When the first season of the German series Dark was added to Netflix in 2017, it quickly became a binge-worthy favourite that knitted together mystery, family affairs and time travel. Although watching Dark can be likened to completing your morning Sudoku, one of the most attractive qualities of the brain-rattling series is the exploration of German landscapes. The fictional town of Winden was shot in and around Berlin. For example, the high school that Jonas and his friends attend was filmed at the Reinfelder-Schule in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf neighbourhood. The woods and cave in bordering districts Brandenburg and Potsdam.
Hamburg-native Moritz Jahn is best known for his role as one of the show’s protagonists Magnus Nielsen. With an impressive IMDB history that dates back to 2010, many young Germans would have grown up recognising him from TV shows such as ‘Die Pfeffercörner’, ‘Prinz und Bottel’ and later on, ‘Tatort’.
Although acting is his calling, Moritz has been unearthing his musical capabilities. What was earlier just a passion project has become a definitive part of his career – on the 1st of April this year, his new album Soliloquy was released and followed by a German tour that kicked off at Monarch, Kottbusser Tor. The pop album released on Frische Luft Music includes twelve bouncy tracks that jump between English and German.
Following his album tour and awaited vinyl release of Soliloquy, we caught up with Moritz Jahn over a cocktail in Rosenthaler Platz.
Œ: Congratulations on finishing your German tour, how did it go? Where was your favourite city you played?
Moritz: Every single city was pretty special because we were playing such small venues that had been closed for two years. It was just amazing to be back on stage and perform in front of a real crowd. They were all lovely small venues in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. And then in the smaller cities like Dresden. They’re all pretty unique venues run by special people – we were welcomed warmly by every one of them. But for sure, the kickoff in Berlin and the finale in Hamburg in front of our home crowd were super nice!
Œ: The tour was to celebrate your new album Soliloquy, what’s it about? How long have you been working on it?
Moritz: Ahhh, well… It’s about me and my opinions, my thoughts, which I’ve been stuck with during this pandemic. All the interactions I’ve had with creative people over the last years. I wrote some ideas for songs before January 2021, but I think I wrote my first German song before Christmas when I was doing the Quarantine at my parents’ house, just before visiting my grandma. That was the first time I presented it to my producer in January and that’s when we started working on something that became an album. Then it was so fast how it all came together even though I was gone for two months for a BBC shooting in the UK, but we kept working over the distance.
Œ: Have you always been musical or was this a later calling?
Moritz: Well I’d say I’ve always been interested in music somehow. I started finding bands that I could play music with around the same time I started as an actor, around twelve years old. Back at the time I had just started learning to play the drums and I was really bad at it, I did not rehearse *laughs* – but I knew I wanted to sing or play the guitar. The first few times I was on stage, I thought it would look way cooler if I held a bass but I couldn’t play! *laughs* So I was actually on stage moving around with it, the bass tuned down. And then I started teaching myself guitar with my mum’s old songbook properly at like fifteen/sixteen.
Three to four years ago, I was working on a movie called Offline and I met some awesome producers, who were working on the soundtrack. I expressed that I wanted to make some music and they found me a little label and management, Frishe Luft. After that movie, we started working together. We came out with two EPs and then another EP with a long title and now, we finally have the album.
Œ: Besides your musical endeavours you’re known mainly for your role as Magnus Nielsen in the hit Netflix series Dark. When you think of yourself, would you consider yourself an actor before a musician?
Moritz: Well luckily I don’t have to choose! Whatever I’m doing that day I like to be. I’m a musical actor and an acting musician. I love doing both and in both categories, there is still a lot to come and look forward to. But, I have been working professionally on film sets since twelve, I’ve been doing this for *counts* fifteen years or something… I feel somehow this is my job.
Music-wise, I can just hangout with friends and play as a kind of hobby, whereas I couldn’t imagine myself doing acting or shooting a movie as a hobby. So I guess mostly I consider myself an actor.
Œ: After 3 seasons, it was recorded that Dark was 3.4x as popular as other series produced in Germany – with most viewers coming from other parts of the world. Were you expecting the series to be that successful?
Moritz: YES *laughs* Noooo, probably not. I was so excited to work on this – it was the first German Netflix series! It felt truly special to hold a script in your hands that said ‘Netflix’ on it. But as I started reading it, all of us were so passionate about it because the creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar put so much effort and work into this story. And since it was their chance to make the first proper German Netflix series, I had this strong feeling that it was going to be good.
As I was travelling, it was amazing to see how it connected with people worldwide – to see people from other parts of the world connecting with this story that Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odarcame up with from Germany is just crazy.
Œ: Dark was centred around the abstract theme of time travelling in 33 year cycles. In the last season this even evolved to parallel-dimensions… How do you prepare for such an abstract role when you have no real-life experience of it?
Moritz: It was so long ago I can hardly remember *ponders* I must admit it was quite complicated, especially the first season, where you didn’t know all the names and faces yet, compared to the second or third – where we already knew them and could envision them. We had to run through the script a good few times with our showrunners, luckily we had them on set and could ask them questions whenever we wanted.
So there was a lot of mapping it on the wall with a lot of colourful sticky notes with comments of what time you were in, what you would know at that time, what you wouldn’t, and what you would like to find out – both as a character and as an actor. That was the ‘preparation travelling’.
Œ: What characteristics of Magnus Nielsen do you find to be relatable to yourself?
Moritz: He’s very protective of the people he loves and he’s very passionate *pauses* Ja, I like the way that he’s a leader and tries to be a caring one too.
Œ: Have you got any exciting acting projects coming up? Or will you stay focused on your music for now?
Moritz: Well, acting-wise there’s a movie called ‘We might as well be dead’, it just had its international premiere in New York and it had its premiere at the Berlinale in February. It’s a movie that I’m really excited about and that I think is truly important as it tells the story of how fear and love keep us moving forward, personally and in society. It will be in cinemas in Summer, I think, or Autumn…
Then there’s a BBC series coming up, which I’m very proud to even be a little part of it! Such an exciting story about WW2 heroes who played a really core part in North Africa. It’s called the SAS: Rogue Heroes. It will be shown on BBC and internationally. I think, HBO is also authorised but I’m not sure, but yes, that will be out later this year too.
Music-wise, I’m working on some new stuff. We’re filming music videos – we’re going to have a remix for one track from the album. We also recorded some live sessions to give the audience worldwide an idea of what we sound like as a band and our style. All of which we’re looking forward to!