Deutschland86 Interview: Joerg Winger Talks Spies and Adventure

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If you're itching for a spy drama to sink your teeth into, then you'll want to tune into Sundance TV tonight for the premiere of Deutschland86, the highly-anticipated follow-up season to 2015's Deutschland83.

It continues the story of a reluctant East German spy, Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay), who, back in 1983, basically saved the world from imminent nuclear destruction during the height of the Cold War.

A New Disguise? - Deutschland 86

Martin is now living in Africa, having been banished there after disobeying orders, but he's quickly pulled back into the game by his intelligence operative aunt Lenora (Maria Schrader) who needs his assistance to work out a weapons deal (communism is dying and the East Germans are ready to sell their souls for cash!)

Related: 23 Spy Shows to Satisfy Your Espionage Addiction

And just like she did on Deutschland83, she makes him a big promise for his help, one that she knows he won't refuse. 

I could kick myself for not discovering this show sooner, but the great thing is that I didn't have to wait three years to find out what's next for Martin after bingeing Deutschland83 on Hulu (it's still available there for your viewing pleasure.)

Deutschland is a German-language series subtitled in English, but don't let that scare you. I'm not a fan of subtitles, but it took all of one minute before I was pulled in and forgot they were even there. 

Back in Action

The series is intelligent and thought-provoking, and Martin's story is fascinating. You'll fall in love with him and the other characters in no time (even the pure lunacy of the evil Schwepenstette), and quickly wonder how you ever survived without this show in your life!

We recently had an opportunity to speak by phone with Joerg Winger, the co-creator, showrunner, and executive producer of the Deutschland series (along with his American wife, Anna) to discuss how the series started, and what makes the story of Martin Rauch so compelling.

Related: Explore Hundreds of Hours of Curated Historical Videos with History Vault via Prime Video Channels!

The origin story of the Deutschland is as fascinating as the series itself.

According to Mr. Winger, the series is based on his experiences in the West German military where he was responsible for monitoring Russian troops stationed in the GDR. 

He explained that when the Russians started greeting his team by name, it quickly became clear that there was a mole on his base.

Big Guns

"So, I was thinking about making a show about this -- a thriller, a comedy, something," he said, "and then my co-creator and my wife, Anna, had the brilliant idea of making the mole the protagonist of the show and that's it basically. The beginning of it."

Winger said that telling the story from the perspective of the mole gives the audience the opportunity to see the other side of things, and how, in the end, we're all pretty much human with a strong will to survive.

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"I mean Anna always says we look at the world through GDR-tinted glasses in our show," Winger said. 

"East Germans lost the Cold War, and so history is always defined by the winners, and I think we both have a certain sympathy for (them). We both lived in East Germany for a long time.

"I think it's important to understand that the enemy usually, though not in all cases, is pretty human. And (the East Germans) thought they were on the right side of history, and they thought they had the better system.

Martin is the Boss - Deutschland 86

"We know so many East Germans who are good people and thought that they were just trying to make the world a better place. And sometimes it's good to get in their shoes just to understand, the other (side). I think that's the challenge."

Despite the fact that Martin Rauch works for the "enemy" (if you transport yourself back to the 80s), he's not a "bad" guy. He's the hero, and we find ourselves rooting for him as he winds his way through the world of espionage.

Winger says that Martin is a compelling character because "..he's not somebody whose dogmatic. I think he's a very, empathetic person... he's sensitive, and I think he's just, in a way, a very straight-forward person and regular guy." 

Getting Information

In Deutschland83, there were so many defining moments during Martin's journey such as when he tried a Walkman for the first time (one of the best scenes ever.)

Although Martin isn't as green as he was three years ago, there will be other moments of enlightenment for him.

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"He does come to understand that the world of espionage is a lot of smoke and mirrors, and there's a moment at which he realizes that most spies become double agents over time," Winger said.

"So, he's becoming an asset because he is someone who has great energy....he understands how complicated and how inescapable the world of spies is."

Martin's espionage world will open up when he meets Rose (Florence Kasumba), a member of the African National Congress who has teamed up with Lenora for the arms deal.

Two Badass Bitches - Deutschland 86

Winger says the two are a "fantastic team" and described them as "communist warriors" who also have an "emotional relationship" which he couldn't divulge more about. 

"I don't want to talk so much," he said with a laugh.

What Winger could talk about was how proud he was of the show.

"What Anna and I are really proud of...is that we have..a truly international show," he said. "I think it's very contemporary in the way we use history as a metaphor, and I think, in terms of originality, it really stands out in the landscape of the many wonderful dramas...from many countries.

We definitely second that!

Deutschland86 Season 2 Episode 1 premieres tonight at 12/11c on SundanceTV. Deutschland86 Season 2 Episode 2 airs Friday, October 26, same time, same station. The series will then settle into its weekly Thursday night time slot (12/11c) for the following eight episodes.

Be sure to check back here every week for our full reviews as we follow Martin on the next phase of his journey!

Lisa Babick is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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