The furious

Screaming instead of hating

Stefanie Reinsperger is one of the most popular actresses in the German-speaking world, thanks in no small part to her role as Inspector Rosa Herzog in the Dortmund episodes of German cult police procedural Tatort. She is proud of her tiny hometown near Vienna, a village with just under 3,000 inhabitants. She is funny, with a self-deprecating sense of humor and plenty of energy. Yet because she doesn't conform to the cliché image of a female star, she has repeatedly come under attack. That makes her pretty furious ("Ganz schön wütend"), the title of her recently published book. 

"Hello! What do we have our bodies for?"

You were born...

... in Baden near Vienna. But only because my mom was out for a walk and couldn't make it back to Biedermannsdorf in time. Because I'm from Biedermannsdorf. And I'M PROUD OF IT (laughs). Our house is on the same plot of land where my mother's parents' house used to stand. 

But you spent your first years abroad ...

My parents worked for the Foreign Ministry, so we lived in Belgrade and London. 
We only moved back to Biedermannsdorf when I was twelve. I'll never forget sitting there in this flat in London holding this message from my parents: "Firstly, you're getting a sister," which I thought was totally uncool, of course. And the second piece of news was: "We're moving back to Biedermannsdorf." God, that was hard! It took me a long time to settle in and learn appreciate country living. But today I do. When I visit Austria from Berlin, I always sleep in Biedermannsdorf.

"We ALL need to deal with this shit."

In the sticks!

I'd say in my hometown. What I love about that place is the fact that I know it with my eyes closed. I know how, where, what and when. I know the stories behind every house in town. I know which family ratted out my parents because the flower arrangements weren't right (laughs). My grandma was already from here. I remember the time our dog took off straight across town and we all thought, oh God, he's going to get run over for sure. But he made it safe and sound all the way to grandma's apartment. Biedermannsdorf is the place where, at age fourteen, on the nasty, run-down playground, I confessed my love to a boy for the first time and he replied: "Well that kind of sucks, because I'm already going to the prom with Sabine!" I'll never forget that. At least it wasn't a "Well, I don't love you" (laughs).

Time seemed endless back then, didn't it?

Absolutely, and that freedom to just run around outside all day! As long as you're home by the time the streetlights come on. And how protected a village makes you feel! Always knowing that no matter how often you fall on your face, someone will bandage you up. That sense of togetherness—though only if you toe the line. Or the football field across the street where the boys played and you watched them and had your first crushes. I appreciate that a lot more now than I used to. It's a total cliché, but as you get older, you start feeling that urge to get out of the city.

Have you had to sign the Biedermannsdorf parish register yet?

There is only one registered absentee voter in our village, and that's me (laughs). I do have the feeling that everyone is a little proud of me. That's really sweet. They've all known me since I was very little, with my meltdowns and my yelling and my first secret parties in the garden (laughs). 

"You have to go on stage with conflict!"

Stefanie Reinsperger 37

Have you had to sign the Biedermannsdorf parish register yet?

There is only one registered absentee voter in our village, and that's me (laughs). I do have the feeling that everyone is a little proud of me. That's really sweet. They've all known me since I was very little, with my meltdowns and my yelling and my first secret parties in the garden (laughs). 

Home or homeland?

I have a hard time with the term "homeland" because it's been claimed by all the wrong people, but I would say my home is the roles and the places in my stories, wherever I am at the moment. Home is when we're together. No matter where.

Are women the stronger sex?

What am I supposed to say to that? (laughs) Of course we're stronger! Hello! Or what do we have our bodies for? The things they're capable of! 

Is fury an intrinsic part of being female?

It's interesting in general how certain emotions are distributed: Fury in a man quickly elicits a lot more respect and makes you back away because you're like "Okay, I heard him, that's energy! Got it!" But when it comes to women, things like that often get brushed off as: "You're so emotional, you're so hysterical, are you on your period?"

"Anger isn't hate!"

Is that why you're "pretty furious"?

Yes, that's the title of my book, it's about all forms of fury. For me it's a lot about the fury that goes into acting, but generally about female fury.Politically, of course, the book is feminist oriented; it's about fury at a lack of motherhood, fury at being single, and most of all fury at the body, an issue that has been with me since I was little and that I can say the most about. There is so much there that makes me furious.

You write that your worst experience was when you played the coveted female lead in the play Jedermann at the Salzburg Festival. Threats were made against you, people harassed and insulted you in the street because of your appearance ...

A lot of people don't realize the kind of hate speech that gets posted. I was so uncomfortable with all of it, so ashamed, I didn't talk to anyone about it. After the performance, I would often leave by the back door. And it isn't just men that are so abusive, it's definitely women too. But I want to stop giving these people a platform. I've spent so much of my life concerning myself with these people. I don't want to do it anymore. I want my book to bring attention to the fact that we ALL need to deal with this shit. 

"I appreciate that a lot more now than I used to."

Verena Altenberger faced the same kind of abuse when she played the role. Again, it wasn't about her acting, it was about her looks ....

She got a very abusive, sexist letter; it was about her short hair. Verena posted that letter. I thought that was awesome. It was a really smart move. I wasn't in a position to do that back then. 

Do you vent your anger in your free time as well, or only on stage?

I get really out of sorts when I don't do enough acting. Really out of sorts! That's when I notice that something is missing. I'll get angry in the stairwell, just because I thought I'd be able to carry three shopping bags up to the fourth floor without an elevator (laughs). But what I do much more often these days when I get angry is to seek dialogue more quickly and say "Stop!" My characters on stage, they need their space, they need room. In my private life, though, I really need harmony.

"There is only one registered absentee voter in our village, and that's me."

Though on stage harmony is totally boring ...

Absolutely. An actor once told me: You have bring your conflicts on stage with you. With loads of baggage. If you show up without any existential distress, then you might as well turn right around and go home, no one will be interested. 

What's the best way to express anger?

I was taking a walk in the fields around Biedermannsdorf with my mom once, and she said to me, "Steffi, everything is so annoying. I just really want to scream!" And I was like, "So go ahead and scream, Mom." In my profession as an actor, that's totally normal. Emotionality is totally desirable. Anger is an expression of pure passion. And a reaction to an injustice. Anger isn't hate. Anger opens things up, sets them free.

"I have a hard time with the term "homeland"."

Thank you for the interview!

Book: Stefanie Reinsperger: "Ganz schön wütend", With photographs by Sven Serkis, Molden Verlag, 176 pages, 25 Euro
Stefanie Reinsperger (*1988 in Baden near Vienna) completed her acting training in 2011 at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna and was subsequently engaged by the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf. In 2014 she was signed on for Vienna's Burgtheater, in 2015 she moved to the Volkstheater, and two years later she became part of the Berliner Ensemble. In 2017 and 2018, she appeared as Buhlschaft in Jedermann at the Salzburg Festival. Since February 2021, she can be seen in the Dortmund Tatort as Chief Inspector Rosa Herzog.
The prominent crystal wig, which can be seen in the photo series shown here, was created by Viennese costume designer Jürgen Arminger aka @discocaine. Marlena Gubo was responsible for the styling. Hilde van Mas is represented by Maison Image.