic team back in 1980, as well as German musician Aren Emirze, who tried to breathe new life into Western Armenian poetry by composing music to them. Are you connected with them?
Aren is my big brother. We have a very good relationship and are always up-to-date with the other one‘s life. Currently, he is working on several albums, including a German-Armenian project. He will be recording a German-Armenian song with one of the most famous German singer/songwriters.
Do you have favorite Armenian artistes?
I love William Saroyan, not just because of his name. He is an amazing writer, who surprisingly had attended a concert of my father, Karekin, in the 1960s when he performed with his band in Istanbul… crazy story but true. So Saroyan and for sure, Gomidas, whose music always gives me goose bumps and let my tears flow when I hear his music in an Armenian church.
In 2014 you read some excerpts from Romanian-Armenian author Varujan Vosganian’s novel The Book of Whispers at the Armenian Cultural Union in Cologne. How involved are you in the Armenian community in Germany?
There is an Armenian cultural association in Frankfurt, where I was born and raised. My parents used to go there with us frequently; we also regularly went to Armenian church fairs, because my father was very involved there. He sang in the church choir and often gave concerts at several events.
At the moment I live in Berlin and unfortunately I don‘t have any contact with Armenians there. But I am always very happy when I meet someone by coincidence and can speak Armenian.
Have you ever been in Armenia?
Once, in 2004, with my brother. Armenia seems very peaceful to me, which unites all the beautiful places of Europe in one small country. I loved Dilijan very much; it is quiet and soulful with a very artistic expression. Beautiful nature and for sure the place I will write my autobiography when I am 64, to quote the Beatles, one of my favorite bands, by the way. I felt safe and relaxed when I was in Yerevan. For sure it is a place I would let my future kids go out alone without worrying. But first I have to be lucky and find the woman of my life if my acting career allows it… My mother always hoped and wanted me to find an Armenian soulmate to marry, which is pretty tough to find in Germany where Armenians are a very small community. Maybe I will find her with this interview (laughing). Hey, Armenian women out there, if you are interested please contact my mother first… after her approval I am up for it!
And what was your last big project for the last year?
Well, I got a supporting role of a Polish Jew in a Hollywood movie. I lost 30 pounds to play that part. We started shooting from February till June 2019, in Budapest and New York. The director was Barry Levinson, who won the Oscar for “Rain Man.” The movie will be released this year under the name of “Harry Haft.”