Louis Hofmann and Thomasin McKenzie reconnect inside The HERO Winter Annual
By Alex James Taylor | Film+TV | 1 December 2023
Photographer Fabien Kruszelnicki


Louis Hofmann’s repertoire is weird and wonderful; exploring liminal worlds and historical epochs. His inherent sensitivity for character and plot has propelled the German actor from national indie talent to the international stage: Hofmann was named a European Shooting Star at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival; previous winners include Carey Mulligan, Andrea Riseborough and Bill Skarsgård. When he first met actor Thomasin McKenzie, she expected someone as pensive and earnest as his characters often are, but what she got was a vivacious energy ball who never stops moving – in life and work.


Thomasin McKenzie: Hi!
Louis Hofmann: How’ve you been? 

TM: I’ve been good, I’m just moving into my new apartment, so it’s a little bit chaotic. 
LH: You moved to London in June and I moved in January, so we’re both experiencing the perks and advantages of living in a new city. I feel like the most basic things can be so invigorating when you’re in a new city, everything is flashy and exciting. 

TM: Even things like taking the bus or the tube or walking down the street, because I don’t know how the public transport is in Germany, but in New Zealand it’s pretty crappy. We don’t have these amazing underground systems or anything, so I’m always like [does a ‘wow’ face]. 
LH: I actually read an interview with you about what gives you peace, and I think you said walks, stillness, that sort of thing. I could really see that when you were back in Wellington. I was wondering, London can feel a bit hectic and I sometimes find it quite difficult to find calm and still moments. Considering that is something so important to you, where do you go? How do you maintain that? 

TM: I’m only now finding that, because the apartment I’ve moved into is on the top story of a townhouse, it’s only three stories but I’m up with the tree line, so I look out my window and all I can see is trees. It’s very quiet and the sun is really beautiful. There’s a nature reserve right behind the building, so luckily the place I’ve found to live provides that stillness for me. In Wellington, I really love the access to nature, but the whole of the city is quite still and quiet, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but I really like to know that things are going on around me. I like being the calm in the chaos. 
LH: You don’t struggle to find the calm in yourself when there’s so much chaos happening around you? 

TM: I can struggle, because I’m someone who gets overstimulated very easily, so that’s where practices like meditation and breathing, listening to music, all that kind of thing comes in. How about you? I know you’re someone who likes interior design, you’ve probably made your apartment and room your own, and I know about your recent passion for DJing [Louis laughs], are those ways of finding joy and calm in the chaos of London? 
LH: I’m not quite sure about calm, but those passions give me so much life. I remember moving to London and not having a job at that time, just focusing on decorating the flat for like three months or so. That brought me so much joy because I could just concentrate on one thing. I think what brings me the most joy is when I intensely, thoroughly focus on one particular thing. Whether it’s DJing at the moment or making a room look very pretty, because I am very into aesthetics. 


TM: You’re an inspiration to me in that realm, I’m even looking at all your plants and thinking I need some plant life in here. 
LH: [laughs] I always thought that the ocean was my place of peace, but I’ve figured out in the last few years that the forest and mountains give me so much peace. When I was younger, I never really wanted to go on a hike, my parents always forced me to do that. But in the last few years, I’ve been growing really fond of it, and now I’m a hiking fan.

TM: When you go for walks and hikes do you listen to music or do you prefer silence? 
LH: No music, even though I constantly listen to music usually, when I go on a hike I don’t. There’s a German stereotype that you have this conversation out of breath [laughs], but I’m not a fan of conversations while I’m hiking. When I went with my parents, I’d even start pacing…

TM: Would you run ahead? 
LH: Yeah. [laughs]

TM: My dad especially has always been a big fan of going on family walks, and my brother Peter and I would always get really competitive as to who was the person leading the pack, who was out front. So the walks we’d go on weren’t relaxing, they were just competitions basically. 
LH: Are you a very competitive person?

TM: Oh yeah. I’m very competitive when it comes to things that I’m good at, because then I know I can do well. 
LH: Have you always been like that, as a kid as well?

TM: Not really actually. When I was at primary school, all of my friends were incredibly athletic and I was the short, clumsy one stumbling along at the back. [laughs] So I wasn’t competitive because it was like, what’s the point? My best friends are, there’s a runner, a swimmer and a ballerina, and I’m an actor. [laughs] 
LH: Yeah, you chose the wrong profession to be really competitive because you can’t really measure acting, it’s so subjective.

TM: You’re on your own path, aren’t you? Are you a competitive person –
LH: Yes. [both laugh]

“Even though I love playing those quiet, introverted characters, I’d love to explore characters who are more in control of the situation they’re in, especially more joyful ones, because I think that is very me.”


TM: Do you find it difficult focusing on your own journey? Do you get distracted by what actors in the same age group are doing? 
LH: I do get distracted. I am very competitive, I was when I was younger as well. I was the shortest kid in my football team, and I remember situations like us meeting the other team before kick-off and them sort of saying, “He’s so small, I don’t think he’s going to be good.” And then me having to prove them wrong. Maybe that’s where it comes from. So I am very competitive and I wish I wouldn’t let myself be distracted by what other people in my age group are doing. On the other hand, I also champion actors around me who I admire, like you.

