People have trouble placing Daniel Donskoy. That’s how he likes it.
“In London, people were like, ‘Are you South African?’ Yes. ‘Danish?’ Yes. I always say yes. I’m everything you want me to be,” says the 31-year-old actor, who was born in Moscow and raised in Germany, Israel and the UK. “I was lucky that people couldn’t label me. It allows you to be everything. If I only accepted roles based on my identity, I would never have a job. How many jobs are there for a Russian-German-Jewish-British-Israeli? »
In the case of Donskoy, actually, not bad. He played a Grand Duke (in the PBS series Victoria) and a Soviet general (on the BBC spy thriller SS-GB), an Israeli mobster on HBO Counter attacka Latin-speaking warrior (in Netflix’s German historical drama Barbarians), and Lady Diana’s lover James Hewitt in the final season of The crown. (Like Hewitt, Donskoy, who holds a muscular 6′ 3″ in his socks, is a natural ginger.)
In Germany, Donskoy is best known for St. Maika popular sitcom on the national network RTL in which he plays the role of a con man who poses as a priest from a small town (think TVLand’s pastor with more umlauts).
Donskoy’s latest role is as host of the 2021 German Film Awards, Germany’s industry version of the Oscars, to be held in Berlin on Friday evening.
“In preparation, I watched all the Neil Patrick Harris awards shows, I watched Hugh Jackman. There’s going to be dancing, singing, all that stuff,” he says. not common for German award shows.”
Donskoy, who occasionally moonlights as a musician – he released his first EP Didn’t I say in 2019 – even recorded an original track, titled Kino is Geil (Cinema is Sexy), especially for the occasion (see below).
“The Germans, the German film industry, find it difficult to really celebrate, to congratulate themselves. But that’s what I want, a real celebration of German cinema,” he says.
Donskoy wasn’t even supposed to be an actor. He studied marine biology and media management before trying (and failing) to break into the worlds of ballet, opera and musical theatre. On a whim, he auditioned for a theater school in Munich.
“But a professor there told me that the German system, which is all about artistic expression, about ‘finding yourself’ wasn’t for me, and he was right. I went home and typed “London Acting School” on Google. I found a school [London’s Arts Educational School] applied, got a scholarship and left. That’s how it’s always been with me. Completely random. No plans at all.
Donskoy worked in London’s West End and did spots on UK series including Detectors, Victim and Victoriabefore a (random) encounter in London brings him back to Germany for the St. Maik job. This, in turn, led to an offer from German public broadcaster WDR to host a late-night talk show: Freitagnacht Jews (Friday night jews). As part of this concept, Donskoy interviewed prominent German Jewish figures, including writer Max Czollek, actress Susan Sideropoulos and rapper Ben Salomo, about what it means to be Jewish in today’s Germany. .
“When they first asked me: do you want to do a talk show about being Jewish in Germany? I thought: damn no! But I realized that this show could be about any marginalized group,” he says. “And I learned myself how differently Jews see their identity.”
Raised in a secular household – ‘I did a Bar Mitzvah, that’s about it’ – Donskoy says his experiences moving between countries and cultures have helped him understand identity, Jewish or otherwise , as more “the image people give you” as anything fixed or inherent.
“I came to Germany as an immigrant, as a baby, so for a long time that was my identity,” he explains. “Then when I discovered my Jewish identity, I started wearing a Star of David and being the ‘cool German Jew’. But when I went to Israel, where everyone is Jewish, I suddenly became the German: “Daniel the Nazi”.
He points out the irony of Freitagnacht Jews winning the local equivalent of an Emmy for best talk show Thursday, September 16 – Yom Kippur.
“So you’re talking to a Jew who celebrated Yom Kippur at an award ceremony in Germany. And I got very drunk afterwards,” he jokes. “God forgive me.”
For tonight’s award ceremony in Berlin, Donskoy hopes to try out a whole new identity: that of the versatile German-Jewish entertainer. It’s something the audience here hasn’t seen in a long, long time.