AUSTRIAN ACTRESS COCO KÖNIG IS LEARNING BY OSMOSIS
She has already worked with some of the biggest names in cinema
It’s a perfectly crisp autumn afternoon in New York and 20-year-old Austrian actress Coco König is telling me about her childhood over tea at the Mercer Hotel. “I started acting when I was 12,” she begins, as if this were a fairytale. “My mom took me to classical plays and to see good films. [One night at a dinner] I went up to my favorite director [the late Swiss-French director] Luc Bondy and I said I would love to work with him one day. And he was like, ‘Okay!’”
The risk paid off and Bondy became a mentor to the young König, who gained the director’s favor and landed a small role in one of his projects. “And then I got bigger parts one after the other,” she explains.
Not too long after Bondy cast her on stage, she snagged her first cinematic role as a young caretaker in The Carer, Hungarian director János Edelényi’s 2016 film starring the much-respected Scottish actor Brian Cox. Their dynamic closely mimicked real life—she plays an aspiring actress; he plays an aging theater actor. “I was really nervous on set in the beginning,” she admits. “I didn’t know how to approach it—I’d never done film before, [but by] the end of the whole filming process [Cox became] my mentor. We both played ourselves in a way which was a beautiful thing.”
König grew up in Vienna and attended boarding school in Switzerland, but has made New York City her home while she finishes her studies at NYU. On balancing classes and exams with travel back and forth to Europe, she says, “I’m mixing so many things together but so far it’s working really well. That time can be a bit sad for actors, when they’re not working. It’s nice to have a distraction especially when that distraction is almost like a second life.” The last few months have been especially demanding—over the past year she has taken on a lead role in Matthias Hartmann’s theatrical film rendition of Friedrich Schiller’s classical drama Die Räuber (The Robbers) in Germany, spent months promoting The Carer, and took on a role in Justin Kurzel’s upcoming blockbuster Assassin’s Creed.
König’s training was essentially an exercise in osmosis. “I never really saw bad acting if that makes sense—never kids theater.” Instead, she learned from an early age through proximity to some of the world’s most accomplished theater actors. “The bar was set super high, and that was good because the more natural, the better. And those great actors, they all look natural when they act.” As for how her learn-by-doing education has shaped her own practice, König says, “I think acting is very much—if you breathe it in right, you can use it for yourself.”
With a number of projects spread across the globe, it’s hard to tell how long König will stay put in New York, but she seems content here for now. In addition to a love for the city’s vibrant energy, she fondly remembers a peculiar incident when she realized how deep her affection went. ”I was really shocked [during] the blizzard [in 2015]. I went out and someone was skiing next to me, and I thought, This city is so cool. That was the point where I was like, this can’t be topped.”
Written by Kathleen Hefty
Photographer: Max Montgomery
Stylist: Rachel Gilman
Hair: Elsa for See Management using Bumble and Bumble
Makeup: Sandrine Van Slee for Art Dept using Chanel Ultrawear Foundation
Location: Slate Studios