TM: How do you reassure yourself if you feel like you’re getting into that comparative mindset, how do you self-soothe? 
LH: It’s not easy. I think I struggle with that a little bit, to reassure myself that everything is fine. What you forget in the moment, when you feel like it’s not working out, or it’s not going the way you want it to go, or you struggle with your self-esteem, you tend to forget everything that you’ve done so far. My friends and family are always good at reminding me that there’s this body of work nobody can take away from you.

TM: Am I right in saying that your family aren’t in the film industry? 
LH: They’re not in the film industry.

TM: Do you appreciate that they’re an escape from the industry? 
LH: Yes, but especially my mother is a theatre and film enthusiast, and so is my dad, so it’s not like they have no idea what I’m doing. I really appreciate that they have an understanding of my job, which I imagine is sometimes a little hard. You grew up in a film family, right? So they obviously understood what you were doing. My dad is in the music industry, and I’m very much into music, I played two instruments when I was younger.

TM: You’re a great singer as well. 
LH: What? No.

TM: I remember you having to serenade me on a project.
LH: That is true, that was fun. I do enjoy singing. When I nerd out about music with my dad, that brings me so much joy. I guess that’s a form of escape. Is it hard for you to always be with your family and surrounded by industry knowledge?


TM: It can be. I’ve been working since I was six years old, and even before then, when I was a newborn my mum was the head of drama at the drama school in Wellington. 
LH: You didn’t want to become an actor, right?

TM: No, not at first. But I’ve literally grown up in the film, theatre and television world, and so it’s been a part of my life forever, and I hope it will continue to be a part of my life forever, because it’s what I was meant to do, I generally believe that. 
LH: And isn’t that such a great feeling, to know exactly what you want to do?

TM: I feel so lucky for that because acting has always been there for me. I haven’t always wanted to do it, so I’ve been able to have that process of falling in love with it, and seriously considering it as a career and feeling excited about that. So it wasn’t always a given. But I feel very lucky that, for the majority of my life, I’ve known what it is that I’ve wanted to do, because a lot of people spend their entire life trying to figure that out. And that doesn’t mean we can’t do other things, we can go to university, take courses. I kind of want to take a Pilates course to be a Pilates teacher. Were your parents always supportive of you wanting to be an actor, or were they concerned? 
LH: They were very supportive, but always looked at it from a critical point of view, which I’ve very much appreciated. I did a little TV thing from the age of nine to eleven, going around places like theme parks, or I’d go on a canoe tour, try it out and rate it on camera.

TM: Like a presenter? [both laugh] 
LH: Yeah, kind of like a presenter. There was one of the presenters who was an actor, and she would speak about that and it sounded really interesting. Then I forced my parents to sign me up somewhere. It was my initiative. My parents always reminded me that I should only do one film a year and finish school, which is something I value a lot, the feeling of having completed school feels good.

TM: I did not finish school. [both laugh] 
LH: I don’t think there’s a right or wrong path.

TM: It’s funny because my parents didn’t really encourage me to focus on my studies, they definitely encouraged me to learn through acting. It was my brother who was really hard on me about going to school and not having too much time off. 
LH: Really? [laughs]

TM: At the time I was like, “Peter! Calm down, I’m learning on set.” Now that my little sister has started acting, I’m the one who is like, “Acting is great, it’s there, but remember how important education is and focus on your studies.” When I was my little sister’s age I thought I was so mature and I had it all figured out, now I look at her and I’m like, she’s just a baby! 
LH: How old is she?

TM: She’s nearly seventeen. 
LH: That’s not that little.

TM: No, she’s tiny! [laughs] I’m a very maternal person, I want her to get a good education and experience life and be young before she goes too far into the world of acting. 
LH: Do you feel like you missed out on that a little bit?


“I think it takes a lot of discipline being a young actor, and discipline is extremely important for acting in general.”

TM: A little bit, yeah. Do you think acting made you mature far quicker than you otherwise would have? 
LH: One hundred percent. I started working at eleven, so I was quite young. You surround yourself with grown-ups all the time, adjust to the social rules and behave properly. I think it takes a lot of discipline being a young actor, and discipline is extremely important for acting in general. What do you think?

TM: Yeah, definitely. Interestingly, when I was fourteen I did a soap opera in New Zealand for six months, so I spent half the week filming in Auckland, and the other half at school in Wellington. Me, my parents and my teachers all expected that my grades would take a hit, but actually I got better because it forced me to get a good work ethic and responsibility, it taught me how to manage my time. 
LH: I remember my maths grades getting a lot better when I was away filming because there was a teacher helping me out [laughs]. That’s a really great privilege to have, one person focusing on you.

