Submitted by jsg03jd: How would you compare Oliver's relationship with Christian with the relationship with Tom? It seems here that Oliver is in the Tom role showing Christian the ropes. How does it feel to play this dynamic? Who's the boss in the relationship between Oliver and Christian?
JW: The relationship between Tom and Olli was always more of a casual thing for my character. He really liked Tom, but when it got too close, Olli tried to escape. I think that wasn't real love. That's different with Christian. He's Olli's true love and he would do anything for him. I personally like it that he's the older and (sometimes) more level- headed one now. Because of his own past, he can understand many of Christian's problems and behavior patterns and like no other, he can calm him down and raise him up with little words and gestures. It's awesome to get to portray that. And who's the boss? I think Olli, even if he doesn't show it all the time. He always puts Christian back on track - and Christian enjoys that. Although he would never admit to it :-).
Few gay couples on television have generated as much feedback, interest, and enthusiasm amongst AfterElton.com's readers as Forbidden Love's (Verbotene Liebe) Olli and Christian. When we posted the first clip featuring the German soap opera couple (frequently referred to as Ollian or Chrolli), thousands of readers watched it and dozens posted comments heaping praise on the show's writing, production values, and, especially, Jo Weil and Thore Schölermann, the actors who play Olli and Christian.
Such is their popularity that even though most of our readers hadn't heard of either man before April of this year, both actors made the AfterElton.com Hot 100 list. Jo Weil recently took time out of his busy schedule to do an email interview with us answering both our questions as well as some submitted by our readers. (Schölermann was also supposed to participate, but for reasons beyond our control was unable to.)
AfterElton.com: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. So just how surprised were you when you found out both of you made our Hot 100 list beating out some pretty well-known names?
Jo Weil: that was awesome! When I saw what names appear alongside ours - amazing! That I would be named in the same breath with Jake Gyllenhaal and Matt Damon, i didn't expect that to come so fast. I can only say I'm incredibly proud.
AE: Any rivalry over Thores placing slightly higher?
JW: If there's one person I happily grant to be placed above me, it's Thore. He's deserved it and I'm a little proud of him.
AE: How odd is it knowing that your storyline has found an audience in the U.S. and other English speaking countries?
JW: It's really strange. When fans told me about your site, because you had just published your first article on us, I was thinking, "Cool, I got one mention in America". It's something rather special for a German actor. When the reports became more regular with you and your colleagues, and we received the first emails and letters from abroad, we couldn't believe it. By now, I'm just very proud that we created something on Verbotene Liebe which touches and connects people across borders.
AE: Are the producers of the show aware of your English-speaking fans?
JW: I can't say that for sure. I guess they've noticed that Chrolli/Ollian get international attention. We are doing interviews for foreign media now. But if they know about the extent of it? I don't know. Maybe someone should write them and report on that...
AE: What about the other actors? Anyone jealous of your international fans?
JW: Not that I've noticed. I think most of our colleagues are just happy for us. But when we were doing a photo shooting for a British magazine the other day, there were some envious stares. The same is true for the awesome gifts we receive from our fans abroad.
AE: Does knowing the amazing reaction of the fans change how you approach the work?
JW: Not really. But we realized through the many reactions that what we're doing is important to some people. That some get courage, strength, even hope through it. That strengthened us to take our job very serious and give it our all.
AE: When you were on Medicopter 117, did any of your storylines inspire this kind of reaction?
JW: As far as I know, Medicopter 117 airs in 35 countries around the world. So I received foreign fan mail before Chrolli. [However], the feedback and reactions I'm getting with regards to the Chris/Olli story are new and unique to me. I have never experienced anything like that in the 10 years being a professional actor. And I'm taken aback by it every so often.
AE: I suspect part of the reaction comes from the chemistry you and Thore have together and how you handle the intimate scenes. Little things like when Christian playfully nipped Olli after kissing him or the way Olli puts his head on Christians shoulder really make the characters seem believable. Are those things you do on your own or does that come from the director?
JW: Of course, teleplay and director tell us what to do. The little things you've mentioned are what we bring to it. The script will say: The two kiss. When Christian reaches for Olli again, then that's him. Or something like that moment when Olli tries to calm down Christian and strokes his ear or takes his hand - these are things that we offer. We portray a couple and partner show their love to each other -and that's exactly what we're trying to do.
AE: In a perfect world this question wouldnt even occur to me to ask, but was there any hesitation for either of you in playing gay characters?
JW: I didn't really hesitate, but I had to sleep over it. To play a character on a soap means that you have to identify in an extreme manner with him - and over an extended period of time. Also, viewers extremely identify you with the character. I had to think about that, but I knew very fast that I wouldn't have a problem. That's why I took on 'Olli', and I have never had regrets about that choice.
AE: How about your love scenes: do you approach them any differently?
JW: Love scenes are always special. You are very intimate with your co-actor and there are people standing around watching. It's not always that easy to completely go for the moment and live that situation. We're lucky, because Thore and I get along really well - that makes it easier and nicer. And we had so many intimate scenes together by now, that it's just normal and stress free for me
AE: When you rejoined the show in 2007, what did the producers tell you was in store for your character?
JW: I got the call when they had the idea for Chrolli. I was asked if I could imagine coming back and have a love story with Christian. Because I thought this was an exciting constellation and I would get a good actor with Thore as my partner, I accepted without hesitating.
AE: Why did you decide to return to the show after being away for five years?
JW: When I left VL in 2002, I had played Olli for two years. I was very young and casted immediately from acting school for VL. I was at a point where I thought I was in a stalemate. I wanted to play new and different parts, film and be on the stage. So I decided to leave VL. Immediately after that decision, I was offered the part of Florian on Medicopter 117. He was the exact opposite of Olli, a tough action hero. The best [thing] that could have happened to me to develop as an actor. And that's how it's been in the years to follow. I was able to act and learn. When I got the casting call for Olli, I immediately was in to it and I felt this fire. It was the perfect moment for a 'homecoming'.
AE: Are German fans as taken by Olli and Christian as readers of our site seem to be?
JW: I sure hope so :-) At least we get awesome feedback to our story from Germany. But the English-language fans, in a very postive manner, seem to be more 'extreme'.
AE: Any homophobic reactions at all?
JW: Not everybody likes a gay story. Negative reactions are extremely seldom. That might be because we stay away from cliches and try to portray the love between two people. And if there's a stupid comment - [I] don't listen to it. It will be negated by at least 10 positive comments.
We promised to let our readers ask some questions and here they are!
Submitted by Liz: Is there an episode involving Olli and Christian that stands out the most to you so far? Why?
JW: There are many scenes I really like. But the scene when Chris can admit to his love to Olli and they get together has a special place. It's an important turning point and I think the scene turned out very beautiful.
Submitted by Brock Savage: American soaps don't have much rehearsal time, and actors have mentioned that they pretty much make choices in the moment. What is the rehearsal process like on VL?
JW: That's the same on a German soap. We do 2-3 rehearsals for most scenes before filming. Many small moments stem from the moment. But I think that is the strength of the soap format. Many things develop from the acting and the character and are fresh and spontaneous.
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