Whether on the stage or screen, there is one crucial ability that all of the most gifted and successful actors have in common. There are comedic actors, dramatic actors and those with a flair for action, but it’s those who can move from one genre to another without missing a beat who make their mark and capture the adoration of audiences. With each character she steps into, Birgit Ludemann displays that rare gift again and again.
Growing up in South Africa, Ludemann was just 12 years old when she knew that acting was to become her life’s pursuit. In the years since her first school performance in a Roald Dahl play, she’s gone on to tap into every facet of the human condition. From tragedy to comedy, the lifelike to the surreal, exhilarating to introspective, she has proven that no matter what the story is she can jump right into any role and deliver a knockout performance.
In Stay, Ludemann plays the best friend of a pregnant woman who goes into labor during her baby shower. The story turns tragic, however, when during labor the woman receives a phone call informing her that her husband has been shot and is dying. The woman is terrified, heartbroken and about to give birth, but Ludemann’s character continues to support and console her throughout the ordeal. What was already a difficult role emotionally was made even more challenging by the absence of spoken lines and the slow-motion style in which the film was shot. Ludemann’s performance had to walk the fine line between using only her movements and expressions to convey the story while being constantly aware of how each motion she made would appear when slowed down.
“There was no dialogue during the entire film, everything was purely physical,” she said. “The director wanted the finished edit to be in slow motion so I had to be very conscious of movements being too fast-paced or slow-paced. Also, as it was a heavily emotive-driven drama, portraying emotions strongly enough for them to read on camera in slow motion was different.”
Ludemann’s role as Suzanna in Fives is a huge shift from her character in Stay. Centered around an office romance, the film stars Alonso Grandio (Furious 7) as Eric and Melanie Steinmann (Mac Daddy’s Vegas Adventure, OddBall) as Eric’s love interest Meghan.
Suzanna is the “new girl” where Eric and Meghan work. She’s an attractive young woman, called a “7-out-of-10,” who catches the eyes of all the men in the office. All except Eric, who quickly hatches a scheme to use Suzanna to make Meghan jealous.
“Eric, the male lead, flirts with Suzanna in order to make another co-worker, Meghan, jealous,” explained Ludemann, whose character is by no means oblivious to the misguided plan. “Suzanna is fully aware of the situation and just plays along because she knows Eric and Meghan make a better couple than herself and Eric.”
On the surface Fives is a romantic comedy, but Ludemann chose to go deeper in her portrayal of Suzanna. She expertly conveyed Suzanna’s awareness of and confidence in her own beauty without making the character arrogant or unlikeable.
“One of the main challenges I faced playing this role was making sure the character did not come off as being cocky, narcissistic or vain,” she said.
Compared to the approach many of her peers might have taken, Ludemann went above and beyond in her commitment to preparing for the role. Both on- and off-camera, she was constantly focused on getting into the mindset of the beautiful and confident Suzanne. In order to embody the character, she learned what she could about the experiences attractive women had had working in office environments and incorporated what she learned into Suzanne’s onscreen personality.
“One of the themes this role highlights is the power women get from being good-looking, especially around the office space,” Ludemann said. “So that was one of the things I had to do some research on.”
Never one to become pegged down by genre, Ludemann is again stepping outside the familiar and pushing the boundaries of her acting experience. This time, she’s playing the role of Claudia in Mac Daddy’s Vegas Adventure, the sequel to the award-winning raucous comedy hit Mac Daddy and the Lovers (2013 Nevada International Film Festival’s Gold Reel Award). Audiences can catch Ludemann’s latest performance when Mac Daddy’s Vegas Adventure is released in spring 2016.