• Emilio Sakraya © Marius Knieling


Emilio Sakraya © Marius Knieling

When Emilio Sakraya kept getting into mischief at school, his mother had a tough punishment for him: He was not allowed to go to martial arts school. Even today, he remembers this with a shudder: “That was really bad”.

These youthful experiences are significant in two respects. Firstly, they highlight the enormous energy of the now 25-year-old, which desperately needs an outlet. It can also be seen in this interview, during which his gaze is constantly shifting. In his school days, on the other hand, when Sakraya was “always the class clown,” it marked the development of a personality eager to escape from structures limiting his creativity.

The Berliner’s literally extra-ordinary talents and qualities are also obvious to every film and streaming viewer. It‘s enough to watch the opening minutes of Til Schweiger‘s tragicomedy SAVING THE WORLD WE KNOW, where he covers a breath-taking obstacle course at dizzying heights, only to plummet to emotional lows in the role of a manic-depressive. In the over-the-top Amazon comedy ONE NIGHT OFF, he chases through Berlin‘s nightlife as a new father with a baby. He also demonstrates a combination of physical expressiveness and psychological complexity one might tend to associate with Anglo-Saxon cinema in the Netflix end-time series, TRIBES OF EUROPA.

This path seemed to be mapped out early on for Sakraya, who is the son of a Moroccan mother and a Serbian father. “I was a bright boy with a lot of energy. That‘s why I was pushed into every type of sport I felt like doing.“ Aside from dabbling in figure skating, track, skiing and American football, among other things, he developed an enthusiasm for kung fu and karate as a child, even winning a German championship title in the latter at the age of 14. But although he says he pursued all of these addictively, as challenges they were not enough for him: “As soon as I had mastered something, I wanted to try something new again.”

But acting is a different matter, as he found out at the age of nine. At 14, he made his first cinema appearance in ELECTRO GHETTO. The trigger was his first cinema experiences, especially the HARRY POTTER films: „I loved being completely immersed in a world like that, and I wanted to create that same effect for other people.“

There is “definitely“ no danger that he could one day become as bored in his profession as he becomes with different types of sport: “That could only happen if I always played the same thing. But that‘s never going to be the case.“

The range of offers is likely to grow further as a result of his latest project, especially since it puts him in the international spotlight even more: In mid-December, he finished shooting the biographical film RHEINGOLD for Fatih Akin – about the German Kurd Xatar, who went from big-time dealer to rap star. Apart from putting on twelve to 15 kilos of muscle mass for this film, he also took a close look at Xatar’s personality in order to portray him as faithfully as possible.

It is a long time since he was held back by rigid structures like those he faced in his school days. Even though he still has some problems with mind-sets in his homeland: “Unfortunately, we are a crazy pigeonhole society in Germany; people really like to pigeonhole you. Are you an actor? Are you a musician?” In his case, that‘s particularly absurd because he needs his music as “self-therapy”: “Because it’s about me, my stories and processing my feelings.” His debut album of urban pop songs, “Roter Sand”, reached number 40 in the German charts.

Seen in this light, his career could take him beyond the German film industry. The fact that he‘s one of the European Shooting Stars 2022 fits the bill: “I‘d be lying if I said I wasn‘t interested in Marvel and Hollywood and the like, but I‘m primarily interested in the character I play and the film’s director. I‘d also find it hugely exciting to be in a French or Italian film.“

On the other hand, he no longer needs to work himself to the bone in martial arts halls. Intead, he goes running for an hour each morning. And that boosts his energy levels even more: “My whole team knows that if I call them panting after a jog, I‘ll have lots of new ideas.“

Rüdiger Sturm