In Mia Spengler’s debut feature, Back For Good, Kim Riedle gives an award-winning performance as a Reality TV star who is forced to reassess her life and relationships following a stint in rehab.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Kim about her transformation into a Reality TV star, working with Mia Spengler, taking on challenging characters and much more.
Q: ‘Back For Good’ balances comedic and dramatic elements. What interested you about this challenge and this script?
A: I fell in love with Angie pretty instantly. I’m into characters who are not necessarily ‘likable’ from the beginning, who challenge us, but who also have the capability to surprise us and move us in a way we didn’t expect. The script interested me because it is a very universal story about family dynamics, finding yourself and your place in life. It captures our modern world where so many of us confuse love with ‘likes’.
I love tragicomedies! You need to find the delicate lines in between the humour and the drama. One of the challenges with Angie was to create a character that is this eccentric, loud and over the top but yet to ground her, make her real. Make her someone we might judge and belittle ’cause we can put a label on her easily at first, but then to give her a heart, core and story that tears all labels up to shreds. To create a fascination that hopefully makes you feel and root for her in the end.
Q: How did you prepare for to play Angie? Did you watch a lot of reality TV or base her on anyone in particular?
A: There were a lot of different factors in preparing for Angie.
I did indeed watch some reality TV, but then quickly focused more on getting inspiration through interviews and moments with Reality TV stars, pop stars and generally people in the public that polarise or have a scandalous career. Their apparent confidence and extravagance is a big part of Angie. I also looked for the moments you can see behind that mask and find the real human, the real vulnerability, the girl or boy in them.
The big question was why someone would choose to be in the limelight no matter what the cost was. What has to be your core fear, your drive as a human, what’s missing that you’re trying to find.
With a character like Angie, I had to find a very vulnerable and fragile place in myself and then build layers and layers around it. Working on her voice, the way she speaks, her physicality helped to find those layers and let her walk out into the world like a warrior or like a boxer. No matter how many times she gets knocked down, she will get back up again, or that’s what it seems like.
Q: More generally, what is your opinion on the Reality TV culture? We have a lot of it here in England!
A: I know you do, I looked at some of your reality TV as well (laughs).
Generally I’m not a fan of reality TV, I find most of it pretty boring to be honest, it doesn’t entertain me at all. The only thing I’ve watched with a passion in the last years was Ru Paul’s Drag Race. The Drag queens are so talented and inspiring to watch.
Preparing for Back for Good made me probably even more critical concerning Reality TV, it feels like some of those shows are just fuel to the lack of empathy that exists in our society. They teach us to constantly compare ourselves to others, that one person is worth less than another. That seems pretty destructive and it separates us from each other.
But yeah, I guess the shows we watch and create are a mirror of who we are already, so maybe it’s an opportunity to see that and make a conscious change in how we treat ourselves and each other. After all, we will miss a lot of opportunities to meet some pretty great people that move us if we judge a book by its cover.
Q: Playing Angie allowed you to wear some interesting outfits and dye your her blonde hair. How did you find the experience of physically transforming into Angie?
A: The physical transformation was absolutely necessary in order to be Angie, to wear those clothes and heavy make-up like an armour. I had an extraordinary Costume and Make-Up Department by my side, which made finding the character’s appearance creative and inspiring, and we had a lot of fun creating a look for Angie that was absolutely badass.
I also realised how much work it is for women who always look like that! Working out like crazy before and during filming, spending my ‘days off’ in nail or spray tanning salons, and trying to keep my hair healthy somehow although we were bleaching it dead and dry… (I did cut it off after the movie.)
Q: The film also focuses on Angie relationship with Monika (Juliane Köhler) and Kiki (Leonie Wesselow). Can you talk about the dynamics between these characters?
A: Angie, fresh out of rehab and abandoned by her ‘friends’, is forced to move back in with her mom and little teenage sister for the time being. Her goal is to get back into the spotlight as fast as possible and return to her old life of glitter, drugs and fame.
For me, the key relationship in Back for Good is the one between Angie and her mother Monika, which is a pretty destructive one and without giving away too much, the basis for decisions Angie made in her life. Forced to be back home, she now gets a chance to form a relationship with her little sister Kiki, who has a hard time being bullied in school.
All three women are stuck in the same cycle, trying to matter and be someone in their own realm. And Angie, faced with her difficult past, suddenly finds herself in circumstances that force her to make decisions that could change the life of all three women.
Q: What was the bond like for you three as actors?
A: We had a week of rehearsals together before shooting started, which helped all three of us to bond quickly and become a very destructive family (laughs). Leonie and I developed more or less the same relationship Kiki and Angie have. It was her first big part in a movie so it was easy to have a feeling of wanting to protect her and feel like the big sister. We became buddies pretty instantly.
Juliane and my relationship is quite the opposite of the one our movie characters have – thank god! I have always admired her, long before we met, she is one of the great actresses of our time. It was a dream come true to work with her, it is so easy to act opposite someone who is that open and generous and has so much energy – you just have to lean in and you get so much. And she gave me a lot of confidence. She is a very sweet human, I’m happy to call her my friend now.
Q: This was Mia Spengler’s first time directing a feature. What was she like to work with?
A: Although we didn’t know each other before my auditions for the film, Mia and I quickly found a common language in our rehearsal process leading up to the shoot, which made working on set easy and familiar. She is a fantastic team leader who treats every department with the same care and respect and always shows up with great energy and humour no matter how difficult circumstances are (and they just are with a low budget production).
I was very grateful for the collaborative relationship we had in the work process, she is one of the directors who welcomes ideas and creative input. And her honest trust in me and my abilities – that gave me wings to fly.
Q: I have heard many great things about your performance. Does this feel like a special and important role for you?
A: Oh yes. I knew right away when I got the call that I had the part that it would be pretty special for me as an artist and probably also important for my career…but you can never predict that one.
Artistically I can say it has been one of the roles that were absolutely, to the core fulfilling to do, you come out on the other side utterly exhausted, but in a good way because you have learned and experienced so much through that character. It feels like you’ve expanded as a person. You are more afterwards because a part of your characters always sticks with you.
We have had such wonderful feedback to the film so far and it has been my great joy that it has touched so many people who saw it.
I was nominated for the German Film Award (Lola) and it has been a game changer for my career, it’s the first time I felt the industry truly saw me. It’s an incredible feeling that I wish for everyone who work their asses off and believe against all odds in their dream.
Q: Finally, do you have any upcoming projects or ambitions you can share with us?
A: I have done a lot of drama and tragic characters, so I’m thrilled that my next project is my first lead role in a romantic-comedy. We start shooting in two weeks.
Generally though, I have to admit that I’m very much drawn to dark characters. I love playing the tragic heroes or anti-heroes. I want to work internationally, I hope I get the chance to play Lady Macbeth on stage, and I would love to be in a ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ story.
And – I’m a huge Sci-fi fan, so I will need to be piloting a spaceship one day, hopefully saving the universe!