'Origin's Philipp Christopher on the nuances of playing a con-man with a 'hard and appalling exterior'

'Origin's Philipp Christopher on the nuances of playing a con-man with a 'hard and appalling exterior'

YouTube might have hopped on the original streaming bandwagon a while ago but it looks like the video platform is stepping up its game this week, with its upcoming space adventure series, 'Origin' which debuts on the network as a YouTube Original, this November 14. We get it - the whole space adventure, survival lore does come off as a little bit done and dusted, with such stellar masterpieces already reigning as frontrunners in the genre. But then there's something so dark and twisted about 'Origin' - or as the trailer has portrayed so far - that it makes one linger on to the hope that maybe this 'Black Mirror' meets 'Aliens' thriller will bring something unique to the table.

And to assure us of those very hopes, we spoke to actor Philipp Christopher - who plays the role of Baum Arndt - a con-man - stuck with the other people in their quest for survival in deep space. The German-born actor who has had his stints in iconic TV shows like 'Sex and The City', laid it down easily exactly why 'Origin' is the one space adventure show you need to watch out for. From the inner workings of Baum's control-freak mind to gushing about his love for theater - here are some excerpts of Phillipp's conversation with Meaww:

Tell us a little bit about your character in 'Origin.' Are there some particular aspects viewers should look out for with regards to your character?
As a con-artist, Baum Arndt has many different “faces” and even when you think you know him, he has another personality up his sleeve. Throughout the show, we experience Baum as a rather mysterious, mischievous and outright rude character and yet, in his flashback episode, we see a glimpse of his true self that might surprise people. 

Playing a main character in such an intense, sci-fi space adventure - would you say there were certain go-to methods you adapted to bring out the persona of Baum Arndt? What has the whole experience of playing him been like so far?
Baum needs to be in control at all times and always needs to have an exit strategy. For that, he will sacrifice anyone and anything. There is almost a certain paranoia of making sure he knows exactly what’s going on in any given moment and that was fun to play. In addition, like any character, there is a strong need buried deep down to simply be loved. It’s the tragic flaw that many characters go through…they want nothing more than to be loved but do everything to prevent that from happening. I always fall for these type of roles as they bring forward a hard and even appalling exterior with a broken and soft inner life.  

Ever since the trailer and teasers were released, there have been comparisons between the show with the 70's classic, 'Aliens.' Do you feel they are similar or are there striking differences viewers should be ready for?
I’m a big fan of “Alien” and the comparisons being made are somewhat valid as we are dealing with an “alien” on board of a ship and a group of people fighting for survival. But it is so different in many ways as Origin to me is not really about the alien, but the people on board. As the title suggests, it has to do with people’s origin and the question of whether it’s possible to escape it. All the passengers leave earth to start a new life, so the real villain to me in this show is their past…which seems to keep haunting them no matter where they go. 


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Awkward elevator moment with this guy. @t22felton @origin_series @youtube_premium @youtube #leaveearth #nov14

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How did 'Origin' happen? Was there something in particular that drew you into playing the role of Baum? 
I seem to have a knack for playing “bad” guys and con artists are particularly interesting because there is a potential to play many different characters. But to me, it was mostly the premise of the show that sounded intriguing. Who doesn’t want to be part of a space drama? The way it happened was very classic: self-tape, meeting with Paul and one month of peeing-in-my-pants nervousness until we got the answer. 

Most importantly, what does the story of 'Origin' have in store for fans and viewers? How do you consider it sets itself apart from other sci-fi, space stories?
I really think it’s the look and the flashbacks. Reading the scripts, we were absolutely thrilled to find out more about these characters and with each flashback, something new was revealed. Then there is the look which, as a sci-fi geek, I really dug. Paul W. Anderson had a lot to do with how Origin’s look and feel turned out and I can’t think of other shows that deliver such a dark, creepy and thrilling atmosphere in space. All in all, Origin grabs you by the throat and never lets you go…not even in the end. 

Also, being of German origin, how did Hollywood happen for you? Are there any striking differences between the world of theater in Europe, and that in the US?
If there is one thing I miss about New York it’s the theater! But I think it just comes down to taste. Many American theater directors love German theater, particularly that of Berlin for it’experimental approach. I guess I’m a bit more old school and love a good old set with furniture versus a blank stage. Some of that, however, also has to do with funds and budgets of course. Most theater in Germany is funded by the state so the need to be more creative with limited budgets is much greater. That, of course, can create some wonderful and truly unique productions. Like I said… it depends what you’re into. In regards to how Hollywood happened being from Germany: Apparently, they really wanted a German for this. But I can also totally hide my Germaness. Kind of like a con-artist. 



What drew you into the world of acting and the arts? Was it always on the cards? 
I was a bit of a closeted actor. My family is not in the arts and I loved theater in High School but was afraid it might appear a bit self-indulgent. So I put my focus on directing. I went to SVA in New York to study film and immediately signed up for acting classes at the school. All the teachers there were members of the Actor’s Studio and I fell in love with “The Method”. When I eventually studied with the late Elizabeth Kemp, my fortune was sealed. But don’t get me wrong…I love directing just as much as acting. It all depends on what project I’m working on. 

Showcasing a story about survival amidst a space adventure - would you say there were times when it got challenging? 
Nothing but Love! Yeah, right. But seriously… all in all, it was a smooth ride and the only challenge was the time. At one point, we had three units working and we sometimes lost track of where in the story we were, but that is just part of working on a show. I think we all handled it pretty well and became a wonderful and tight family. 

Are there any other projects in the works that you are thrilled about? Do tell us about them! 
Having spent 6 months in front of the camera made me miss the stage. Whenever I finish one, I want to do the other. So right now we are workshopping a play that will be both in German and in English…and it WILL have furniture on stage! The character that I’m playing is just coming back from shooting a movie set in space, and I had written this before I auditioned for Origin. Weird thing…that universe. I am also developing content for TV and a couple of feature scripts that I’m quite passionate about but they are all in early stages. 

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 Origin Philipp Christopher on the nuances of playing a con man