From medicine to acting: International Emmy Awards honor German actress Christiane Paul | Film | DW | 22.11.2016
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From medicine to acting: International Emmy Awards honor German actress Christiane Paul

Film star Christiane Paul, who studied medicine and even worked as a surgeon for several years, initially saw acting as a side job. Today she's one of Germany's most sought-after actresses - and an Emmy Award winner.

When her name was revealed as winner of the best actress award at the International Emmys ceremony on Monday, Christiane Paul couldn't really believe it.

"This is crazy. This is the most important thing that's ever happened to me yet," she said, as she accepted the prize with tears in her eyes.

But the 42-year-old actress is no newcomer; her impressive filmography boasts more than 70 productions, most of them TV movies.

Paul's initial plans for her life were completely different. After finishing high school in 1992 she decided to study medicine, following in her father's footsteps. While at school she did some modeling and acting on the side, to finance her studies. At 17, she was given her first lead role in Niklaus Schilling's "Deutschfieber" ("Border Frenzy"), co-starring with prolific German actor Tilo Prückner.

Still from film 'MammaMia' with Senta Berger and Christiane Paul (imago/United Archives)

Paul starred with Senta Berger as mother and daughter in "Mammamia" (1998)

In her next film, "Ich und Christine" ("Christine and Me"), Paul also worked with another German star, Götz George.

With such choice roles she could have decided to properly launch her career as an actress, but Paul decided to stay on the safe side and continued to pursue her medical studies - all the while acting in one film after the other.

Paul received her first award in 1996, the prestigious Max Ophüls Prize, for her performance in the film "Ex." Then came "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" in 1997, one of the most successful German films of the year. In this road movie, she co-starred with Til Schweiger, Jan Josef Liefers, Moritz Bleibtreu and Rutger Hauer.

Paul obtained her doctorate in 2002 and worked as a surgeon for two years. Still, she kept receiving attractive roles and finally decided to take the risk and live as an actress.

Threatening state surveillance

It was a good decision. Today, she is one of Germany's most sought-after actresses, and the Emmy win, for her role in the dark TV drama "Unterm Radar" (Under the Radar), has now given her international recognition.

Christiane Paul in 'Die Welt der Wunderlichs' (2016) (Filmfest München 2016)

Paul's latest film is "Die Welt der Wunderlichs," in which she plays a hairdresser

The thriller deals with the theme of surveillance and how far a state should go to protect its citizens from terrorists acts, after a bus full of tourists explodes in the center of Berlin. Paul plays a desperate mother and successful lawyer who gets involved in the investigation after her daughter is suspected to have been involved in the attack. Searching for her missing daughter, the lawyer's own fears get entangled with a series of suspicions, false accusations and prejudice.

Paul's latest film, Dany Levy's "Die Welt der Wunderlichs" ("The World of the Wunderlichs"), is now playing in German cinemas. The tragicomedy tells the story of a single mother surrounded by her crazy family. Paul plays one of the family's sisters, a hairdresser so obsessed by her salon that she dumps everything else on her sister, even though she's facing her own set of challenges.

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