Home Entertainment Showcasing Stress-Filled Reality of Emergency Medicine, Gritty Hospital Drama ‘KRANK Berlin’ Strives...

Showcasing Stress-Filled Reality of Emergency Medicine, Gritty Hospital Drama ‘KRANK Berlin’ Strives for Authenticity (EXCLUSIVE)


While medical dramas have long been a favorite staple on German TV, a new series helmed by Alex Schaad, director of the award-winning fantasy romance “Skin Deep,” and penned by British writer Samuel Jefferson looks set to give the genre a bold, modern take.

“KRANK Berlin” is an eight-part series that follows a young team of doctors in the toughest and most overcrowded medical facility in the city. Underpaid, poorly equipped, chronically overtired and beset with an increasingly callous healthcare system, the doctors nevertheless cope with dark humor, although some turn to more extreme measures.

Produced by Real Film Berlin and Violet Pictures for ZDFneo and based on an idea by creative producer and co-creator Viktor Jakovleski, “KRANK Berlin” stars Haley Louise Jones (“Dear Child”) as Zanna Parker, the hospital’s new chief doctor, whose reform measures are immediately met with resistance from the staff, particularly anarchist emergency doctor Ben, played by Slavko Popadic (“Skylines”). The series’ title is a play on the German word for “sick” but also the acronym for the fictional hospital, or Krankenhaus, serving Berlin’s southern districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg.

For Jefferson, who worked as an emergency physician with the NHS in London before leaving the medical profession to embark on a writing career, “KRANK Berlin” proved an ideal opportunity.

“I’d been looking for ages to try and do a medical show. I promised I would never do one when I finished film school because I was so out of love with the job, but then that write-what-you-know thing kicked in.”

Having attended the Serial Eyes program at Berlin’s German Film and Television Academy (DFFB) after graduating from the London Film School, Jefferson decided to stay in the city, where he established ties to like-minded creators, including Jakovleski. 

Haley Louise Jones plays Zanna Parker, KRANK’s new chief doctor
Stephan Rabold

Jefferson cites “Trainspotting” and “ER” as major references in developing “KRANK Berlin.” Unlike the more sterile medical dramas set in pristine clinics often seen on German TV, “KRANK Berlin” aims for a more authentic feel, from the run-down hospital – a vast set built in an abandoned East Berlin sports and recreation complex known as the SEZ – to the stressed-out doctors working at their limits while dealing with such social issues as drug addiction, racism and violence in Neukölln, a tough, culturally diverse, working-class districts.

“I managed to bring my experience working in the U.K. and very quickly found that the experiences of the doctors here are very similar to those of doctors in the U.K. Of course some of the complexity behind how the systems works is different, but the actual day-to-day pain of being a doctor and what you have to go through is very similar. So all the human stories were very transferable.” 

“Even though it’s been joyously messy to do it, I think it’s been really helpful to have a British writer with my sensibilities to come into a German show because then I would question things and they would question things about me,” Jefferson points out. “It’s built something that I don’t think you could have done if it had just been a purely German team.”

Jefferson describes the series as a very collaborative effort. Writer Lisa van Brakel also worked on the show.

Haley Louise Jones, Alex Schaad
Stephan Rabold

Schaad, who shares directing duties with Fabian Möhrke, echoes the sentiment. “Coming as a director from a feature film that was my debut to the series, the great thing about it was this collaborative principle – developing everything in this team of two directors, two DOPs, many producers, a head writer and other writers. I love the collaborative aspect, that you’re not on your own and desperately needing someone to talk to. Rather, you have a lot of people coming together to develop something, to develop a certain style, a different world.

“I think this is quite a unique show,” Schaad adds, stressing that what interested him in particular about was the series’ pacing and action. Shows characterized by high tension, many different types of characters, multiple story arcs are not common in Germany, he notes. “I think that was the aspect that I loved the most.” 

Producer Gilda Weller of Violet Pictures says the show’s uniqueness made it especially interesting for the company. “Our aim was to produce a medical series that was different to the medical shows we’re used to in Germany and Samuel’s personal experience and knowledge of the stress-filled reality of emergency medicine makes it that much more exceptional.”

The series’ set-up, with its countless patients coming in, allows it to “tell so much about Berlin and generally the world,” Weller adds. The show will also deal with the many different cultural aspects of Berlin: “We have the melting pot of so many people living here.”

“‘KRANK Berlin’ stands out for its authenticity and its genuine Berlin vibe,” notes Alexis Wittgenstein, producer and managing director of Violet Pictures. “Many of our core creative team live in the city and know the delicate balance between love and frustration that comes with the city very well – and this is reflected in the series.

Stephan Rabold

“Also, having a former emergency doctor as the head writer for the series is an incredible asset. His first-hand understanding of the daily challenges faced by healthcare and medical professionals significantly contributes to the series’ uniqueness.”

Beta Film is presenting the series at the EFM and anticipates strong interest. “It’s so international, in front and behind the camera,” the company says, adding that the show offers a very authentic local view of Berlin and that is something that is likely to entice international audiences. “The city of Berlin certainly has one of the lead roles.”