The Cast of Netflix’s Barbarians Are German Action Heroes

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The Cast of Netflix’s Barbarians Are German Action Heroes

There’s something about the show “Barbarians” that feels eerily familiar. The guts and gore; the moody lighting; the vaguely European forest where it always seems to have just stopped raining; the prostitutes; the witches; those darn beheadings and the endless parade of bloody battle scenes⁠—it’s all very “Game of Thrones”-y. And that’s most likely by design. Despite being rooted in fantasy, the juggernaut television series has inspired a whole host of historical dramas including the History Channel’s “Vikings” and the BBC’s “The Last Kingdom.”

But one important detail separates “Barbarians” from “Game of Thrones” and the historical dramas it inspired: the actors in “Barbarians” are all uber German, and their origins give the show a sense of captivating authenticity. “Barbarians” is based on ancient German history, specifically the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in which disparate Germanic tribes united to prevent the Roman Empire from spreading further north in 9 AD. In “Barbarians” the true story of this epic battle is told primarily from the perspective of the series’ main character Arminius, a Roman officer with Germanic origins who ultimately must decide where his loyalty lies.

In case you aren’t an expert in German cinema, here’s a handy guide to the stars of “Barbarians.”

Bernhard Schütz

Schutz is a well-established German actor who has been working in film and television since the early aughts. American audiences might recognize him from “A Most Wanted Man”, the espionage thriller that starred Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles. In “Barbarians”, Schutz plays Segestes, a nobleman in the Cherusci tribe. Segestes is also the father of another central character, Thusnelda. In the beginning of the first episode, Segestes attempts to sell his obstinate daughter to a man with a tiny ponytail, promising him “she’ll obey.”

Jeanne Goursaud

Goursaud is a young French-German actress whose career is just beginning to heat up. In Germany, she’s appeared in popular comedies such as “Bullyparade – The Film” which paid tribute to the tv show of the same name. She also had a small role in Clint Eastwood’s well-intentioned but clumsy “The 15:17 To Paris”. Goursaud stars as Thusnelda, the rambunctious daughter of Segestes. In the opening scene of “Barbarians”, Thusmelda is happily teaching her younger brother how to fight. The two appear to be close and their relationship is a pivotal element of the show’s first episode.

David Schütter

David Schutter’s character in “Barbarians” has the best name ever: Folkwin Wolfspeer. The character is one of the few in the show that isn’t based on a real figure, which is probably why his name (and, coincidentally, the name of my future dog) is Folkwin Wolfspeer. In “Barbarians”, Wolfspeer is a young warrior who, alongside his lover Thusmelda, taunts the Romans and engages in a series of escalating hijinks that are certain to not end well. Before getting cast as Folkwin Wolfspeer, Schütter appeared in 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels” as Ralph, the chief of security for the evil tech entrepreneur Alexander Brok. Schütter is the grandson of the influential actor and teacher of Friedrich Schütter.

Laurence Rupp

The only non-German on this list, Laurence Rupp is a famous Austrian actor. In 2019, he was awarded the Austrian Film Prize for playing a haunted policeman in the movie “Cops”. Currently, Rupp is a member of the prestigious Berliner ensemble in Berlin, Germany.

As the young Roman emperor Arminius, Rupp provides “Barbarians” with much of its tension. Despite being raised Roman, Arminius is actually of Germanic origins. When he is sent back to Cherusci to enforce Governor Vasu’s tributes, he is reunited with his childhood friends Wolfspeer and Thusnelda, which causes a crisis of conscience in him.

Abigail Covington is a journalist and cultural critic based in Brooklyn, New York but originally from North Carolina, whose work has appeared in Slate, The Nation, Oxford American, and Pitchfork

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