Pulling countries together: An interview with Rick Okon about Das Boot
The third instalment of German TV series Das Boot drives forward the ongoing story based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. With the two previous seasons combining dual parallel narratives set on land and at sea during the Second World War, viewers can expect to be entertained with more of the same in this new ten-part chapter of the historical drama.
Filmed in 8K and with a stunning soundscape using Dolby Atmos technology, the show took 104 days to film on location in Malta during the ongoing pandemic and features a stellar ensemble of new and returning cast.
The Upcoming had the pleasure of talking to Rick Okon about reprising his role as Klaus Hoffman, where his character journey is now, how he prepares for each season and working relations with the cast and crew on a demanding and hugely epic set.
Can you tell us a bit about the character you play, his journey until now and where we will see him in season three of Das Boot?
His journey is from being U-boat captain to being Robinson Crusoe in New York, then on death row in New York, then he’s kind of moved to Lisbon by a naval officer. And so now we find ourselves in Lisbon. In the beginning of this scene we see him making a deal with the naval officer, which saves him from the electric chair. So he’s willing to take anything to stay alive. He just wants to go back to Germany to tell his father about the truth of things that happened in Season One.
But I think his main journey and his main stories in the third season are that he changes a bit from being a son to being a man. I think he undergoes a change in his own moral ideas, rather than his father’s, which he has tried to live by all the time and no longer is. I think he goes from doing his duty to having his own attitude towards the war. So in the end of the season he’s going to try to end the war, but I think he wants to fight fire with fire.
How did you prepare for this role? Does each new series bring different challenges?
I’m very happy and very thankful that there is always a new challenge for me to get into the character, because I think we see him in three different stages in three different mindsets. My preparation has always been a bit different, but I do work with a coach who is a very good friend of mine whom I’ve know for 15 years or so. He brought me to acting to be honest; if it wasn’t for Patrick, I probably wouldn’t be doing these kinds of jobs. I am very happy and very thankful to work with him. We developed the character together as well, right from the beginning. When I got the job – the part – he read all the scripts, he knows all the notes that I’ve taken for the scripts, and he knows everything about this character.
As well as returning cast members, we see many new faces. What was it like working with such a huge, stellar cast, and again with Anna Shudt, who you’ve previously worked with in Tatort?
Well, you are very well prepared! Of course, I was very happy to see Anna on a different set. We worked on Tatort together for five years or so and I was happy to see her in a historical drama with costume and hair changes. We had these different characters to meet on set, which was very fun, and also to work with the guys from Season One, especially in the U-boat, where we had a hell of a lot fun together. When Tommy boys work a couple of months on a project, it’s so much fun. Then on the second season, to work with actors like Vincent Kartheiser, who I’ve learned so much from… also bonding during that time with Rochelle Neil. It was such a great time and now, in the third season, to get to know new people like Joana and then, of course, Tom Wlaschiha, who is a good friend of mine now. I’m very happy and very thankful that I’m able to work with very different kinds of people. Also, I’m very happy to always come back to the show because the crew and the team haven’t changed that much. It’s part of a little family to always come to once a year!
Can you tell us a bit about the locations for this series – you go back to Malta, but what it was like filming in new territory? Did you get to shoot any of it in Lisbon or did the pandemic stop that?
Well, we shot Lisbon in Malta. Because of the pandemic we weren’t able to shoot in Lisbon, which was on lockdown. We just had to keep the crew together during the pandemic situation. It was very different, but we were all very happy to be able to work and the production wasn’t shut down. The production did everything to keep us all safe and healthy. It was quite a challenge but I think we managed quite well with some rules and regulations.
Are there any memorable moments on set from this season?
Our makeup designer is a very good friend of mine – we became very good friends over the last five years and every single morning, with her, her makeup tray and makeup chair, we’d have a lot of fun. We’d sing songs, celebrate our time... We’d talk about character development the and emotional states of mind and all these things. I’m very happy that I got to know her on this season; she’s a huge part of why I‘m still there. I do really like working with her – I do really enjoy every moment with her and in the makeup trailer, coming together having a beer or glass of champagne or whatever, just to celebrate the day we’d had.
The series was shot over 104 days and filmed in 8K – how did that feel for you?
I’m not sure if I want to see me in 8K! Of course, it’s a high production level that you are able to shoot in, and the first European series shot in 8K. So it’s a big production value but sometimes you don’t really want to see everything in 8K, do you?
This series brings a lot more romantic threads than before (though, obviously, you have your moment with Harlem singer Cassandra Lloyd – Rochelle Neil – at the end of season two!). Do you think that was a conscious decision, to appeal to a wider audience?
Personally, I do like some of the romantic scenes and, to be honest, this opens up something more because, even though it’s still a gripping war drama, of course, sometimes I think the audience wants to see a little more romance, more love, where you can just enjoy moments, and I think that’s something for all of the characters. That’s something you see for Hoffman in the second season, where he’s at the piano in a scene with Cassandra, where there’s sometimes a bright side to life that you have to experience.
The series really brings the reality of the Second World War to life with two storylines running parallel on land and at sea. How real did the filming feel fo you? The costumes, the attention to detail?
Well, this is part of the proof that everyone is willing to put everything into work. We are very happy that the production team, our costume designer and our makeup designer are very happy to work on a show and determined to do everything the best they can. And when everything fits together, and everything is like clockwork, then good things can happen.
How does it feel to be back filming again in that claustrophobic submarine environment? Does it make you feel the weight of that situation?
Well, being in those conditions and filming in those conditions are probably two different worlds. I never experienced being actually in that situation and I do not want to experience it myself. Even when you’re filming, these thoughts are far away because you are able to open the door, walk outside, get some fresh air, and so it has a different temperature to it. But, of course, you get the idea. But I do not want to compare it to real life because I think we all know what we’ve seen on the news with Russia and Ukraine and war is very different. So I do not want to compare it.
What is it about the series and the narrative that viewers worldwide are so drawn to, in your opinion?
What I like most about the show is that it has multiple languages to it: the first one is set in France and in Germany, and then we go to New York and now we are in Lisbon. There are so many languages – so many in the cast and so many influences – they all combine and go together and this is something I really like about the show. It’s very international. it pulls so many countries together and combines. But there’s conspiracy, too, and the history of Second World War – this is something I really enjoy about the show, and I think the audience do as well.
Where do you see your character in Series Four?
Well, I do not want to spoil anything, but I’m very happy that we are about to shoot another season and I cannot wait to go on-set again – to be with the crew and with the rest of the cast. I do not want to spoil anything, of course, but we all know how the war ended.
Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
Well, I’m focusing on Das Boot at the moment as we are going to shoot this year, and this will take a couple of months. This is my main focus right now, but of course there are other things coming but nothing fixed yet. So there’s nothing I can tell you right now!
Das Boot: Season Three is released digitally on demand on on 15th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for Das Boot here: