“Luck is important, but no one gets a lucky break without talent and ambition”
An interview with
Kida Ramadan and Frederick Lau
When they first met five years ago, actors Kida Ramadan and Frederick Lau hit it off straightaway. They have been inseparable ever since, despite – or perhaps because of – their differences. One is 42, the other 29. One grew up in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, the other in Steglitz. One plays a gangster in the popular German drama series 4 Blocks, while the other plays a guy who’ll do whatever it takes to survive in the cinema blockbuster Victoria. Together, they talk about their happiness at having found their roles for life: as fathers, artists and friends.
CLOSED: I would like to talk to you about happiness. What moments bring you happiness?
FREDERICK LAU: Sometimes I can be a bit hot-blooded, so feeling water on my body makes me happy. Going diving and forgetting everything around me. And, of course – and I’m sure we both feel the same way – seeing our children; when they run up to us, laughing.
KIDA RAMADAN: And the fact we can live out our dreams in this profession. But I think healthy children are the greatest gift. And living in a country where there is justice. I’m incredibly lucky that my father brought our family here from Lebanon. If he hadn’t done that, there’s nowhere else where I would be able to make my dreams and wishes come true like I can here.
Does luck play a part in a successful acting career?
Luck is important, but no one gets a lucky break without talent and ambition, mate.
I agree: you have to work for your luck. You can’t just sit around at home praying for it to fall into your lap.
We’re lucky to be able to do this job. And we’ve already got a plan in case it all goes pear-shaped one day: we’re going to be acting coaches. There are bound to be thirty people a year who want to be coached by us (laughs).
Before you were discovered as an actor, you worked as a waiter at your parents’ restaurant, Mr Ramadan. What you really wanted was to be an actor. Were you happy then?
I was like the footballer Kimmich, waiting in vain to be discovered (laughs). It was just a family thing. What was I supposed to do? I had to help my father. And in the end, it indirectly prepared me for my life as an actor. As a waiter, you have to be a good entertainer.
There’s a wonderful German song called Künstler sind nicht überflüssig (Artists Aren’t Superfluous). The next verse is “Because they have something to say”. As an actor, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact you have something to say. That’s satisfying.
And you must never forget where you come from. It could all be over tomorrow: there’s so much uncertainty in this job. It’s like walking on a tightrope: you could fall at any moment. So it’s good to know you’ve got family and a friend like Freddy.
Are you ‘framily’ to one another? Friends who are like family?
You could say that. We’re very loyal. You have to be able to trust one another; stand by one another. When Kida messes up and we both know it, we don’t talk about it. We don’t want to hurt one another.
If Freddy goes out without me and my name comes up in conversation, I know he will stick up for me 100%. Even if I’m wrong. Which is often the case. The same is true when the boot’s on the other foot: I defend Freddy. Afterwards, I don’t tell him about it. I don’t feel the need to bring up the subject again.
Sounds like a real ‘bromance’.
Yes, I love Freddy dearly as a friend. We’re much more than just friends.
We don’t have to prove anything to one another. When we meet up, we don’t tell one another all the films we’ve been in. It doesn’t matter. But when there’s a première for one of our films, we go to it. Sometimes, Kida leaves the cinema and tells me afterwards that he didn’t fancy the film. That doesn’t upset me. We don’t need to fish for compliments from one another.
Do you make each other happy?
Definitely. That’s why we also try to be in as many films together as possible. We suggest one another for roles, even if it’s just one or two days of filming. When I know that Kida will be there on set, it gives me a sense of security. Then I know it’ll be a good day.
I wouldn’t have done this interview on my own either. I’ll be honest with you: I really like Closed, but I primarily wanted to see Freddy again (laughs). I’m always really glad when we meet up – it’s better than that WhatsApp nonsense, although that can be fun too. We always send one another photos of colleagues or people from the film industry who pull funny faces when they’re having their picture taken. Freddy does it too. He knits his brow and screws up his eyes.
How much does it take to maintain a friendship?
It’s perfectly normal for us not to talk to one another for a week. Or for me to send him a message which he doesn’t reply to. But that’s all fine. We don’t tell each other off or read anything into it.
We’re not police officers questioning one another: where were you, what are you doing? I don’t get these horrible friendships when someone says: “Hey, you haven’t been in touch with me for ages.” What’s that all about? I just didn’t have time, mate. If Freddy doesn’t reply, I know he’s busy. Why else would he not reply? Some people are like: my WhatsApp message has got two blue ticks, so get on with it and reply.
Your book Zusammen sind wir Könige (Together We’re Kings) comes out this autumn. In it, you talk about your five years as friends. What is the key to a good friendship?
Never give one another advice. It’s more important to have your own opinion. The book is more about how our own friendship works. I must admit I was pretty sceptical to start with: I wondered who would want to read it. I don’t think I’m so special that I need to publish a book about myself. But then I thought that maybe what Kida and I have is something special. Ultimately, the book has a simple message: that it’s important to stand by one another.
It’s more like a wellness book.
And if you had to give one piece of advice: what is toxic for a friendship?
Having more than three friends makes for headaches, bro. You need to keep an ibuprofen on you all the time. You have your family, whatever happens, but you shouldn’t have more than three friends. That’s already a great weight. The others are acquaintances; people you know.
When one person bosses the other one around and constantly tries to tell them what’s right or wrong. That doesn’t work.
But I also wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who kept telling me how wonderful I was. That would be uncomfortable. In that situation, if I were to say: “Do ten press-ups”, the other guy would do twenty.