TM: Were you doing tutoring on set? 
LH: Not on set, but after work or in between. My parents only visited me on set once in all those years. I once shot in Romania for a few months when I was thirteen, and they came to Bucharest for one week. We were rehearsing a scene and the director came up to me and she goes, “Something’s a little off, something’s different today.” And I go, “Well, my parents are watching. I think I want to send them away.” [Thomasin laughs] And she said, “Well then I think you should if you feel more comfortable without them being around.” That’s something I’m so grateful for, the understanding they had when I told them that I needed space to work [laughs] – as a thirteen-year-old. So I never had my parents around when I was away working, and that’s another thing that added to growing up very fast.

TM: You had a chaperone? 
LH: Yes, don’t worry Thomasin, I wasn’t left on my own. [both laugh]

TM: That’s interesting, I had a very different experience.
LH: Did your parents always come along?

TM: At least one of them did. Up until I was eighteen, nineteen, one of my parents was always there. Actually, not always, I did a film when I was sixteen in the US and my parents had responsibilities in New Zealand with the kids and everything, so I had an old babysitter come across to the US with me. And sometimes I’d be filming in Australia and would go by myself, but otherwise one of my parents would be with me. Maybe it was because I was a young woman, a young girl. Or maybe it was because my parents knew very well what it is to be on set. My mum is an acting coach who works with children on set. 
LH: It’s quite fitting isn’t it? [laughs]

TM: Very fitting.
LH: So if you went to the US at the age of sixteen to do a film, did you have to do an American accent?

TM: I did, and this is something I wanted to bring up with you. Something that people will find very interesting about you is your accent. 
LH: Yeah, I remember you asking me once, “Why don’t you just use your own [German] accent? [when speaking in English]” But there’s no such thing to me as my own German accent, this is my own accent. This is the accent I feel most comfortable in. I speak in an English accent because I’ve been training that accent for more than four years now, to eventually be able to portray English characters, and not only English-speaking German characters.


TM: Was it difficult as a German actor to transition into a more international realm? 
LH: It’s been a long journey, I suppose. The first English language thing I did was at the age of nineteen, and now I’m 26. I started working on the accent around the age of 21, 22, and only now feel extremely comfortable in the accent and language. I remember 2017 was a crazy year for me at the age of 19. It was my first time doing English work, and I went to the Oscars ceremony that year. I remember doing my second English job and thinking, “Oh, this is how it’s going to be now. I’m just going to focus on English work.” Then the next year came around and I had [prior engagements I worked on] that meant I couldn’t continue following that path I was so excited about, so that took me back a little bit. But then I took away the pressure, because I put myself under a lot of pressure that year. I had to take a step back. I left out the stress and constantly worked on the language, the accent, spending time in London, and then eventually moving here. It’s been a long journey but a very fulfilling one. Also, I can nerd out about accent work so much. I read in an interview that you really love it as well. I’m not nearly as good as you, what you do is outstanding.

TM: You speak two languages, or probably more. I just speak English. 
LH: But the accent work you do is amazing. When I knew I was going to work with you I was so intimidated, like, [puts on a nervous voice] “I’m going to work with Thomasin McKenzie, she’s such a great actor!”

TM: Oh my god! 
LH: When did we first meet? Was it over Zoom?

TM: It was. 
LH: When we worked together in 2021. You were really sweet. I wasn’t in for that many days, and I think it’s always quite frightening to jump into a project, do a few days and then come back two weeks later and do a couple of days again. But what I really appreciated with you was that from the first second I was on set, you were so welcoming and instantly made me feel like part of the team.

TM: That’s very good to hear. 
LH: How did you think I was going to be?

TM: I watched you in a show and was like, “Oh my god, this guy is such an incredible actor.” But in that show, you’re quite serious and reserved. Then when we met for the first time, you were Zooming from your apartment in Berlin, which had the most magnificent scene. So I was like, “Oh my god, this guy is so smart, intellectual and serious, he knows himself so well. Thomasin, be chill. Don’t make a fool of yourself.” Then I met you and you were so lovely. You’re very emotionally tuned-in and intelligent, but also, you know how to enjoy life and be a little kid. There’s a side of you that’s very goofy – like a jumping jelly bean. [both laugh] We went to a gig together recently and you were jumping on the dancefloor, flailing your arms around with the biggest grin on your face. I know people can’t see us on this interview but throughout it looks like you’re on a yoga ball bouncing up and down. [laughs] 
LH: It’s my bed. [laughs]

TM: So there was quite a big difference between my expectations and reality. Either way, I’m sure I would’ve loved you, but it was nice to see the youthful, joyful Louis. 
LH: I’d like to get the chance to include that into my characters more often. Recently, I’ve been doing things that are more joyful and extroverted, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I think it’d be fun to engage with that a bit more. Even though I love playing those quiet, introverted characters, I’d love to explore characters who are more in control of the situation they’re in, especially more joyful ones, because I think that is very me.

All The Light We Cannot See is out on Netflix now.

Interview originally published in The HERO Winter Annual. 



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