BERLIN — Many actresses have gained TV fame by playing doctors. But Maria Furtwaengler may be the first physician to leap to fame as a thesp.
Furtwaengler appears on two episodes a year for the highly rated detective series “Tatort” (Crime Scene) and whenever she’s on, ratings climb from a healthy average of 7.6 million to about 9.6 million. As a bonus, Furtwaengler was recently voted Germany’s Most Erotic Detective in a magazine poll.
Furtwaengler, a descendant of German composer Wilhelm Furtwaengler who directed the Berlin Philharmonic during WWII, is a 39-year-old physician and mother of two teenage children. Since 1991, she has been married to Burda publishing empire head Hubert Burda, 26 years her senior.
As a student, Furtwaengler had a few supporting roles in TV films and series, but she drifted away from the biz to focus on medicine.
“I wanted to be a doctor — acting was always my mother’s field,” she says, referring to her mother, stage thesp Kathrin Ackermann.
Furtwaengler, who speaks flawless French and excellent English, didn’t become an actress for the money.
In fact, her husband’s wealth was a hurdle. “There’s always a lot of envy in Germany and some at first said things like ‘Why is she acting? What does she need that for?’ It was hard to earn respect.”
She still uses her medical skills for charity as president of German Doctors for Developing Countries. In 2001 she was part of a relief team that helped victims of an earthquake in India.
About 30 episodes of “Tatort” are made a year — some 600 since it debuted on Nov. 29, 1970 — which air on pubcasters ARD in Germany and ORF in Austria.