After her “Tatort” break, Aylin Tezel can now be seen in an oppressive crime series. She talks to t-online about martial arts, her ambitions as a filmmaker and her work-life balance.
Aylin Tezel is one of the most exciting character actresses in Germany. She has been a permanent member of the Dortmund “Tatort” for eight years, in 2013 she won the German Acting Award, and two years ago she played alongside US star Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the thriller “7500”.
One of their new projects is called “Unbroken”. A dark crime series that can be seen from February 23 on ZDFneo. In an interview with t-online, she explains why this challenge reminded Tezel of her father and why an office job would not be for the 37-year-old.
t-online: A massive performance that you made in “Unbroken”, Ms. Tezel. Did this role demand a lot from you?
Aylin Tezel: Yes absolutely. I’ve played a lot of very different roles, but “Unbroken” really challenged me on all levels.
You played scenes that were tough.
Yes, physically I was incredibly challenged because Alex is a very combative, aggressive woman. In preparation I got kickboxing lessons in London and later in Cologne, where we shot the series, I did stunt training. I really wanted to do the stunts myself.
Aylin Tezel: She plays in “Unbroken” Alex who lost her child. But not because of a miscarriage – she was kidnapped and woke up in the woods without her baby. (Source: ZDF)
Was your experience with judo and taekwondo helpful during the shooting?
I was really mini when I did these things. (laughs) That was in elementary school. In fact, through my judo experience, I am physically brave and can open up to challenges very well. My dance experiences also suited me.
Among other things, you did ballet for a long time.
Yes, but not just ballet: also street dance, hip-hop, Latin American dances – very different things. If you have already done a lot of physical activity as a child, you feel relatively safe with your body and know that you can rely on it. This is a great gift for me. I am a big fan of flexible, strong bodies.
So an office job wouldn’t be for you?
Under no circumstance. I could never sit at a desk all day using only my head. It is very important for my nature that I also use my body.
Back to “Unbroken”: You said that there was something else that challenged you in particular.
This woman goes into this story with a great trauma. Dealing psychologically with this pressure that drives Alex was a very intense experience.
Was it a relief to be able to play that big again?
What felt like a great freedom to me was that I could approach this role with a certain degree of uncompromisingness. This leading role, which I play, carries the whole series. It was clear to me from the start: If I do that, I have to be brutally honest.
What do you mean?
The role was developed in close consultation with the director, the authors and the production team. I actually took part in this process very early in the production phase and was asked for my opinion. I was able to work on my role, on the background of the character, but also on the dialogues.
The actors from “7500” at the premiere of their film at the 72nd Locarno Film Festival. (Source: Future Image / imago images)
Yes, it is very different from other projects. Often you don’t get the script in your hand until very late, then in the best case you have a reading sample and can try to tweak a word or two.
Why is that?
It always depends on who is behind it. Some directors and writers are very strict and don’t want anything to be changed. With “Unbroken” I had the feeling: either I’m doing it right or not at all. That’s a phrase my father taught me. He preached this very early in my life. That has become my motto in life.
Your father is a doctor. This motto becomes a vital premise.
Exactly, my father always gets things right when he tackles them. That runs through his life as well. This is not only the case for him professionally, but also in his private life. He always does things very well and very precisely. I learned that from him: If I commit myself to something, then I do it correctly. That’s why I don’t choose things that I find mediocre.
So “Unbroken” is completely above average?
In any case, it was clear to me that I would fill this role with all my energy, with my lust and love, and that I would give everything I have. I immerse myself completely in such projects.
At 37 years of age, you already have a remarkable vita. Do you take a break from time to time?
I actually worked as much in the last year as I haven’t in a long time. And that despite Corona, which is certainly unusual. For example, I was writing a script.
Do you also write yourself? What kind of story is that?
“Falling into place” – that will also be my directorial debut. I’m currently preparing that with Weydemann Bros. – they’re the makers of “Systemsprenger”.
What else did you do?
I shot a new film in Israel with the director Pola Beck, with whom I made “Am Himmel der Tag” in 2012.
A sensational success for you back then, among other things, there was the German Acting Award in the young talent category.
The preparation was very intensive and so I had a very fulfilling, but also very challenging year 2020.
Are you a workaholic?
To me, work feels like someone is paying me to do my hobby. What I like to do in my free time: I also get money for it. Is that a workaholic?
As long as you don’t have to suffer from health problems, it sounds more like: Lucky. Some just work to make money and don’t have fun doing it.
You know, when I impersonate roles or write scripts, then my creativity is focused and I find it relaxing. I see it as something incredibly beautiful and not as work.
You sound very ambitious. What are your goals?
The path I am on with this work and as an artist is for me the act of living out this art. For me there is no finished product because I am constantly developing as an artist.
So let’s put it this way: Is your personal development the standard that you set for yourself?
I just think it’s nice to see how you develop more and more as you grow up and to be able to experience and help shape this journey, this exploration, and new adventures, that makes me happy.
The miniseries “Unbroken”, in which Aylin Tezel plays the heavily pregnant detective superintendent Alex, starts on February 23 on ZDFneo and is also available in the ZDF media library. In the six episodes, an oppressive search for Alex’s baby becomes a tour de force that delves deep into the soul of the protagonist and her closest confidante.