Charles M. Huber – actor, politician, Bavarian
The first black person to win an Academy Award as Best Actor? Sidney Poitier. The movie: Lilies of the Field. That was in 1963. Not long ago, when you think about it. But a fair time before German TV audiences were getting their first taste of a black actor on a primetime TV show. That was Charles M. Huber, who began playing the role of Henry Johnson in the very popular detective series The Old Fox in 1986. The same Charles M. Huber who is my latest guest on Talking Germany. By the way: Sidney Poitier’s role in Lilies of the Field, also won him a Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 1963 Berlin Film Festival.
Another first: last autumn, Charles Huber (M for Muhammad, as in Muhammad Ali, one of his idols) was one of two German men of African origins to be elected to the German parliament: the first black members of the Bundestag. Not a day too early in a country that has a large and flourishing Afro-German community. Charles Huber is proud of his heritage (his father was a Senegalese diplomat). But – just as during his acting career – he doesn’t want to be typecast.
Charles M. Huber knows about cities: he’s lived in Munich and Berlin, as well as New York, LA and Paris. But if you want to find out who he really is, talk to him about his childhood days. His childhood idyll: the first nine years of his life that he spent living with his Bavarian grandmother. “I’m a country boy,” he explains, “and home, Heimat, isn’t something abstract. It’s having the earth in my hands. Being out in the forest, collecting mushrooms. The smells: you literally have to sniff them out! And it’s communication. It’s dialect.” And, as he remembers all this, he breaks into a thick Lower Bavarian dialect.”
It’s been interesting to keep an eye on all the tags that have been used to describe Charles M. Huber since he was elected to parliament. Non-ethnic German, for instance. Afro-deutsch. Or: A German with a migration background. He really doesn’t like that one. And so on. Charles himself says, “It’s your own responsibility to be what you want to be. It’s your job to become what you want to become.” And Charles M. Huber quite simply wants to be German. Or, at best, Bavarian.
DateMay 16, 2014