Q&A: ‘Deutschland 83’ Star Jonas Nay On Spy Skills, Picking Locks and Loving Elton John

Last year, Deutschland 83 became the first ever German-language show to air on a major American television network, and it premiered on British television last night with an explosive and nail biting first episode.

Set in 1983, when the Cold War was threatening to turn hot, it’s a coming-of-age story starring German actor Jonas Nay as Martin Rauch, a 24-year-old border patrol guard from East Germany who is forced over the Iron Curtain as a spy by the Stasi, under the identity of Officer Moritz Stamm. In between avoiding gunshots, explosions and being uncovered, he fights to resist the pleasures of the West, such as Diet Coke, decaf coffee, Toblerone and the illicit thrill of listening to Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ on a Walkman.

The Eight-part Cold War spy thriller combines the grit of This Is England with the wit of Skins. NME spoke to it’s young star Jonas Nay about spying, music and being uncool.


What attracted you to the part of Martin/Moritz?

Jonas: “The character was special. No matter what, he gives his best and the situation he finds himself in is crazy. He has to find his place in this totally different world – he comes from the GDR [German Democratic Republic] and comes to the FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] as a spy. He only does it because he’s being blackmailed by his aunt.”

You were born in 1990, one year after the Berlin Wall came down. What research did you do?

“When I arrived at my apartment in Berlin, there were hundreds of history books waiting for me. The only connection to that time for me was music. I’m in a band, Northern Lights, and when I was at school my iPod was filled with ’80s songs by Elton John and Billy Joel, while everybody else was listening to hip-hop. I was quite uncool!”

Did you learn any spy skills?

“I did military and stunt training and was doing kickboxing three times a week. One of the first things I had to learn was how to pick a lock – like in the old James Bond films!”

What was the most impressive piece of retro spy tech you got to handle?

“The props manager had to search eBay for a real skeleton key, because it’s illegal to sell them in Germany. He came over to my flat with it and it felt like a big drugs deal.”


Deutschland 83, Sundays, 9pm, Channel 4