Exclusive Interview with Actor Thomas Mikusz

Thomas Mikusz - An Austrian Actor in Hollywood

Thomas Mikusz - An Austrian Actor in Hollywood

Austria is currently on the entertainment map. BRÜNO , a controversial movie about a gay Austrian fashion expert, is hyped massively in Hollywood and beyond. Sacha Baron Cohen, starring as Brüno, seems to have hit the mark with his over-the-top portrayal of a homosexual fashion reporter and model mimicking an Austrian accent.

This is an ideal time for Austrian actor Thomas Mikusz to take advantage of the media buzz around Brüno and foster his own publicity. “It’s a great opportunity for me to promote myself in Hollywood”, says the Los Angeles-based actor. Just recently, the most popular German-language television station, RTL, aired an impressive segment on the Austrian actor. Highly acclaimed and top-rated show EXTRA featured Mikusz’s thrilling tale of working as a German-speaking actor in Hollywood.

Thomas Mikusz talked to grenniMEDIA about his life as a German-speaking actor in Hollywood and what it takes to be successful in Hollywood and Europe. Note: I conducted the interview in German and translated Thomas Mikusz’ answers.

Exclusive Interview with Actor Thomas Mikusz

Nina Grenningloh: Do you think the fact that you’re a native German speaker in Hollywood affects your chances?

Thomas Mikusz: When I moved to Hollywood, I initially saw my German accent as a disadvantage. For the longest time, I worked with an accent reduction coach to master the American accent. And even though my accent improved, I would still fall back into my German tone of voice when I was tired or had worked long hours. Finally, I stopped worrying about it. I figured I need to see my accent and my language skills as something positive, something I can take advantage of.

My American actor friends whom I went to acting school with aren’t any further in their careers than me. In fact, in my five years of acting I have landed guest appearances on TV series because of my accent. And once you’ve worked with production companies and they like your work, then they might call you back next time for another part that might not necessarily require a German accent but it doesn’t hurt to have one either. And that’s how I get more work.

NG: What was your motivation to come and pursue and acting career in Hollywood?

TM: When I was 17 or 18 years old, I suddenly had the wish to go to the US. I didn’t really have a concrete idea of how I wanted to pursue my dream. I received a scholarship from a US acting school which should complement my studies in Europe and that’s when I moved to the US. Later, I won the Green Card and stayed.

Attending an acting school in the US, I realized the attraction that Hollywood had on me. Just by being in Hollywood with all its studios underneath the Hollywood Sign, I feel really great. You’re driving by a film studio and know that that’s where they created TV series and productions that shaped our childhood and my generation in particular.

Especially in the beginnings of the 90ies, the medium television was very appealing to me. It’s an immediate medium. TV series often last several years which means you’re working with the same cast and production team for a long time, and it’s almost like a family. In the 90ies, there wasn’t much happening in German television. Series were imported from the US anyways. I thought if I want to work in television, then I have to live in Los Angeles.

What also attracted me was the lifestyle. People in the US are generally less critical. The American dream still exists. If you work hard, you can achieve more in the US than in Europe. In Europe, it’s important what certificates you have. In the US, people are more likely to give you a chance. They’re looking for personality.

NG: What do you think is the biggest difference between working as an actor in Hollywood and in Austria or Germany?

TM: In Europe, stage theaters have a relatively big budget compared to US theaters. As an actor, you’re hired by the playhouse and receive social and medical benefits. Rehearsals last seven or eight weeks and actors have the opportunity to experiment more. In the US, actors are required to show up for rehearsal with the character study already completed as rehearsals typically last only 2 or 3 weeks. There’s not much time for character study on a US stage; as an actor you have to be ready to perform.

And it’s even more extreme on a television set. The audition is hardly an audition any more, but actors are required to present the finished product. If you get the job, US directors are so busy with getting the technical aspects of the production right, that they don’t have much time to work with the actors on their performance.

I recently had a guest appearance in the soap opera Days of our Lives . We rehearsed the scene briefly. It was more of a technical rehearsal. The director would tell me where to stand when I said a particular line and work out camera angles and the lighting. We then shot the scene in one take. The director said: “Thanks! That was great!” I must have looked so puzzled because a fellow actor on set told me: “Don’t worry. You did fine. It’s Valentines Day. It’s 7.30pm. We all want to go home. If we shoot the scene in one take, that’s a good thing because otherwise it would cost more money and take more of our time.”

NG: In an interview on German Focus.de acting coach Bernard Hiller said that the reason why most German actors are not successful in Hollywood is their negative attitude. Would you agree?

