Philip Froissant is a talented German actor who shines on both screen and stage. His performances are captivating, and he has a unique blend of wit and depth in his roles. Froissant describes himself as a dreamer, always lost in his imagination. His love for observing and understanding the world adds authenticity to his characters.
Philips’s journey into acting started when he discovered his passion while working as a lab technician. Inspired by movies like “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “On the Waterfront,” he became interested in acting. With determination and talent, he attended acting school, gained experience through internships and smaller film projects, and landed significant roles, such as Franz Joseph I in the Netflix series “The Empress.” He is a rising star in the entertainment industry, driven by his love for movies and eagerness to explore new opportunities.
- First of all, we want to get to know you personally a little bit more. How would you describe yourself?
I’m a dreamer. My head seems to be in the clouds a lot. But I enjoy that, I enjoy daydreaming and imagining things. A Walter Mitty type of guy, but less cranky. I would say I’m good at observing things, I’m very curious and I’m interested in almost anything. I’m playful, I can get annoying sometimes. I’m clumsy. I’m an idiot, but a funny one, at least I hope so. I’m rather stubborn. I can be quite desperate, I’m a melancholic. I like bad weather. I prefer hearty stuff over sweets. I’m a philanthropist, an Idealist. I love cooking. I love being in the outdoors. I love wildlife. I’m a dog person. I’m very strict when it comes to talking while watching a movie. I’m a dancer. A night-owl. I’m dipping white bread in all kinds of beverages. Oh, and my shoe size is 45, that’s about it.
- What inspired you to become an actor? When and why did this dream start?
I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I’m a trained laboratory technician. During my time as an apprentice, I realized how unsuited I was for a scientific job. I struggled a lot during that time and took refuge in writing stories and escaping into my imagination. I was starting to like the idea of becoming a scriptwriter and be able to really tell my own stories. Back then I had a habit of watching at least one or two movies per night.
I remember watching “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “On the Waterfront” in a row and somehow it triggered acting ambitions in me. Maybe because I could relate to the character’s needs very well, I don’t know. The famous scene in “On the Waterfront”, where Tarry Malloy, the protagonist, played by a young Marlon Brando, is condemning his brother for his own downfall, and it just casted a spell on me. I watched it over and over again, and finally ended up learning the lines and performing them in front of the mirror. I know, it’s a little cringy, but I think that was the very first spark.
- What was your first acting audition, and how did you prepare for it?
My very first audition was for a short movie of the very talented young director Anna Roller. Back then Anna was studying at the Munich film school and her class had a seminar by the croatian scriptwriter Miroslav Mandic about working with actors. Because Anna couldn’t find the right fit for her story casting trained actors, she wanted to go for somebody with less or even no experience. Luckely, Stefanie von Poser, a german actress, proposed me to her. I was super nervous of course and had absolutely no idea how to prepare for the audition at all. So, I just learned the lines and tried to imagine how this human being, described in the synopsis could be, how he lives and how the events that he lives through the story would change him, and I got the part. After that, we had several rehearsals on three separate days, and after each rehearsal Mandic, a Bear of a man with a thunderous voice, who wears Flip-Flops in any weather, looked over the scene and gave everyone feedback. It was super fun and exciting and I soaked up everything like a sponge. Soon after we started shooting, it was a very small team, the atmosphere was very warm and almost familiar. It really was a beautiful first experience in front of the camera.
- How did you pursue your career? Did you attend any interpretation school?
After quitting my job in the lab, I was trying to get a foot in the door of the movie industry, I did a lot of internships in different departments and worked on set of student-films. I was turned down applying for film school and ended up studying theatre sciences for a while. I also took on a few smaller parts in student films in the meantime.
During the first semester there was an open call to audition for an upcoming play of the youth group of one of Munich’s biggest theatres. I was super hyped about it but too afraid to go, however after a little kick-ass intervention by my girlfriend, I was ready to try my best. I ended up playing a minor part in the play, made my first experiences on stage and absolutely loved it. But even then, I was still convinced to become a director/ scriptwriter, and when I had the opportunity to work as an assistant to the theatres head dramaturg Andrea Koschwitz, who worked on one of the big plays on the main stage of the theatre, I went for it without hesitation.
One of my first jobs for Andrea was to assemble maps for the actors with a collection of materials, that I thought might be of interest for their role-preparation. Soon after reading what I had collected to her and Andrea seeing me on stage as a light stand in, giving some of the plays lines I had memorized watching the rehearsals, she asked me if I’d ever thought about applying for acting school. The next month’s more and more people of the production started to encourage me to do so. So, I thought, ok, let’s give it a try. I applied and was accepted on the first run.
The next years where a complete commitment to the craft and to learning as much as possible. Then Covid came, and everyone had to go into lockdown and homeschooling. On the very last day before lockdown, I got the invitation to audition for the lead part in a Netflix film called ‘Black Island’. And I got it. My first film. My first “professional” production ever. I was totally overwhelmed, kind of scared also. But that was the beginning of my career as a movie actor so to say. Still sounds weird to call that out.
