Dutch actor Nils Verkooijen talks about ‘Berlin, Alexanderplatz’

We first heard about the movie ‘Berlin, Alexanderplatz’ – a modern German film adaption adaptation of a classic novel of the same name from 1929 – after reading an article by Alex Billington on his First Showing website. Alex had seen the movie at the Berlin festival in February and loved it, so we were instantly intrigued.

We tracked down Nils Verkooijen, a young Dutch actor who makes an appearance in the film as a very interesting character, and spoke to him in April via Zoom to tell us more about his role and what else he’s been up to.

The chat started with the Berlin film festival – which luckily managed to go ahead before lock-down!

NV: Yeah, we were so lucky!

AM: The reason for our interest in the movie stemmed from our New Year encounter in Berlin where we saw the some of the right sides (and wrong sides) of the tracks which opened our eyes a bit out there. Tell us about the film’s story and your role in it.

NV: Well the story is about an African refugee coming to Berlin to find a new life and I play ‘Berta’. She is a trans woman so that was really interesting to do and I am a Berlin club owner living the Berlin nightlife together with my partner (who is a 50 year old African woman) so there is an interesting relationship going on there. We are lovers, business partners, have open sexual interests so that is very interesting.

Francis comes to the club and meets my partner where they develop a special connection. The pair of us take care of him during a particular time when things go really bad for him.

I am really between Francis and Eva the whole time as an interest in this particular segment of the movie.

AM: A very different kind of role for you?

NV: Yes, a very different kind of role for me.

AM: With it being based in Berlin were you familiar with the city and particulary the clubbing scene there?

NV: Well the funny thing was that it was the first time I had ever been to Berlin, the first time I had ever even seen the nightlife so I had no idea. When I did the self tape for the audition I did it completely dressed up as a trans-woman and the director was like: “This is really what I am looking for, this is what the LGBT and nightlife community is looking like” and it was just my own interpretation of that.

Because I had never experienced the nightlife in Berlin we decided together to go out with the director, Welket (who plays the main character Francis), and some of the crew members. We went out and had a great night out together experiencing some of the clubs – I was kind of like ‘Woah, what is all this’ and the next day I had to play my whole scene.

I liked Berlin a lot and I would love to maybe live or work there one day – it is such an amazing city.

Headline image and image of Nils above by ©BennyStroet

AM: We are so excited to catch the movie when it is released – do you have any ideas when that might be?

NV: I have no idea because I am the only cast member who is based here in Holland.

<Nil’s phone makes a message notification sound>

I just got email update from the director – I will check it out!

<There is a pause as Nils quickly checks his phone>

It looks like it will be 30th July in Germany and Holland.

AM: You have directed a short film – Zondvloed – where (or when might be we able to watch this)?

NV: That is right I recently directed a drama where I did the videos clips and the work on this. Hopefully it is going to be screened here at a Dutch Film Festival but we are also waiting a bit to see how everything works out. We are starting to apply the movie for festivals and short film festivals, there are so many out there so we thought lets wait a little bit and see how everything goes and hopefully we can premier here at the Dutch Film Festival which is September and then send it in to go abroad after that.

AM: What is next for you (after lockdown releases)? Have you much planned?

NV: Well, no not really, it is all blanked out at the moment due to the lock down. I have a few things that I am planning on working on myself as I do direct and produce also some stuff so we will start to develop and shoot after lock down.

I really have no idea. It is a strange feeling but it is okay, everybody is the same and I am sure that whenever the movie is screened it might well open my International possibilities. I am working on my screen tapes in German, English, and just hope that the things will flow a bit more afterwards.

AM: What have you been listening to, reading, and watching during this lockdown period – any recommendations?

NV: I read a really nice book, it is a Spanish book, and the translation in English is ""‘Cold Skin’ by Albert Sánchez Piñol. The book is about a former fighter of the independance war who isolates himself on an island as a weather official in a lighthouse. There is only one guy on this island and they get stuck on the island together and all of sudden really strange things start to happen. It is a thrilling read and a very beautifully written book which I really recommend.

I have seen everyone is watching Netflix but I haven’t watched too much but I am excited to watch ‘Hollywood’ which is coming soon. Also just checking out long movies like ‘The Irishman’ – every time in your normal life you want to check out one of those movies but see how long it is and get put off so now is a great time.

I have also been listening recently to the new Nicholas Jaar album – he is a kind of techno/ambient artist which I really love. I also love listening to Nils Frahm – the combination between techno and ambient music is something I really like. Also the new Floating Points album is great!

AM: Finally, what is your tip for the day

NV: Keep busy – don’t sit still. Both physically and mentally – learn a new skill or go do yoga, or read a book. Especially when you are in the creative industry I think it is very important to not sit still in these very complicated days. just keep everything flowing because when we are out of lock down we will all need to restart out brains again.

‘Berlin, Alexanderplatz’ should be hitting European cinemas as next month so keep an eye out and get watching the movie – we’ll be close behind you!

Interview by: Alex Minnis

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