185 LGBTQ German Actors Stage Mass Coming Out, Call for More Onscreen Diversity

Nearly 200 LGBTQ actors in Germany, including some of the country’s biggest film and TV stars, staged a mass coming-out in a German national newspaper Friday, in a public appeal for more diversity onstage and onscreen. 

The 185 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender actors — among them Babylon Berlin star Udo Samel, and Karin Hanczewski and Mark Waschke from No. 1 German TV drama Tatortpublished a joint manifesto in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung calling for a change in attitudes and more LGBTQ characters in scripts.

“I come from a world that didn’t tell me anything about myself,” ran the headline of the front-page article in Friday’s paper. 

“We identify, among other things, as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, inter and nonbinary,” the manifesto reads. “Until now, we have not been able to talk openly about our private lives without fearing repercussions on our professional lives.” 

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In interviews with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the actors repeat depressingly similar stories of being warned by agents, directors and producers to not come out publicly because it would prevent them from being considered for heterosexual roles.

“I wanted to attend an awards show and walk the red carpet with the woman I love, but I was strongly advised against it, warned it would ruin my career,” says Emma Bading, who played the lead in Play, a TV movie that picked up an International Emmy nomination last year. 

Says Hanczewski, “When we talked about it as a group, it suddenly became clear that this was how we could change something — as a group, as a big group.” 

The performers also decried the overrepresentation of straight white men on- and off-screen in the German industry.

“Of course I want to play characters that were originally written white or hetero,” says Lamin Leroy Gibba, a Black German stage actor. “At the same time, I ask: Where are the Black and queer characters standing in the center of their own stories?”

The issue of diversity and onscreen representation has only recently begun to be discussed seriously in the German industry. Unlike in some other European countries — including in the U.K.in Germany, film and TV industry stakeholders have so far not put in place mandatory diversity requirements in hiring or commissioning. 

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