LOUIS HOFMANN IN BERLIN, DECEMBER 2017, PHOTOGRAPHED AT KASTANIEN STUDIO.
Dark, a new supernatural series on Netflix, gets habitually compared to Stranger Things. Here is what they have in common: They both involve missing children; they both flirt with ’80s hairstyles; both are emotionally heightened with hair-raising music and are really, really addictive. Beyond that, their paths diverge. Dark is in German, and as the title suggests, is a fatalistic mind-fuck. A child goes missing in the small town of Winden in 2019, and another turns up dead, dressed in ’80s clothing with a Sony Walkman hugging his lifeless face, exactly 33 years after the town was rocked by a similar disappearance. But is it all a part of some inexplicable time cycle?
At the center of the mystery is Jonas, played by 20-year-old actor Louis Hofmann. In the opening scene, Jonas’s father kills himself, leaving behind an envelope with instructions not to open until November 4, 2019 at 10:13 P.M. As more and more children go missing, Jonas—who we learn has just wrapped psychiatric treatment for seeing hallucinations of his dead father—begins to piece together the puzzle and discovers the supernatural forces at work. Hofmann grew up in Cologne and now lives in Berlin. He started acting at age 11 when a family friend, who works in television, introduced him to the idea.
It wasn’t until he saw Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries  that Hofmann knew acting was his calling. “I like that film so much,” he says over the phone from Berlin. “One of my favorite scenes is the one in front of the door when Leonardo DiCaprio asks his mother to give him some money and to let him in. It was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do something like that.’”
And Hofmann did. Dark has fast-tracked his career, leap-frogging him across the Atlantic and onto U.S. shores in a staggeringly popular foreign language series. For any actor, it’s a dream come true. Next he is slated to appear in Ralph Fiennes’s The White Crow and alongside Jennifer Lawrence in the forthcoming Russian spy thriller Red Sparrow.
TREY TAYLOR: When you log onto Netflix right now your face is what all of America sees when they click to watch Dark. How do you feel about that?
LOUIS HOFMANN: It’s absurd, it’s surreal! I see the same when I log onto Netflix in Germany—on one hand it’s surreal and on the other hand it makes me so proud. I didn’t realize how big it was going to become when I made it.
TAYLOR: Do you people approach you a lot now?
HOFMANN: Yeah they do and in the German subway, the U-Bahn, they come up and talk to me. Right now all of our faces, the cast, are everywhere so it’s kind of hard to escape. I feel weird when they look at me and they don’t approach me. I feel watched and I control myself and watch myself do things. But when they come up to me I like having a chat about the show or whether they’ve seen work of mine or something because I am interested in the audience and what they think, that’s part of the deal, that’s why we do it because we want to move audiences. So it’s not too bad when they come up to you.
TAYLOR: Can you feel your life starting to change slowly?
HOFMANN: Not really, no. [laughs]
TAYLOR: The very first scene in the show is your father’s suicide, and I know the title of the show is Dark but did you have any idea that the actual show would be this dark?
HOFMANN: No. [laughs] Actually when I read the script I had listened to this song, it’s called “Sister Rust” by Damon Albarn, which was the soundtrack for Lucy . I always pick a song that goes with the project when reading a new script, so I would listen to this song. Now that I’ve seen the show or excerpts from the filming I thought, “Okay, this song does not fit at all anymore.” [laughs] But I think it was also when they started developing the show—the script was written, the locations, how it was going to look, and then Stranger Things came out and they were like, “Okay, we need to go darker because we want to do our own thing.” It’s great to be compared to them because it is an amazing show but we want to stand alone, which is why they got even darker.
TAYLOR: The only real crossover is that children go missing and that it has an ’80s bent. Do you think people are reaching to make comparisons?
HOFMANN: People feel the need to compare because that’s how they’re going to put it in some box. We’re always putting things in boxes to know what it is and how to describe it, so they compare them. I can see the similarities in the trailer and everything but I like how when they have watched the whole show they take it back and say, “I said it was going to be like Stranger Things but it’s not, it’s a totally different thing and has a different mood and everything.” So that’s what I like.
TAYLOR: Have you noticed all the comments online about your looks?
HOFMANN: [laughs] Well, my followers on Instagram have increased and I get a few messages … I think on one hand it’s pretty weird that people see you somewhere and message you even though they don’t know you, but on the other hand I think it’s pretty awesome when someone says they love the show. For example, we have many people from Brazil that have watched the show. It’s fascinating how a German show captivates people from another country who are quite far away.
TAYLOR: But particularly these comments on Instagram like, “My eyes have been blessed, why are you so handsome?!”
HOFMANN: [laughs] It makes me blush! I don’t really know what to say to that. It’s a compliment but on the other hand I’m like, okay you have this image of me because you’ve seen the show but you can’t really, you don’t know me for real.
TAYLOR: Do you believe in time travel?
HOFMANN: I don’t. But when I read the script I thought, “This sounds like it can actually happen,” which is what I love about the show, that it isn’t just sci-fi and you’re like, “as if.” You’re watching it and it’s all so well explained and it makes sense. Maybe it is possible, maybe it’s not all bullshit that they’re telling me—it’s all proven by physics and chemistry and I think that’s what makes it so captivating. It’s this big huge supernatural element that’s fascinating, but you can still relate to it. It’s not too far away from you.
TAYLOR: Have you ever seen Donnie Darko ?
HOFMANN: No, I haven’t and I’ve gotten so many comments saying the show is so much like Donnie Darko. Now I have to see it.
TAYLOR: Do you believe in fate?
HOFMANN: I do, actually. It’s hard to accept that it’s maybe not possible to change anything and I don’t really like the thought of not having free will. I like thinking myself as an individual human being who can decide what he wants, but I think it’s fascinating and interesting to think about if you have free will or not. Maybe your body decides something for you, your body is hungry and you decide to eat something, so is it free will or not? You don’t know.
TAYLOR: Did you ever think that people who have watched the show would start to think about these things?
HOFMANN: Yeah, definitely. This is what’s so good about the show too—that it’s kind of philosophical. That’s what’s so great about it; it doesn’t answer all your questions, but it does make you question everything. I like to choose projects that make you think and that’s what Dark does.
DARK IS AVAILABLE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.