TM: Yes, I agree. I especially see the different attitude whenever I visit Germany and Austria, this negative mind-set.

And it also corresponds to what Til Schweiger said in that RTL EXTRA report. He said in Hollywood anyone can become an actor as long as he attends acting school and pays for it. A US acting coach will boost your ego in a way that you believe you’re a talented actor. Til is right when he says anyone in Hollywood who’s willing to spend the money can take acting classes. However, I think it will show if someone has talent as soon as you start working in the business.

Germans sometimes have this kind of arrogance when they say that the profession of an actor is limited to only a few talented people. That’s how Germans see the business: In Germany, only a few privileged people can become actors whereas in the US just everyone can work as an actor. But the reality is that, like in all other professions, it’s your attitude that makes the difference. Yes, everyone has the chance to try to work as an actor. And that’s great – if you end up making it or not is secondary. What’s important is that you’re trying.

Thomas Mikusz

NG: Who are your role models when you’re thinking of successful European actors in Hollywood?

TM: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a role model for me, not so much as an actor but as an Austrian who grew up in relatively modest circumstances and came to the US realizing his dream, whether that’s as an actor or as a politician. I take my hat off to him.

As for European actors who made it in Hollywood, I admire Armin Müller-Stahl , Ingrid Bergmann , the Austrian actor Oscar Werner , and Thomas Kretschmann, who you’ll see often in American productions.

I need role models to keep me going. My role models are reminding me that there’s a chance to make it. I don’t want to follow in any of their foot steps though. I have to live my own life and realize my own dream, but these successful actors remind me that I can make it. And I want to add that I do enjoy the journey. I don’t want to give myself up entirely to my goal.

NG: If you could choose a part in Hollywood what role would that be?

TM: Well, I don’t have a dream part per se, but I definitely want to work in television. I prefer science fiction something like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica . I also love romantic thrillers like James Bond. The bad guy in James Bond would be a great role.

NG: What are you doing to achieve your goals?

TM: I have had guest appearances in a number of TV series. I would like to work as a regular on such a series, and I want to reach that goal within the next two or three years.

I’m currently concentrating on promoting myself in Hollywood. I’m sending out press packages to casting directors I have previously worked with. As an actor, you need to market your brand, that’s what I hear repeatedly from casting directors I meet. I auditioned for and the casting director told me that she really liked my work. And she said: „Don’t wait for casting directors to call you in again, but let them know that you’re around and ready for work.”
NG: Do you think you can follow the rules in Hollywood without losing your cultural roots?

TM: It’s important to keep a good balance. The rules in Hollywood include for example: you need to network, you need to know people, you must work hard and show up for innumerable castings. There are a million rules that tell you how to be successful in the American film business.

My notion is that there is no recipe for success. If that would exist, more people would have made it already. It’s important to find your own way and learn what works well for you. You need to know the rules but should be careful not to be sucked into the Hollywood morass. I know many actors who got lost in the entertainment jungle and now need to work twice as hard to be able to survive. Others run from one networking event to the next but they don’t have any real friends.

Friendships are important to me. My friends keep me grounded. I don’t think you absolutely have to play by the rules all the time. You should know the rules, and then find your own way to play them. What’s most important is to remain true to yourself. I give my best and trust in myself.

Thomas Mikusz

NG: The United Nations published an article on you in their official Austrian magazine SOCIETY titled “In the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger: Thomas Mikusz – Austrian’s Shooting Star in America”. Do you feel any pressure from comparisons like these?

TM: No, I don’t feel any pressure. I’d rather feel flattered. I know I can only go my own way.

When I was younger, I used to put pressure on me. I came to Hollywood and told my family and friends at home that I wanted to make it. But today I think who did I want to prove something to? And who says what it actually means “to have made it”? You could say I’ve already made it. I live in Los Angeles and work as a professional actor in Hollywood. I appear on TV series from time to time. I’m on my journey, and I take it day by day. We’ll see where I will be in a few years.

NG: Thank you Thomas for this interview.

You can find out more about Thomas Mikusz on his website .

Thomas Mikusz currently stars in the LA comedy short Sink or Swim by German director Bruno Schiebel . Mikusz’s role as coach Hans Joachim showcases his comedic timing and hilarious delivery. Sink or Swim will show at film festivals in the United States and Europe.


  1. This is a fantastic article and I can so relate to it living in Holland now acting!He is so right!

  2. Fabulous article and photographs. Congrats, Thomas.