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Badgering: Hans Obma ’02

A fourth generation Badger, Hans Obma ’02 has an enduring appreciation for what becomes possible when you believe you will succeed. He hails from La Crosse, Wisconsin — but Hollywood beckoned, and Hans has been a professional, working actor for more than a decade. After recently receiving a “Scenie” for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Comedy-Drama by and completing a successful stint on the current season of Better Call Saul, Hans remains diligent and ever-focused as he works his way toward the role of a lifetime.

While attending UW–Madison, you studied broadcast journalism and Spanish. What led you to acting?

I am the third of four rather remarkable children so I think it was partly that I wanted attention. That need evolved into a desire to be creative in my daily work. The other piece was discovering how I could rely on my strengths while doing what I do. I’m well affirmed in my ability to speak languages and to speak with accents so there’s a confidence that comes with that for me.

You seem to be drawn to foreign villains and mentally unstable characters. What’s the attraction?

I really feel that it’s my superpower. One of the first things my acting teacher, David Rotenberg, said was that I have the face of someone who needs to play villains. So I spent six months doing exactly that, and it’s now a part of my toolbox. And when I play characters who are kind of crazy, sparks come out that don’t come out when everybody plays them.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Everybody knows this is a very competitive industry, but if you book one out of every 10 things that you are auditioning for, then you are doing extraordinarily well. That also means 90 percent of the time the answer is no. So the hardest part is perpetually choosing the positive perspective.

Do you have an accent you enjoy doing the most?

I find speaking with a German accent to be a very steadying thing. It’s sort of like having an anchor or rudder — it gives me the opportunity to know what I think, to plant my feet, and do my job. The same is true of a standard British accent. When I performed in The Secret Garden at the UW, we had this remarkable dialect coach. I’ve been able to reap the benefits of that ever since.

When it comes to future roles, what are you most interested in playing?

More and more what interests me are roles that have great stories and are really speaking to something. Lately I’ve been watching the show Fargo, and they’re not pandering to their audience in any way. They’re telling the story they want to tell.

Would you be happy being typecast?

Absolutely! For the time being, I am delighted to build a career playing these villainous roles that are fun and very marketable right now. But if I’m being totally honest, I think it would be pretty cool if someday I end up playing a rather sensitive man from Wisconsin, which is exactly who I am. That would be both very satisfying and creatively gratifying.

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