Actress: The life behind the smile

Munich (AP) – Michaela May is a fixture in the German television and theater landscape. She has been in front of the camera and on stage since the 1960s, in both comedic and serious roles.

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The Munich native stands for joie de vivre, down-to-earthness and success. Ahead of her 70th birthday on Friday (March 18), she came to terms with her past and made public the suicides of her three siblings. She no longer wanted to remain silent about it and show that one can remain a life-affirming person even with such a fate, she told the German Press Agency.

In the course of her long career, Michaela May has slipped into a wide variety of roles and has become one of the busiest actresses. She never really disappeared from the screen. May experienced her breakthrough in the 1970s in Helmut Dietl’s legendary “Munich Stories”. She was also seen in the cult series “Kir Royal” and “Monaco Franze”. From 2001 to 2009 she investigated as Commissioner Jo Obermaier in “Polizeiruf 110”. In 2015, May played alongside Hannelore Elsner and Günther Maria Halmer in the award-winning tragic comedy “Family Festival”.

In her recently published autobiography “Behind the Smile”, the actress now says that she has also gone through very difficult times in her life. “I look back on a life in which I looked into the abyss that didn’t let me break.” You always wanted to see the sun and push the clouds aside. So she managed to cope with the death of her three siblings. Her parents didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so she kept quiet too.

After her mother’s death in 2019, she found the freedom to face her past and open up. Several publishers had already asked her 65th birthday if she wanted to write an autobiography, May says. “I thought to myself, what should I write. Simply describing experiences with colleagues or admiring myself seemed not enough to me.”

Now she’s told her story and the response, she says, has been positive. “I get emails from people who say thank you and usually tell me about their fate. They probably have the feeling that if they share it with me, it will be easier. That makes me happy and touches me and I think it makes sense that I wrote that.”

She herself finds it a relief that she is no longer silent. Maybe some of you see them with different eyes now. “I haven’t always played lively, strong, competent women’s roles, but I have very often played them. And that’s how I am, but where that comes from certainly has something to do with my story.”

When her sister died, she was pregnant herself, May writes. That was a great support for her. “There was dying all around us, there was death, but there was this little life that was growing inside me and on which all our attention was now focused.” The death of her siblings led her to focus on the positive things in life. She is a happy person who does not quarrel with his fate.

The work fills her up. During the interview, May is driving from Würzburg, where she was acting, to Munich. She is being driven and has plenty of time to talk on the phone while enjoying the spring weather. She wants to meet friends later, she says happily.

Looking back on her milestone birthday, she says: “But I’m living in the moment. I can still do everything I like, albeit differently than ten years ago. I don’t ski as fast as I used to, but I do snowshoeing discovered for me.” Her grandchildren brought her extreme joy, she says. And she is also looking forward to Sicily, where she wants to spend her birthday with her husband, the director Bernd Schadewald.