- Apart from your interest in the audiovisual world, have you ever done or enjoyed theater?
Growing up I never really had access to the world of theater. It wasn’t really a thing in my family. After studying theatre sciences and playing on stage, my interest grew very fast and peaked during my time in acting school. The acting school I attended, the Otto Falckenberg Schule, is affiliated to the Kammerspiele, a very old-established theatre in Munich, so the whole training you get as a student is very much oriented in performing on stage, but they’re opening up to prepare their students also for acting in film more and more in recent years.
Today, I still love going to the theatre, a lot of friends and colleagues are engaged in theatre companies and often enough I catch myself envying those on stage. For my last movie project, I had a monologue on a stage with an audience of about 30 extras, and up there I really realized how much I’d missed playing for an audience that is physically there in the room with you, sharing the moment. But who knows, maybe I’ll find myself on a theatre stage again sooner or later, we’ll see.
- We know you for playing the role of Franz Joseph I in the Netflix series “The Empress.” How was the casting process, and how did you end up on Netflix?
While I was preparing for the shoot of ‘Black Island’ there was an open call for audition for the parts of Elisabeth or Franz. In the first round of auditioning, you had to send in a videotape and introduce yourself. I did that whilst walking my dog in the close-by castle park, annoying a herd of geese while pretending to be on a royal parade. Katie Eyssen later told me she knew that I was the right fit after seeing just the first seconds of that video. But there was still a long way to go, e-casting and the first live audition followed.
They really liked my approach, but after that I didn’t really hear anything from them for a while until I started shooting ‘Black Island’ on the Island of Amrum in the North-sea. They wanted to do constellations with me but due to Covid and me being stuck on that island shooting, it almost seemed impossible to get a casting arranged. Luckily enough they found Devrim in the meantime, and just two days after coming back home from the island, me and Devrim had our first and only live audition in Munich. I still remember coming to the Casting Studio a little too early and seeing her sitting in the kitchen in full costume having some Thai food with other members of the team. It was kind of absurd and funny but also a very beautiful scene. It seemed like everybody was on board with the two of us, but I did a few more scenes including a long monologue to convince the last doubters. They also organized to bring in one of the make-up artists and glued on some provisional facial hair and beard pieces to support me in every way they could. After the audition I was hanging around in my hotel apartment restlessly until I finally got the call, Katie Eyssen was on the phone bringing on the good news. That probably was one of the most exciting moments in my entire life.
- How did it feel to have to interpret such an important historical role? Was it hard to prepare for it?
No, but, you know I normally get kind of a strong intuitive feeling whether I have a part in me or not. When I first read the scenes for an audition and do my first little research, there must be a spark or a glimpse of recognition, you got to find yourself in the part or vice versa. Even if its super far away from yourself, you kind of need a little thing to hold on to. A connection. With Franz this first connection was super strong, and it stayed that strong during the whole process. But sure, there is an enormous amount of respect towards the real person and its history and you are indeed scared at first if you are able to do them justice.
At the same time, I was afraid about the responsibility that comes with the part, I always wanted to make sure that we are not glorifying the deeds and actions of the historic person, and instead make it as clear as possible that we are telling our own story based on that human beings’ life. At first, I read a lot of books, biographies even childhood diaries and gathered all kinds of information and pictures and little stories that sparked my imagination. I tried to find my way of understanding or really seeing the historic Franz to be able to put together my own approach to the role. That was the psychological part, for the physical part, it was a lot about learning how to move in that historic body, wearing that uniform like a second skin and understanding the bond with God, the relationship with the family, the church, his people and the burden of being the head of that immense empire of course, trying to connect that knowledge with the body in a physical way. My acting school’s movement teacher was of great help to achieve that, plus later-on the whole cast had a very intense character development workshop. Not to forget very nice stuff like horse-riding lessons, fencing and dancing lessons etc. in between. So long story short: It felt great, and yes it was challenging, but I enjoyed it a lot.
- We loved you in the first season, and we know that there’s going to be a second season of “The Empress What” can you tell us about it?
Thank you so much, I’m really grateful for all the love and confirmation we got for the first season of the show. Story-wise I can’t really tell you anything about season 2 at this point. It will be even bigger and more dramatic than season one, that’s for sure, so I think it’s going to be worth the wait. And for those who are super curious, it’s still based on historical events, so you could go and check those but allow yourself to be surprised.
- How do you approach character development and understanding your roles?
I always start out with reading the script over and over again, in every mood, in different locations and times of the day, making a lot of notes and posing questions for myself and/or the writers/directors. Then there is a very big part of research, I really love that, digging as deep as possible and finding out as much as I can to understand the world and time my character lives in. If time allows it I also try to do some “field studies”; for “The Empress” I went to Vienna for a couple of days together with Johannes Nussbaum who plays my brother Maximilian, we checked out every corner of the town that is somehow connected to our characters, that gave us a lot of clues for our roles but was also great for the both of us to get to know each other better as colleagues and discover some beautiful things for the relationship of the brothers we are playing at the same time. There is a Fountain in the castle park of Schoenbrunn, for example, where Maximilian and Franz are said to have learned swimming, or standing in front of ‘our’ bodily remains in the ‘Kapuzinergruft’, the imperial crypt, was super intense for the both of us too. Then it’s a lot about building and really constructing the character, I create a lot of memory’s and clue moments for the characters and try to link them with things I experienced in my own life, I write character biographies, collect all kinds of images, poetry and so on, music plays an important role too, whatever sparks my imagination. I also did a lot of family/character line-ups with my coach for the last projects, it’s incredible and scary what you find out doing that.
