German-born actor Philipp Christopher plays Baum Arndt in the YouTube Premium’s new, sci-fi thriller series, Origin. I got the chance to talk to Philipp about how he got into acting, what his late acting coach Elizabeth Kemp meant to him, his audition process for Origin, his production company, FilmGym, and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting.
I guess it all started in high school where I joined the theater group. I was a bit of a closeted actor, I would say, since no one in my family was in the arts let alone performing arts. But very early on, I fell in love with the process and the idea of “living” another character. We were lucky to have a very sensitive and open-minded director in the program who let us develop our own plays and characters. It was a nice introduction to the craft.
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
I think my late acting coach, Elizabeth Kemp, is to blame for that. Nowhere else have I received more encouragement and learned more about this profession than in her class. She made you fall in love with every character you worked on and really turned acting into an art form. When she suddenly passed away last year, it seemed as if I had lost my right arm. I had always believed that we would work together one day; she was also a phenomenal actress. But then again, these people never really leave us. I might have lost my arm but deep down she gave me wings, as cheesy as that may sound.
Do you have an acting “bucket list” of things you want to accomplish in your career? If so, what are some of the things on it?
I think all of us always try to get away from being type-cast. My type happens to be “the bad guy”, which I’m fine with as I enjoy those roles. But of course, I am also longing to do something completely different. There is nothing more enjoyable than transforming yourself to the point that you’re unrecognizable. Then, of course, there are so many great actors and actresses I would love to have the privilege to work with. If Dustin Hoffmann or Al Pacino would ask me to do a little scene with them, I might pee my pants.
Let’s talk about Origin. For those who aren’t familiar with the show? How would you describe it?
People describe it as a kind of Lost in Space, but in the end, it’s really its own thing. It’s a show about survival but in Origin, it’s a group of people who are about to start a new life and try to leave their past behind. With all of it’s scary and action-laden elements, the show to me is very much a drama. The characters aboard the ship are fighting to get a second chance in life and that chance is being threatened.
What did you think of the project when you first heard about it? What was your audition process like?
Very classic. I sent in a self-tape to the CD [casting director] in London and a few weeks later was invited to meet Paul W.S. Anderson and the producer from Left Bank, Rob Bullock. Of course, I was very excited about the project as I am a sci-fi geek and I loved the production company behind it. That excitement turned into complete nervousness as me and my agent had to wait about a month to get the final confirmation. And even then, I [didn’t] finally believe it [until] I stepped onto set.
Are you a big fan of the sci-fi genre? How do you think Origin sets itself apart from other sci-fi, space stories?
Yes, I am. But I’m very picky and it has to look good. That was certainly one thing in Origin that set it apart… the look. I just loved every set and location we shot in. There was not a lot of green-screen and pretty much everything inside the spaceships was built inside the studio. I think Origin mixes a lot of genres in a unique way. Like I said before, there’s horror and action, but a lot of drama and even comedy at times through some of the flashbacks. It’s kind of like life itself.
Tell me about your character, Baum Anrdt. What is he like? How does he fit into the story?
Every group needs an outcast, someone repulsive who shakes things up but also brings them back down to earth, symbolically speaking. I think the group might be too cozy and chummy if it wasn’t for Baum, so his main job is to irritate people. However, deep down with every mean streak, there is a very soft side that lingers, which we become a witness of in his flashback episode.
Do you think Baum is similar or different, and in what ways, to the person that Philipp is?
I would say very different. I’m just a nice guy (wink).
The show features such a well-cast and diverse ensemble, featuring people like Natalia Tena, Tom Felton, Sen Mitsuji, Nora Arnezeder, and Johannes Johannesson. What was it like working with everyone?
A blast. We all brought something different to the table in terms of culture, experience, craft, etc. which made this shoot so fulfilling. People would take out their guitars and we would sing songs together, play volleyball with paper cups and play table tennis. Johannes, by the way, can sing the most beautiful Icelandic folk songs. We were all mesmerized.
I also wanted to ask you about the production company you founded, FilmGym. How did that come about? What’s it like being on the other side of the camera?
I actually studied film and majored in directing, another profession that I really love. FilmGym started out as a group of directors in New York wanting to train their “film-muscles”. We would meet twice a month with a group of actors and would just film little scenes or shorts and explore new ways of filmmaking. It was a great and fascinating time. Some really nice projects came out of that group and eventually, we ended up turning it into a production company. Since then, FilmGym has produced mainly commercials, shorts, and music videos but we now want to develop more scripted content and have several projects in the pipeline.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something that you are currently nerding out about?
I’m currently nerding out about dogs. I want to get one but still have to convince my wife. Our 3-year-old son is on board, I think… but it’s all about finding the right one.
Featured Photo Credit: Katja Kuhl