Step Into The Limelight with ... Karim Theilgaard

Every month, our Marketing team will select one actor or actress to feature in the new e-TALENTA “Limelight On” section. You can only be eligible if you are active on e-TALENTA and have a complete and updated e-PROFILE.


You have lived all around the world and were exposed to a great variety of cultures from an early age. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how that influenced you as a young actor.

I grew up in countries including Brazil, Denmark, UK, Switzerland among others. In addition to that, my parents are also from diverse backgrounds. Seeing and experiencing many different impressions growing up has lead me to be very open to new ideas and impulses, as well as always cultivating a passion for research and knowledge into history, stories, languages and audio/visual stimuli. I think those traits are essential for any actor to possess as preparing for a role or writing a script is based on a love of research both on a personal/psychological level but also very much in to the environment and background of the world in which the story you are telling takes place.

How many countries have you worked in as a professional actor and what was your favourite experience there?

I’ve worked in the UK, France, USA and Denmark. In general, I love the feeling of being part of a “Set Family” where you get to spend all day every day with fun and creative people in difficult and challenging circumstances. That’s why it can be hard to say goodbye at the end of a lengthy project and why wrap parties are important as a means to punctuate the experience you’ve had in a physical way. On a professional level, I recently had a fantastic experience where I was brought in last minute on a film to play the antagonist. I have always been very sensitive around my eyes and never been able to wear contact lenses (I even had a hard time with eye drops!). On this shoot I had to perform the most emotionally challenging scene as my first scene of the shoot, naked and in the cold while wearing contact lenses of the type that completely blind you. It was so satisfying to then realise I pulled it off in spite of the odds in a way that impressed everyone on set. These are the types of experiences that are a career mile stone; where you feel you’ve really moved up a step in ability and confidence.

You have spoken at length about the film industry being prone to stereotyping actors based on their looks. The example you gave was about Scandinavians not always being fairskinned and blonde. Can you tell us a little bit more about your experiences of this and how you challenge the industry’s ideals?

In the casting business there are many faces to look through and limited time to do it, so it makes sense to think in type. However, where I see a problem is where Stereotype overshadows Type. Taking period films as the most obvious example of this, I find it is often rooted in lack of research and knowledge of the period being portrayed leading to an ingrained image of what that character is “supposed to look like”. Instead, some current writers and directors take their cue based upon what they have seen on screen in previous un-nuanced films. This then takes on a synergetic effect where stereotypes are maintained because that has now become what both audiences and filmmakers expect to see. Also, this is 2016. The demographics and shades of colour have changed! The average person gains a large part of their view on history from film fiction. That is the power of popular entertainment these days and why I emphasise the importance of maintaining a broad spectrum of knowledge. As actors we are in the front lines of story telling. Therefore, we need to know the history behind what the writers and directors are wishing to portray. Deriving confidence from research and knowledge gives us the power as actors to make a case for why we could be considered for roles that stereotypically we might not have been previously, provided of course we still fit the Type in question. Often though, it is up to us to prove ourselves and this is where self producing comes in. Self producing is another - in my view - essential skill every actor must have as well - but that is scope for a whole new article.

Setting aside the stereotype, what would you like to be cast as if you could choose any role in any film?

As you might have guessed I have a soft spot for period pieces. I loved the grand, sweeping, epic dramas of Sergey Bondarchuk’s “Waterloo” and my grandfather’s favourite film, William Wyler’s “Ben-Hur”, as a child. Coincidentally, I cast for the new version of “Ben-Hur”, which also features the Danish actor Pilou Asbæk. A historical figure in such a movie would be brilliant! More recently though, because music is also a
big part of my life as I write and record as well, playing a character such as the punk rocker “Kip Stevens” in the recent HBO series “Vinyl” would be a dream come true! The new Star Wars films are also high on my list of projects I would be thrilled to work. “The Empire Strikes Back” was among the first films I ever saw as a child.

Along with self-producing and writing in addition to acting, you’re very proactive on social media. How did that start and when did you see the benefits of a strong online presence? Is it something everyone should have in this day and age?

In order to successfully utilise Social Media I think it is important to have a goal with it. If one just stops at thinking it is all about the number of “Followers” and “Likes” I believe one is not fully utilising Social Media to its full potential. You must give people a reason to follow you when you are at a level where you are not famous enough for people to follow you just because you are who you are. By giving potential followers value you do this. Tell them your story, experiences, the ups- and downs through the pictures you post on Instagram and observations you make on Twitter. Make it about them, not you - at least not always. Then you can sprinkle in some self-promotion related posts in between, which your followers will be happy to receive as well. Also, you must differentiate your use and the type of posts across the different social channels you
decide are right for you and your audience. Cross-posting the same things on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook and Snapchat annoys people and they will unfollow one or more of your channels as they are seeing the same content everywhere. I have successfully used social media to connect on a personal level with industry professionals and colleagues. It takes effort but in the end it can be of more value to connect in a meaningful way with a few, than thousands with whom there is hardly any valuable interaction.
The bottom line is: don’t be on social media just because you feel you have to. Have a plan and goals for your presence. Pick and focus on the channels that best suit you and your potential audience.

You also coach younger actors. Is this your way of giving back in an undoubtedly tough industry?

One of the most important assets one can have as an actor, especially a young actor, is a mentor; someone who knows your industry first hand and can guide you, advise you and help you in your choices. Most successful people, regardless of their industry, all have or have had a mentor. I know the impact having one can have on your career as I didn’t really have one when I needed it the most. Therefore, I always try in particular to help people who are at the level I was at when I needed one myself. As you climb the ladder of experience and career, no matter which step you are on, you will always be ahead of someone. I believe it is your duty to look back and extend a hand to those who now look up to you, just like you look up for help from those ahead of you. By helping others you also discover a lot about yourself, your ideas and convictions. The benefit is indeed mutual.

And finally, if you could say anything to the Casting Directors, Producers and Directors on e-TALENTA, what would it be?

I would encourage particularly Producers and Directors who are the ones submitting their casting guidelines to the Casting Directors to be open-minded and not be afraid to take a stand and think outside of stereotype. Challenge the image you currently have of what a certain character looks like in your mind’s eye. At the same time Casting Directors have an opportunity and a duty to champion actors whom they know could suit the Type but may not fit within the narrow confines of Stereotype. By doing so, a more diverse, richer and accurate representation of all our stories will ultimately be portrayed on the Big Screen as they should be in 2016.

You can find Karim's e-TALENTA profile here.