The first time she was in front of the camera, she was only a child. But by the age of 17, she knew that she wanted to become an actress. Since October of 2010, Kasia Borek can be seen as Emma Müller on the Sat.1 telenovela, “Hand aufs Herz.” Emma, the shy student, was initially a bit hesitant but then wholeheartedly got involved with her classmate, Jenny Hartmann (played by Lucy Scherer), and the two now form the school’s new ‘dream couple.’
Kasia talked with Rosalie & Co. about, among other things, her role as Emma, the “Jemma” hype, and acting both in general and in particular.
Unlike “Emma”, she’s anything but shy: Actress Kasia Borek
Rosalie & Co.: Kasia, since last year, you have been playing the rather shy and a little nerdy Emma Müller. What attracted you to this role?
Kasia Borek: I’m prone to playing weird, individual, odd characters. I like to play that a lot because those characters usually have a secret. I wouldn’t like to play someone who is perfect, because that’s not interesting to me. Also, I love to take risks when it comes to acting. You invest everything and don’t know what is going to become of it. It’s a little like speculating on the stock market, but you have to do it. You want to try because you know that if you don’t, you will regret it, or you will miss the chance to learn something about yourself. And that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the fact that Emma is a lesbian role, but it applies in general and for every role.
R&C: What was the challenge for you in playing the role of Emma?
KB: It was difficult for me to play Emma’s shyness. I’m someone who likes to speak her mind, not always, but whenever I think it’s necessary. With Emma I found that difficult at the beginning, because during scenes I had so many thoughts, and when the others were talking I really wanted to add something to the discussion and say something, but of course I couldn’t. But I respect the sphere of Emma, and I also really like how she’s put down roots and started to blossom. I’m curious as to what kind of flower she is going to become. I for one like sunflowers a lot.
R&C: Did you have a say in the development of the character and/or the storyline?
KB: We’re in close contact with the writers, who have told us from the beginning that we could come to them and let them know what we want, and that they would try to include it. Of course, given the complexity and the interrelations of the various storylines, that’s usually not possible right away, but maybe at a later time.
I tell them from time to time what kind of scene I would like to play, but not how I think the story of Emma should continue. Of course I would like Emma to become more courageous, but I don’t want to decide that. It’s like when you wake up in the morning, you don’t know what your day will be like, but you deal with it, and that’s what I want it to be like with Emma, no matter if she falls into a deep hole or becomes Mother Teresa.
Kasia Borek as “Emma” on “Hand aufs Herz” (Episode 157)
R&C: Did you know from the beginning that Emma would fall in love with another girl?
KB: At the beginning, this wasn’t an issue. When they told me that Emma would meet someone and would fall in love with this person and it wouldn’t matter what gender this person is, I was okay with it right away. What I really like about the characters of Jenny and Emma is that emotions are being played on a completely different level. I’m annoyed by the clichéd men-women-relationship. I think that there’s something special between two women, that they get each other on a completely different level, which can also make it even more complicated at times. It’s more complex and therefore, more interesting for me to play.
R&C: The love story between Jenny and Emma, affectionately called “Jemma” by their fans, has generated a very positive feedback and even a hype not just in Germany, but worldwide. Did you expect that?
KB: I really wouldn’t have expected for so many people to be taking an interest in the story of Jenny and Emma. I did have the feeling that it is well acted, since Lucy and I respond to each other and because we’re open and love our job. I risked opening up for this role. But I didn’t expect that all of this would be taking on a whole other dimension, or that working with Lucy would be so rewarding for me and so colorful and interesting. In the end, it has a lot to do with luck.
R&C: Has the hype reached you at all, and if so, how do you deal with it?
KB: You hear from a lot of people “hype, hype, hype” and you just accept that because you don’t know what’s normal and what isn’t and you can’t evaluate whether it’s a small hype or a big hype, or if there is a difference at all. I certainly could catch more of it, but I’m deliberately trying to remain neutral, that’s how I create the necessary space I need for my role. That’s most important to me, that’s how I can touch people, if I have clarity and know what I’m doing. But of course, I’m happy about the hype.
R&C: Do you – maybe as a reaction to the hype – give a lot of thought to how you play the role or what might go down well with the viewers?
KB: I don’t want to give so much thought to that because I don’t want it to give me any ideas. When the camera is on, I’m there. We shoot so much and so fast that there is no time to think along the lines of “So today, I’m going to be a little sad, and I’m going to mix that with a little joy.” I like to just take the mood and the emotion I’m in right at that moment.
At the same time, I don’t really want to evaluate my work myself, but want to completely leave that to the fans. That’s why I’m so curious about their reactions and amazed by it over and over again, like for example, at the Soap Awards, or especially the Fantag.
R&C: At the Fantag, but also at the Soap Awards, the “Jemma” hype became very apparent. How was that for you?
KB: When I saw the enthusiastic faces at the Fantag, I realized for the first time that what we’re doing is actually making some sort of sense, that we’re not just playing something that’s beautiful, but that there’s communication resulting from it and that you get a lot in return. That’s how I see the relationship between the actor and the audience in general. It’s give and take. I was blown away by the fans’ commitment regarding the Soap Awards. I was sorry that the result was ‘only’ the runner-up spot, because it was so important to the fans.
