Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to brothers Pele and Langston Uibel about their respective careers in sport and acting, German identity, their parents’ influence, and much more.
Q: You were both born in London and then raised in Berlin. How has that cultural duality shaped you both and your perspectives of the world?
Pele: Growing up in different cultures and societies definitely broadened my horizon and it gives me a better understanding of what is happening on a global level. However, I believe my cultural duality has less effect on how I perceive the world, but influenced my perspective on the two very different western societies of Germany and England. Therefore, I am able to value certain aspects of the countries to a greater extent.
Langston: Growing up in London was one of the privileges that I had in my life. Being able to witness a society that is diverse was so precious to me. I am not trying to deny that England itself has major problems with racism but it’s more common to find a wide spectrum of skin colour, religion and gender in all different kinds of professions and positions. I think that is the fundament of why I can never understand when Germans talk about people that “look different”.
Q: Leading off that, I hear you are outspoken about prejudice and notions of ‘Germanity’. Can you share your own experiences and how you see the future of German identity?
Langston: Yes, I talk about it a lot because I think it is the bottom-line to many of current problems and difficulties in our country. We do not need to be ashamed of being “German” but we need to precisely re-define the meaning of “being German”. It can no longer mean that you are white and Christian, but it must include everybody that lives here and contributes towards our wellbeing in any way. This is why I do strongly believe that re-defining what “being German” means, would result in a stronger and more stable community. I count on my generation to make a change.
Q: You have both taken different career paths. What led you (Pele) in a sporting direction and you (Langston) towards the arts?
Pele: To be completely honest, it was to some extent coincidence that I pursued a career in Modern Pentathlon. Our parents were very keen on us being occupied as children. That included either playing an instrument or other arts, but also to join sport clubs. I just stuck with the latter and it has been the right decision.
Langston: It was actually a coincidence that led me to my first acting experience. A family friend saw a photo of me and my brother and suggested me for a short film called The String Puppet that premiered at the Berlinale Film Festival in 2008. That was my first encounter with acting. After I shot the feature film Sanctuary in 2014, I found my passion in acting and couldn’t wait to graduate from school to pursue a career in it.
Q: Langston, you have a role in Netflix’s upcoming series ‘Dogs Of Berlin’ – which is now available to watch. Tell us more about your character.
Langston: Raphael is the up-and-coming football star in Germany. He plays for Leipzig and will have his debut the German national team soon. To put his storyline in a nutshell without the intention to spoiler anything: Raphael Bou’Penga is at the wrong place at the wrong time and all of a sudden he is forced to make deals with criminal clans putting his whole career at risk.
Q: Did you model Raphael on any current footballer? Or did you even speak to Pele to tap into his sportsman mentality?
Langston: I used to play football at quite a professional level. So luckily, I could count on various experiences that I had made myself during that time. On top of that, I personally would compare Bou’Penga to Aubameyang of Gabun and Arsenal.
Q: Pele, you took part in the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in October, competing in the modern Pentathlon and placing 4th place. What was it like competing in Argentina and how did you find it as a learning experience?
Pele: The Youth Olympics, but also the qualification period was a huge adventure with many ups and downs. The ups thankfully prevailed, resulting with first of all a direct place for the Games due to my world rank (5) in June, but more importantly a 4th place finish in the overall standings.
I enjoyed every moment of being out there with team Germany. I am so lucky to be the only German Modern Pentathlete that will be able to compete on the Youth Olympic stage for the next two years. I am hoping to transfer my YOG experience to upcoming events of 2019. How exactly I will benefit can’t possibly be determined at this point, nevertheless I am sure that this experience has shaped me not only as an athlete, but more importantly as a person.
Q: What is the current landscape of German athletics? And do you see this crop of young talent making an impact on the European and world stage?
Pele: During my time with team Germany I was able to meet the most promising young athletes Germany has to offer. I see these young athletes making their senior Olympic debuts in the future and achieving excellence within their sport. Although all the athletes I got to know have a lot of potential, we all still have a long road ahead of us.
Q: Langston, you are part of a wonderful crop of young European actors making their way at the moment – including Ella Rumpf, Emilia Schüle, Luna Wedler, Garance Marillier, Franz Rogowski, Maria Dragus and many others. How exciting is it to come through at this time and how exciting is it to know you might get to work with these talents in the future?
Langston: It is a wonderful situation and it is nice to see my colleagues being successful, too. Additionally, in the age of social media it is particularly easy to keep in touch and support each other! It is all quite exciting!
Q: I want to bring it back to the cultural duality by bringing up your father who runs the Dalston Jazz Bar in London and regularly travels between England and Germany. Tell us about your father and the influence he has been for both your careers?
Pele: Considering that my father was a national judo player for GB and finished a master’s degree, he has made quite an impact on my career, as he is able to relate and understand the day to day problems of athletes with dual careers.
Langston: My mother and my father are both very educated people. Obviously, each one in their individual way. What a gift it is to be brought up by educated parents was one of my biggest realisations lately and I am so thankful for that. Also that they supported me in such a weird and unseizable job such as acting.
Q: I am sure they are very proud and that the future is bright for you both. Langston, after working on a big Netflix production, what is next for you and what type of projects would you love to work on? Pele, what is the next step for you following the Olympic Games and what are you aiming for in the coming months?
Pele: For the upcoming months, my top priority will be trying to catch up in law school, due to the fact that I missed the first two weeks and would not like to fall behind this early in the semester. Although I am also trying to maintain my fitness in order to be in good shape for the national ranking competition in December. In pursuit of the Olympic Games, I will have to take the first step by being included into the senior teams, which in turn means performing well at the National Rankings.
Langston: There are two projects airing on German television next year and besides that I would like to take my time on selecting my next projects. I reckon that as you evolve personally, you must also find the perfect projects in which you can grow as an actor.
Q: Lastly, I thought we could end on a brotherly note. What do you admire and appreciate the most about each other?
Pele: I admire Langston for his level head and composure. I could use that from time to time especially when things are not going as planned in competition.
Langston: I’m amazed by my brother’s discipline. Most of us cannot imagine how much of it is needed to be successful in professional sports.
Title photo by Benedict O. Arthur