The next step is to try to integrate all that into the body and kind of layering it all together. Getting a physical understanding of the character. But it sounds a lot more organized know than it really is, I always try to find some kind of framework to get started and to keep working. I’m still figuring it out, I guess that’s what all actors do and it probably never stops, I think that’s a beautiful part of the profession, that there is so many things to learn and discover what works best for yourself.
- Which actors or actresses do you admire the most?
That’s a very tuff question. There are so many magnificent actors and actresses, but Philip Seymour Hofmann, Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliane Moore are the first names that come to my mind. I’m also a big fan of Steven Yeun, his performances in “Minari” and “Burning” really blew my mind.
- We have also seen that you did some modelling. Is that something that you also want to pursue in your career?
Yeah, I filled in for a friend on short notice once, but it was not really a modelling job, more of a shooting to promote the collection of a young design student from Munich. But it sure was a very fun experience. In general, I really like to stay open for things live brings around, so if Tom Ford calls me tomorrow and wants me to walk for his next show, I’m in, however I think I’d still prefer to be cast in his next movie though – haha.
- You recently announced your role in a new series “One Trillion Dollars”. Can you tell us something about the series and your new character?
Sure! The series is based on a bestselling novel by the German author Andreas Eschbach. It follows John, a Berlin bike messenger who finds out that he’s the heir of the biggest fortune that ever existed. He inherits a trillion dollars of a Florentine salesman who invested the money 500 years ago after having a lucid dream about the forthcoming apocalypse, and he saw his heir saving the world with the help of that money. The bike messenger from one day to the other becomes the richest person on earth and is now expected to somehow fulfil this prophecy.
So, the big question he is wrestling with is can you save the world with money and if so, how. It will be a very tense and action filled hero’s journey, but also very fun and entertaining. I was super thrilled to play the part of John Fontanelli, especially because he’s so very different from my previous roles. He’s that freedom loving, extrovert bundle of energy, a kind of rebellious street kid who doesn’t really wants to be part of society. He’s very playful and he’s got that devilish charm. It was great fun to have that anarchic freedom in his behavior, especially if compared to the strictness and the somehow imprisoned state Franz was trapped in in “The Empress”. Also letting this cheeky guy grow up to the expectations the world has on him and accepting that responsibility, with a fair amount of resistance included and a few obstacles in the way, of course, was a great task.
- Is there any specific role you are interested in playing in the future?
There are so many! I would love to get cast against type and maybe get to play a villain or something very dark or sinister, maybe in a fantasy movie or something like that, that would be awesome. A classic comedy would be a cool challenge too as it requires a lot of skill and perfect timing to really master that genre. Playing a highly distinct form and playing “big” also interests me a lot. But what I’d really love to do would be a very detailed character study kind of role in an arthouse movie.
- How do you balance staying true to a character’s personality and motivations while still bringing your own unique perspective to the role?
I think that kind of goes hand in hand. You discover and construct the character through your own eyes using your perspective already, I mean sure there is a lot of given information, but still, from the moment you got the part until the last day of shooting there is no role existing without you anymore. It will always be linked to your own life and experiences and imagination and at least to some extend to your body and physicality, you can change yourself a lot for sure, but you are not becoming somebody else. That’s why I believe it’s even more interesting and exciting to find out what the differences between you and your roles are instead of sticking to the similarities too much. It’s very important to trust your instincts if it comes down to talking about your approach to the role with other members of the production. You got to fight for your decisions on the approach, in the end you are the one who probably spend the most time just thinking about this one character (apart from the writers), and the one who lends his body and mind to it in front of the camera. I think it’s always a very good sign if you have a strong gut feeling about what feels right or wrong and kind of want to protect what you contribute to the role. The rest is about communication and agreeing on something that works for everyone.
- What about your future projects? Is there anything you are excited to do or would like to achieve?
First of all, I really can’t wait for us to start shooting Season Two of “The Empress”. I’m excited to find out what challenges Franz is facing and how he’ll develop and grow in this season, but also how the relationships to the roles of my cast members will change. Apart from that, since we shot a large part of “One Trillion Dollars” in English, I really look forward to do some more international work apart from my German projects. It was truly delightful and exciting to act in a foreign language and I think you learn a lot about your craft doing it. It’s just very different than playing in your mother tongue and getting into character almost seems to come more naturally. And if you ask me like that, I’m a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson – so in a perfect world, being able to work with PTA one day, that’s something I really dream about.