Kasia Borek and Lucy Scherer perform at the Fantag
R&C: Is there anything in particular you did to prepare for the role of Emma and also the coming out story?
KB: I know for myself this feeling of differentness. That doesn’t necessarily have to do with someone being gay or lesbian. When I was a child, we moved a lot, I never had a real circle of friends, I always had to adjust. One time, you were accepted right away, another time you were an outsider from the beginning. So I know what it means to be accepted, or to not be accepted.
Of course, I also talked to my gay and lesbian friends about their experiences. Most of all though, I watched them, and what I noticed was that every relationship – regardless of whether it’s between a man and a woman, two men or two women – goes through similar, ‘traditional’ phases. Still, I think that if it is between two women, it’s more relaxed.
R&C: How did the people around you react to the fact that you’re playing a woman who falls in love with another woman on TV?
KB: I never really cared about other people’s reactions. My father taught me that it’s important to be yourself, to go your own way. The way I interpreted that, it means that I can play any role, as long as it suits me. Luckily, my parents are very tolerant. If the men in my family maybe aren’t so fond of watching “Hand aufs Herz,” it’s not so much because of my lesbian role but rather because they think that it’s women’s stuff and they prefer to watch action movies or soccer.
R&C: Your parents are from Poland. You were born and grew up in Germany, but attended a film academy in Poland and also have a Polish passport. What’s your take on the attitude towards gays and lesbians in Polish society?
KB: In Poland, they are much further away from the subject of homosexuality intellectually then here in Germany. Here people started to deal with the subject much earlier, at a time in Poland when there was still communism and young people had fewer liberties. Still, there are a lot of people nowadays who dare to be open about their sexuality, especially in the bigger cities where it’s already much more accepted than in the countryside.
Of course, Catholicism plays a big role. At the same time, if somebody comes out or not usually doesn’t have so much to do with acceptance by society but rather with the reaction one fears from their own family. I have a lot of gay friends in Poland, and to this day one of them doesn’t dare to come out to his mother. On the other hand, one of my fellow students was one of the first drag queens in Warsaw. I always liked how much energy and naturalness he went on stage with and did his shows, and the people loved it. Extremes exist everywhere, but I think that Poland is headed in the right direction.
R&C: What’s peculiar about “Hand aufs Herz” is that you don’t only get to act, but also to dance and to sing. Do you have a say in the choice of music?
KB: We in fact could hand in a “song wish list.” Of course, not all of that will be done, but if they pick a song from your list, you feel acknowledged. One of my suggestions, for example, was “Lovefool” by The Cardigans.
On the other hand, I like to be inspired. With “Sweet Dreams” for example, they came up to me and asked me whether I wanted to sing that. And my first solo song “If I Were a Boy,” when they suddenly said that we were going to shoot that as a music clip and not in the auditorium with STAG, as it was originally planned, but outside in the schoolyard, I found that awesome. The people we work with have a sense for quality in music, that’s why I trust them to pick the right song for me.
“If I Were A Boy” (Folge 92)
R&C: The first time you were on camera, you were only a child. You did the children’s program “Vampy” in the 1990s. How did this happen, and did it have an impact on your career choice or did you know that you wanted to be an actress even before that?
KB: My father is a cameraman, and RTL 2 assigned him to film child reporters for “Vampy.” So he asked me if I wanted to do it. Because it was my father who was filming it, I always felt secure during the shoots. After that, the genre just didn’t let go of me. When I was 17, I went to my parents and told them that I wanted to become an actress, and they were okay with it right away. That confirmed my decision, and ever since then I’ve been very consistent, though with ups and downs, of course. But I love the camera, and acting is the job of my dreams.
R&C: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
KB: One of the highlights was my first job as an extra for “The Pianist,” and seeing Roman Polanski at the set – and especially seeing that he is as tall as I am. Back then, Polanski was a very important person to me, and also the reason why I studied at the film academy in Lodz, because that’s where he studied, too.
R&C: Do you have a dream role, something that you really want to play?
KB: I don’t want to think about that at the moment, because I’m still too involved with playing Emma. I probably already know what I would like to do, but I don’t want to admit it even to myself because then I would want to do it, and that’s what I would like to avoid. But what I generally would like to do is to act in a Hollywood production, because I think that the Americans really have it.
R&C: What does Kasia Borek do when she’s not Emma?
KB: At the moment I’m working out a lot, because I feel that it’s good for me. Also, I like to listen to music. I started out with Jazz, but I’m currently discovering electro pop by, for example, I Blame Coco or Robyn. I like to make music too, but just for myself. Friends and family are important as well. And I like to be outdoors as much as I can. I would love to have a dog, but unfortunately, I don’t have enough time for one.
R&C: What are your plans when it comes to “Hand aufs Herz” and Emma?
KB: I can imagine playing Emma until I realize that the character has played itself out. When my intuition tells me that Emma has reached a certain point, I would like to quit and start something new.
This interview was done before Sat.1 annouced the cancelation of the show. Go here for the original German version. Thank you very much to Kasia Borek! Also, thank you to adsullata for proofreading the English version and editing the photo of Kasia.